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The latest UKHA Zoom meeting, hosted by the Manchester and NW Region and compered by Jo Simovic from Umbrella Training, was both a frank and uplifting session as members discussed maintaining wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic for housekeepers and the staff they oversee.
Some extra cheer was added by many attendees adding backgrounds to their screen appearances, so that others viewing were greeted by exotic locations including beautiful beaches, dynamic cityscapes and even smiley pets. And there was more inspiration courtesy of guest speaker Andrew Bodle from the Hygieia Group, the supplier of cleaning products and equipment and hygiene supplies, a company he set up after working for 30 years in the cleaning industry.
Bodle told how at the start of lockdown business had almost evaporated overnight and then he found himself dealing with many enquiries about PPE, toilet rolls and hand sanitiser. He realised ‘that it was time to put my big boy’s pants on’ as it became apparent that during lockdown his operation did not qualify for government support.
Bodle invested his own money in those items which people were most seeking and rebuilt work on the back of that. Alongside this he decided to invest in himself with a fitness regime involving more exercise and walks with the family dog. Then his father, a diabetic, went into hospital for what should have been a routine operation requiring just a short stay, but ended tragically with his death.
“I trained even harder and spent time thinking about the many positive things about life with Dad,” he said. This included family holidays and fun times. “I’m not a mind coach. But I know that if you hold on to as many positive things as you can and be as nice as you can to others, it will help you through.”
People find their own strategies, whether it is reading nice Facebook and other social media messages or enjoying the release from stress through exercising, he said. For Bodle it had also been talking to anybody about such issues and realising that to look after yourself you had to reach out.
Among those attending who had found exercise beneficial for both mind and physical health were Jo Wilby, who took up the 1 million step challenge for Diabetes UK, and Heather Rothery who completed a 5K walk for Pancreatic Cancer Action. Others had found longer and longer walks or even open swimming helped to relieve stress. It became clear that some family dogs were now getting three walks a day! Bodle’s talk prompted some honest conversation about workplace pressures. Subjects discussed included the sometimes unrealistic expectations of hotel owners on staffing numbers and the time needed to clean rooms to COVID-secure standards, housekeepers expected to juggle their core role with general hotel duties, talking to members of their own teams who feared redundancy and concerns about their mental health.
One warmly greeted suggestion was that hotel owners and general managers should be encouraged to do a housekeeping role for a day to personally experience what it now involves.
Other discussions centred on keeping CVs up to date and interview skills – not just for those applying for roles but also people who may have to conduct interviews with potential staff through the likes of Zoom.