How to work with hospitality people when they're not at work


Although your staff may not physically be on your premises, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s still important to look after their physical and mental wellbeing. Sociability is such an integral part of the hospitality industry, that being taken out of that fast paced, interactive team environment is likely to come as more of a shock for some, than for others who are more used to working alone remotely.


So, what are the do’s and don’ts of staying in touch and caring for your people?


Whatever you decide works for you and your team, make sure that you only ever share information and advice from reputable sources such as and Encourage them to do the same as there are so many different and conflicting reports circulating that it’s easy to get caught up in a world of fear and conjecture.


Think about who needs what information


Some people may be at home working on accounts, researching new drink options or developing a simplified menu for reopening, but others may not have an active role to play at this time. Do they all need the same information or can some of the day-to-day operational detail be shared with just those who are working on specific areas? It’s a fine balance between protecting everyone from overload and making sure that no-one feels that they’ve been missed out. 


There may be times when it’s appropriate to contact everyone and let them know how valued they are, and times when it’s important for immediate teams to keep in touch. It all depends on the size and style of your operation.


At all times, though, consider how you can minimise anxiety, give them confidence about the future of your business and their jobs and be as honest and sincere as you can. Demonstrate that you care about them and have their welfare at heart.


What communication channels should you use?


Many businesses already use WhatsApp groups to keep in touch and being open to two-way communication is ideal. It lends itself to sharing quick updates and supportive messages and allows for people to come back and ask questions or contribute their own thoughts to the situation. You’ll probably find that staff have their own WhatsApp chats going on as well and there’s bound to be some fun videos being shared to help keep everyone’s spirits up.


For longer, more detailed updates, or communicating information that may require personal details to be shared in return, you might be better using email, being careful to adhere to GDPR guidelines where personal rather than work email addresses are being used – see guide on ‘Keeping your data safe while working from home’. If it’s important information that staff should see, don’t assume that they have read the email and, if possible, send them a message directing them to it and ask them to confirm when they have seen it.


Or use one of the many video call systems, if it’s practical, so that everyone gets the chance to see their buddies; it’s the closest some may get to personal contact if they live alone or are self-isolating and seeing someone’s smile or getting a wave can make a huge difference. Also look at shaking it up a bit and include a mixture of individual calls, texts, snapchats etc so that the communication feels personal and not just a weekly update that is lacking in care and compassion. If you have more than 100 employees, check out workplace messaging app Yapster which is free whilst business premises are closed.


For formal discussions or checking in on someone’s welfare, try to use a video facility such as Skype or Facetime as non-verbal cues can be just as important as what they say in these circumstances. Look out for people’s reactions and responses and remember you’re on screen too so give them your full attention.


And as everyone shares a love of hospitality and interaction, it could be worth starting a video call where people are encouraged to eat together, sharing what they love about a particular dish or drink and having a laugh and a joke together as if they were all sat around a table together at your business. You could always throw in a quiz, too, and have a different person organising it every time so they are all involved and have a sense of purpose.


Make sure people know how to access internal support


If you have any support services available, such as healthcare or counselling, make sure everyone knows about them and how to access them. And have people available to talk if anyone needs to, especially if you have mental health champions, who have been supplied with the latest information or a finance expert to help direct to external support services. Even a change in routine can cause great anxiety for some people so don’t fall into the trap of being eternally cheerful and not acknowledging that some of your people may need more help than others and give them the opportunity to seek the help they need. 


If you know that someone has a particular vulnerability, keep an extra eye on them and ensure that they have a little more direct contact and monitor reactions and responses of all the team to help identify if someone may be struggling with the situation more than others.


Get the balance right between work and social


It’s important to keep everyone in touch with the business and what may or may not be happening, but with the building closed and your staff at home worrying about health and other issues, don’t make your communication solely about work matters. 


If there’s something new to share, or details you think are important to them, then keep that flow of information coming. Make them feel involved and part of the team by including them in discussions and decisions if you can. They need to know that they’re valued and have an important role to play when venues start to reopen again.


But failing to recognise that they may have other concerns, anxieties or priorities fails to see them as people who are part of a team that goes beyond the workplace. Respect the boundaries people have between work and home life and encourage interaction between themselves so that it’s not always led by the boss. 


Acknowledge that this is a time of uncertainty and stress and be honest with everyone. Be prepared to say if you don’t know the answer to any of their questions but promise to get back to them with answers – and do. Let them know you care, motivate and inspire them. Entertain them, let them know you’re there for them and encourage them to interact with each other as much as possible to maintain the camaraderie and support network that works so well in the work environment. 

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