Why Kindness Matters in a Decimated Industry
When I graduated college with a Psychology degree, my plan was to go to grad school to continue my learning on my way to becoming a Forensic Psychologist. For a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here, I did not go directly into the next level of schooling. Rather than sitting at my parents’ home (which I had moved back into after college), I got a job working at a hotel. I started working the front desk of a downtown DC luxury hotel, with no intention of it being long-term. This was strictly a wait-out-the-clock, save some money, and have health insurance until grad-school kind of deal.
These uniforms were SUPER flattering! :-\
But there was something about this job that just stuck with me. The energy, the stories, the adventure, and most importantly the people. My coworkers and I bonded in a way that only those that are ‘in the trenches’ with you can. A bond formed over ridiculous requests, long hours, and post-work hangouts
This bond meant we had each other’s backs when a customer was yelling at us. We protected each other, such as when a customer made an inappropriate comment towards me and my fellow agent was at my side, glaring him down before the man had even finished the sentence. We also laughed. Whether it was something silly the customers did or said or just because we were getting slap-happy from exhaustion, if certain co-workers were by my side, I knew it wouldn’t be a boring shift.
I left the hotel side of the business almost a decade ago, but I still feel a connection to my brothers and sisters in Front and Back of House! I always strive to be the customer I wanted to have, whether it is being extra-friendly and understanding at check-in or tipping the hard-working housekeepers.
When the pandemic hit, this industry was decimated. More than 670,000 direct hotel industry jobs were lost- either by layoffs or furloughs! Statistics state that at least 2 in 10 of these employees are not yet back (as of January 2021). While jobs are starting to come back, in many cases the staff are not.
The beauty of hospitality is that the skills are easily transferable. Unfortunately for the industry, that means a lot of the unemployed staff found new jobs in different industries. In some cases, it was the necessity to find a job- any job – but for others, it was due to how much the hotels were now asking of them. Employees were being asked to work for weeks on end with no break, longer than normal hours, and were put into positions that were short-staffed but still needed to be done (examples: sales managers working night audit or GMs working housekeeping). This was all taking place in the front lines of a worldwide pandemic and in hotels that were financially unstable which meant lower salaries for them.
Now that the world is starting to open, hotels are bringing back a lot of positions that had been cut. Based on current projections, hotels are expected to add around 200,000 new jobs in 2021. The issue is that many of them are finding it hard to fill these positions. Of course, the pandemic is still a major roadblock, as these staff would still be on the front lines with more and more exposure as the travelers come back.
In several hospitality Facebook groups, there is a lot of griping about people not wanting to work because they get paid more to be on unemployment. The fact is that the pay rate at hotels did not rebound and many employees still have feelings of resentment towards their former employers for how they were treated. It is hard to run back to an industry that will overwork you for less money all while you are at risk of catching a devastating illness.
Our industry has been fighting its way back and is now expected to start turning around. It won’t be back to the levels it was in 2019 anytime soon, but leisure travel is already looking up, with business travel expected to return by the end of the year. Of course, if hotels can not figure out how to get people into their vacant positions, this could have a huge impact on the service levels we see in hotels. Services may not re-open, requests may take longer, and rooms may not get cleaned every day.
A sample of meme’s appearing in a popular industry related Facebook Group along side job postings, customer stories and advice requests
My ask to you, on behalf of my brothers and sisters, is to have patience and be kind. Have a smile and a kind word for the front desk staff. If you can go without housekeeping for a few days, make the request for refresh only (towels and toiletries refilled but no other service) and stay patient if the food doesn’t come out as quickly as you would like. Showing kindness may be the difference between a good shift and a bad one for some of these front-line workers.
Aside from the benefits of just being a good person, you may also find some added benefits to you. Front desk agents often have the autonomy to upgrade a client of their choosing or turn on your WiFi for free. They are more apt to do so if you make their day a little bit easier/happier. Many of the big brands offer extra loyalty points for declining housekeeping services. Most of all though, you will earn the gratitude of that banquet server who took on the night audit shift or is helping to strip beds.
 AHLA’S STATE OF THE HOTEL INDUSTRY 2021. American Hotel & Lodging Association, 21 January, 2021 https://www.ahla.com/sites/default/files/2021_state_of_the_industry_0.pdf