There has always been an imperative for hotel leadership to make staff and customer health a priority. But it’s also important to understand that one of the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our society is an increased focus on health standards. While consumers are keen to get back to utilizing the hospitality industry, they are also prioritizing businesses that demonstrate care for their wellbeing. Not to mention that employees demand workplaces that support their continued health — one recent study found that 51% of workers polled stated that fear of getting sick at work would prevent them from returning to their jobs.
So, how can you best protect the health of your staff and customers? We’re going to take a look at some tools and strategies that you should focus on.
While hotel styles and missions can vary, one consistent thing is that the business should represent a safe space away from home that visitors can feel comfortable in. As such, there is a need to make sure that you maintain high standards of property health and safety — even going beyond the minimum standards for legal compliance. You, therefore, need to make regular inspections of your property for existing issues alongside areas that may be problematic in the future.
One of the issues that can be especially concerning in this regard is the potential for sick building syndrome. This is when there are aspects of your property that — though you may not be able to note overt causes — make those in the building feel ill or may even lead to staff experiencing long-term illness as a result of exposure. Indeed, one of the more challenging aspects of this issue is that not all your buildings may be affected. Often the underlying causes of sick building syndrome can involve mold, poor ventilation, and chemical contaminants. As such, it’s vital to make heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units and water systems part of regular building checks to ensure there are no problems that may be contributing to this.
Part of your property inspection should also be focused on the potential for cross-contamination risks. The COVID-19 pandemic has served to highlight how much risk there can be from disease transmission and how normal activities such as opening doors and handling shared objects can not just be risky but can be avoided. Use your inspection to determine how staff and customers are interacting with areas, work surfaces, and communal amenities to establish what contact is unnecessary and how you can adjust practices or designs to improve the health protection efficacy of the environment.
When health breaches occur in hospitality, they are usually not the result of a malicious act. When standards have been overlooked, this is not generally the result of an employee being lazy. Rather, for the most part, when such mistakes arise, it is more likely to be the result of a lack of understanding. Either an employee didn’t understand that certain activities result in health violations, or they don’t fully grasp how their actions impact wellness. Therefore, to best protect the health of customers and staff alike, you need to invest in frequent health education.
This begins with the small, day-to-day standards of cleanliness. Even if cleaning isn’t part of their duties, you should provide employees with training and refresher courses on how to keep the areas and people they come in contact with free of contaminants. Bring in outside expert consultants to train them on the dangers of bloodborne diseases and pathogens, how these affect the hotel industry, and what staff can do to prevent their spread. Housekeeping and reception staff are most likely to be confronted with bodily fluids and viral contaminants, therefore they must learn how to recognize hazards, how to minimize contact with them, and under what circumstances they should inform management or public health departments for assistance.
First aid training can also be a great tool in your hotel’s health and safety standards. Don’t just provide this for senior staff members. Make sure that there are people in all departments that can effectively respond to health emergencies. This not only minimizes the potential for accidents and illness to go unaddressed on your premises, but it can also give your staff confidence that they or someone they work with is qualified to assist if they experience an emergency health situation.
To keep both staff and customers healthy when they are in your hotel, you need to also invest in the right tools. We live in a technologically enhanced society, and while not all of the equipment that can help maintain health are complex, understanding how to apply them can make your strategy more effective.
Most booking and marketing undertaken by hotels is done through online platforms. It may not be immediately obvious, because these are usually used to improve convenience and efficiency, but they can also maintain staff and guest health. Utilize your booking platform, email mailing list, and social media marketing channels to provide potential guests with health tips and communicate visit expectations. You can also utilize F&B reservation platforms to streamline you floor with capacity restrictions and reduce crowding at the host stand during the restaurant check-in process. This is particularly important if there has been a recent public health event, or it’s flu season. This both encourages guests to act in a more health-conscious fashion and also demonstrates that you prioritize the wellness of customers and staff.
Most hotels are fully equipped with air conditioning, but this can also be one of the ways that airborne pathogens, mold, and other irritants pass through the building. There is some evidence to suggest that ultraviolet-C (UV-C) radiation can be effective in reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses. As such, there have emerged ranges of HVAC systems, particularly for use in restaurants, that ensure air passes through UV-C lamps in an attempt to eliminate such issues. It can be worth exploring how these technologies can fit into your business.
The success of any hotel is dependent upon its ability to keep customers and staff healthy. As such, you must commit to making regular property inspections and provide continued staff training on health and safety standards. Combined with utilizing the technological tools at your disposal, you’ll ensure you can maintain a management strategy that prioritizes wellness.