The global pandemic has changed the way we interact with one another for good. Though the development of vaccines promises a return to in-person interactions, we will be moving into a ‘new normal’ rather than back to the pre-pandemic world we knew. Front of House (FoH) staff have played a vital role on the frontline, enforcing social distancing measures and helping people adapt. But this has not been without cost. The Office for National Statistics found that of all professions, security officers were most at risk of death from Covid-19.
The pandemic is reshaping these roles. People are recognising how important FoH staff are and the role they will play in helping all of us adapt to the post-pandemic world.
Soft skills are key
Many people will be returning to a workplace that is at once familiar and strange. Friendly faces and dedicated working spaces will be welcome but these will be accompanied by hygiene anxiety and new precautions to get used to. FoH staff will be responsible for guiding visitors and guests through this process in a sensitive way while reliably enforcing safety measures.
Some people manage their own stress by taking it out on others. This may mean an increase in aggression towards staff and colleagues in the workplace. This is particularly likely if certain staff need to be removed from the workplace. Many workplaces, for example, may choose to implement temperature checks at their site entrance. Security officers are likely to be responsible for checking temperatures and turning away those who exceed the limit. Being turned away at the door will not be a pleasant experience for any so officers will need to be sensitive. However, if they are met with aggression, they will need to be able to manage the situation without disrupting other staff entering and exiting the site. People skills have long been important in FoH but the post-pandemic era will require a sensitivity and empathy that goes beyond traditional FoH roles.
Hand-held thermometers for carrying out temperature checks are not the only technological innovation we have seen in recent months. Occupancy sensors are used to ensure buildings do not exceed a capacity at which social distancing can take place effectively. Handheld monitors can be used by cleaning staff to see which areas are in demand and therefore need more regular deep-cleans.
The post-pandemic era will be data-driven. The coronavirus, an entity we could not see or sense in any way, has disrupted our daily lives beyond what we could have imagined a year ago. It has shown us without a doubt that risk prediction and prevention is not something we can rely entirely on our experience and instincts for.
As technology becomes a more common feature of every role in the workplace, staff will need to be trained to integrate these systems fluidly into their day-to-day. Regular training and updates will be core to ensuring systems remain effective.
FoH roles are broadening and diversifying. Sensitivity and tech capability are just two of the skills that are rapidly becoming requirements for staff but their seeming opposition demonstrates the reality of the role. Traditionally, those in tech were deemed to be lacking social skills. While this is an out-dated trope, the conceptual lacuna between the two remains. Staff in FoH roles will need to be able to hone skills in every field and adapt to the ever-changing demands of their clients.
Front line staff have continued to work, putting themselves at risk to keep the country running throughout the pandemic. Many have demonstrated incredible dedication and competency in their roles. Now is the time to invest in these staff. Developing new skills and covering gaps in their current knowledge will create a sector capable of dealing with whatever the post-pandemic world throws at it.