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We salute our housekeepers

As the UK heads – and sometimes stumbles – towards the ‘The New Normal’,
Housekeeping Today’s Sue Bromley says ‘thank you’ on behalf of us all.

It’s hard to find and cling on to silver linings during COVID-19, but perhaps the spotlight swinging on society’s usually ‘unsung heroes’ – and heroines of course – is a taste of limelight that the nation’s housekeepers and their teams truly deserve.

Public transport staff and retail workers, including those behind the scenes, have at last been recognised as essential to keeping the country ticking along. The focus has also, quite rightly, been on the dedicated cleaners within our hospitals and care homes, some of whom have put their lives on the line. Indeed, a number became casualties and will always be more than statistics to their families and colleagues.

Meanwhile, people with fancy job titles who usually rely on computer screens and phones in busy offices alongside the water cooler gossip have been coping with desks at home and Zoom meetings. They might, just might, while doing the housework, have recalled the army of near invisible cleaners who usually keep their workspaces sparkling.

Now it’s the turn of housekeeping teams in hotels, holiday centres and leisure venues as the UK bids to tentatively head out of lockdown alongside a myriad of remaining social distance rules, restrictions on events and emphasis on hygiene regimes. We doubt that many people outside the sector realise the extent of the learning curve here, even for the most experienced. Head housekeeper workloads have been weighed down with planning and project management tasks that even the government’s COBRA meetings would admire.

Management and executive housekeepers at luxury hotels like The Bulgari must find the balance to ensure their guests still receive the full experience.

Team leaders have also had to be the ultimate HR experts, supporting the natural anxieties of housekeeping staff, whether furloughed and worried about staying in employment, living on site in a ‘skeleton team’ while premises are closed, or now scrupulously preparing premises ready for the return of guests and recognising that ‘The New Normal’ of clean and clean again is going to last a long time. One thing’s clear. From luxury hotels used to providing the ultimate service for a discerning clientele to resort and countryside holiday centres offering the warmest of welcomes to families seeking a break, the hardest thing will be to get that balance between offering guests reassurance and ensuring their visit is memorable for all the right reasons.

Housekeeping teams will be vital in achieving this. Guests will not want to feel swamped by the constant sight of staff wearing PPE kits, but will appreciate the signs that everything possible is being done for their safety. It’s about making sure that some services are as discreet as possible, while others, such as hand sanitisers, are readily available.

The same goes for guest room cleaning and ‘treats’ offered within them, replacing some personal care items with safer-to-use alternatives, while not creating an ambience best described as ‘sparse’. A good example of this balance is provided by the 5-star luxury Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, with its 85 rooms and suites, spa, spectacular colonnaded pool, cinema and ballroom.

They have a Cleanliness Experts Council consisting of in-house and outside experts in food and water safety, hygiene and infection prevention, and hotel operations. As they prepared for reopening, hand sanitising stations were being installed throughout the public spaces while in guest rooms, already rigorous protocols were elevated to thoroughly clean all surfaces with hospital-grade disinfectants, before disinfecting gel and wipes were placed in each room for guest use. Bulgari are rolling out electrostatic sprayers to sanitise surfaces throughout the hotel and testing ultraviolet light technology for sanitising guest keys and devices shared by associates.

Whether you are at the luxury end of the market or preparing a holiday cottage on a farm for letting, Housekeeping Today wishes you and your teams a successful second half of 2020.

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