On the frontline of the return to the office: Front of house
Businesses will need to plan well in advance for the return to the office and the risk that entails, from heightened chances of transmission to front of house efficiency with temperature checks, ensuring people don’t congregate and more.
The importance of a centralised place of work has been echoed by politicians and business leaders alike. Staff, too, are ready to return to the office – at least part-time – as remote working can take its toll on mental health.
That said, it will not be a return to the old way of doing things. Many workers have expressed a desire to continue working from home several days a week. Post-COVID-19 will bring about a more blended approach in which the office is not simply the place of work. Rather, it will become a place that can offer what remote working cannot, be that a quiet area away from the family or a creative and collaborative space to work with colleagues.
Of course, working alongside colleagues will not be simple while the risk of COVD-19 remains. The global pandemic has changed the way we interact permanently. Even when the vaccine has been rolled out throughout the population, we will not see 100 per cent immunity. Coronavirus will still be present in the population and the virus has heightened our awareness of the hygiene of all our environments. Businesses will need to plan well in advance to ensure the return to the workplace comes at minimal risk.
We will see a continuation of many of the protective policies that came into place over 2020, including social distancing, limiting building capacity, enforcing mask wearing, regular hand sanitisation and temperature checks.
Much of this new burden of work will continue to fall on front of house (FoH) staff. These teams have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic, working to keep members of staff and the public safe. Many have been over-stretched as the demand for their work increased. Lessons had to be learned over the course of the year with regards to protecting this workforce both mentally and physically in a period of great pressure.
Moving into 2021, we are looking at a more resilient and adaptive FoH workforce than ever. The FoH role has had to expand. Before COVID-19, many security officers spent much of their time observing their environment, prepared to react immediately to any issues that might arise.
They also had FoH roles as a first point of contact for visitors, offering directions or working on reception. While all those tasks remain vital, officers are now also tasked, in many cases, with checking every building user to limit visitors to a safe building capacity and enforce rules such as mask-wearing and social distancing. Many also check the temperatures of all building users.
In addition to these extra tasks, officers have to show a greater appreciation of nuance and empathy. This year has undeniably been extremely stressful. Everyone reacts to this stress in different ways and for some, this has been by taking their emotions out on others, becoming angry if they are refused entry to a building or ignoring social distancing rules.
Others tend the opposite way and are hyper vigilant, while for some, stress can make it more difficult to remember details.
This might mean that regularly changing social distancing measures are forgotten. Undoubtedly, the return to the workplace and other busy environments will see many people breaking rules. But many will do so accidentally or unconsciously. Security officers will keep people safe by enforcing these rules but must do so with empathy, managing people in a way that is firm but does not further stress them.
Businesses must also work closely with officers to ensure they are kept up to date on all precautions and changes to the workplace. As FoH staff and first points of contact, officers will have a vital role in streamlining the return to work by communicating any changes. They will need to be well trained on new layouts, protective equipment, and regulations so they can guide those returning to the site.
Those businesses that properly utilise their FoH staff will be the ones that best adjust to the return to the workplace. They will need to work closely with their FoH teams or providers and adapt to new challenges alongside these teams.
However, an element of this that can too often be neglected is caring for these members of staff. The high-pressure situations take their toll both mentally and physically. Security officers have been the most at risk occupation from COVID-19 during the pandemic. Safety measures must be clearly delineated and properly enforced so organisations should work with security experts to determine how to do this. Caring for FoH staff’s mental health will also be a vital means of avoiding burn out.
The post-COVID-19 era demands new approaches from all of us. The way we interact with public spaces and one another has changed permanently. Front of house staff are right on the frontline of those changes. Throughout the pandemic, they have demonstrated incredible resilience.
The return to the workplace will not be without its challenges, but the adaptations made throughout the pandemic have taught us valuable lessons. Businesses that are well prepared and listen to those that have experienced work on the frontline will be able to create a safe and welcoming workplace for staff to return to.
Managing Director, Amulet