STAY CONNECTED: How hotels are keeping staff motivated during lockdown and having fun on furlough


Quiz nights, birthday gift cards and charity challenges

The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Bath

General manager, Ben Danielsen says: “We quickly set up a newsletter on Mailchimp where we could inform staff about the furlough scheme, update them about what was happening, have some silly competitions, give them contact information

Facebook group; to enable them to interact with their colleagues in a forum, we set up a Facebook group. Here they can raise any issues they want with their colleagues and share ideas and frustrations. We have also run quiz nights on livestream with prizes from JustEat.

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Birthday cards; we have continued to send out birthday cards to employees with a £10 gift card.

On the first payroll run with furlough each employee was sent an email from me asking them if there was any question about the pay. As NMW and NLW was adjusted from 1 April, we were also in a position to adjust pay for the pay grades above.

Outreach; for some employees that are in a more vulnerable situation, we have reached out to ensure that they are ok and offered support.

Charity challenge; several furloughed members of staff participated on the #twopointsixchallenge raising monies for our chosen charity Julian House who looks after homeless and victims of domestic abuse here in Bath.

Takeaway deliveries for winning quiz teams, ‘open door policy’ on Zoom and e-learning

Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells

James McComas, general manager says: “I’m running weekly quizzes with my team via Zoom. Encouraging them to get the whole family involved, and getting pizza or Chinese delivered to the winning household for dinner. It’s proving really popular and it’s great to see people with their kids or parents getting involved too!

I’m also hosting roughly weekly drop-in sessions on zoom for them to come and ask questions about anything work/furlough/etc …it’s proven more successful than expecting them to email or call, and gives them a feeling that other people share their concerns.

I’m also sending out e-shots to them every 10 days or so letting them know we’ve done at the hotel; it’s reassuring for them to know we’re still spending a bit of money, and we’re not just twiddling our thumbs.

Finally, I’m making sure birthday cards (with a scratch card) are getting to the guys who have birthdays during lockdown.

As a brand, we’ve opened up all our e-learning courses, have pushed the open university free courses and are encouraging the teams to engage with our social media posts on recipes / wine pairing etc.

Keeping the team at home up-to-date with what’s happening at the hotel

Cliveden House

Francisco Macedo, general manager, says: “We have weekly Zoom calls with the whole team. We have a group Facebook page where we post daily updates on what the skeleton teams onsite have been up to, and what the team members at home are doing. We encourage staff to use our Flow Training Modules so they can use their time to learn if they want and share webinars relevant to the industry.

We send bi-weekly emails with updates, as well as bi-weekly newsletters and share video encouragement messages on our Facebook pages. We also use WhatsApp to share quick messages among the team.

During these unprecedented times, where the world seems to be upside down, we must keep in touch with our teams and keep them motivated for a strong comeback; when this is over we will want them to be even more engaged than they were already and ready to embrace the challenges of the new Normal!

We must remember that just because we cannot be in the hotel all together that doesn’t mean that we cannot have a catch-up and even a virtual drink all together.

Regular Zoom Q+A sessions

The Langdale

Dan Visser says: “Keeping in touch with 238 furloughed and 1900 shareholders has been a task in itself. For all staff we have a Facebook group for more social and wellbeing messages, and use email for more formal work related messages. Most departments have WhatsApp groups set up by their managers to keep in contact.

“We need to keep shareholders and timeshare owners in touch with key business changes and messages. Email is king here but we are also using zoom to have Q&A sessions and the take up is really good.

Designating an employee assistance officer and creating a garden ‘crop rota’

Rothay Manor

Jamie Shail, MD, says: “We as employers need to support the wellbeing of our employees more than ever. To that end we’ve made full use of a number of digital communication channels including WhatsApp and we’ve also set up an internal group email, both of which have helped us to build a virtual community and better support our people.

We’ve taken steps to support the team by designating our General Manager as our employee assistance officer, this has given the team a single point of contact with whom they can confidentially discuss any concerns or worries they may be experiencing. 

We’ve also outlined opportunities for personal development so we’ve provided team members with links to a variety of e-learning resources both work-related and otherwise and senior managers have provided assistance with developing learning plans and providing a modest learning budget for very specific personal development courses that will benefit the business going forward.

Happily, we are also fortunate enough to have a two-acre garden which contains a working kitchen garden. The entire team have taken on the garden as their own, organised a work rota (so that distancing is maintained) established new raised beds, maintained our cloches and the growing tunnels, worked out a crop rota and growing cycle, grown on seed stock and then planted on the resulting salad crops, herbs, vegetables and some fruits.

The team have also organised weekly no pub Zoom pub quizzes, with the addition of fancy dress and fruit or veg sculpted mascots! (Don’t ask!) As you can imagine this has created a little healthy competition.

Culinary challenges, sewing classes and weekly riddles

The Grand, Folkestone

Robert Richardson, general manager, says: “At The Grand, to keep the team together we’ve set up a weekly Zoom meeting for everyone. We give an update at the start then have a general ‘chat’ to see how everyone is doing.

Initiatives to come from this have included:

Weekly riddles competition, with the ones the team find hardest or most challenging used as part of a (currently running) social media campaign.

Culinary challenge. Currently we are running a challenge for the team to cook any dish of their own creation, old family recipe / their interpretation of a classic dish, and the best ones will form a weekly specials menu for our wine bar when we reopen. It’s been very successful in keeping the team motivated.

Zoom classes: We have two running at the moment, one is a sewing masterclass whereby staff members are being taught to sew masks for the NHS and the other is an exercise dance class by one of our class teachers. 

Essentially we are trying to find fun ways of keeping everyone mentally and physically stimulated. The ones such as menu options or riddles are especially popular as they will lead in to the businesses reopening. 

Couch to 5K camaraderie and ‘critical’ communications platform

Hand Picked Hotels

Julia Gosling, head of marketing and PR says: “Our communications platform, The Hive, is critical, which is linked to personal email addresses so everyone can keep in touch.  

We’re encouraging everyone to share their photos, stories and news of what they have been up to, whether that’s a team member on furlough baking for a local NHS ward, someone working from home out for their daily exercise, or one of our maintenance team refreshing areas of the hotel that needed a little care and attention. 

We’re also using the platform to share jokes, quizzes and puzzles, and encouraging as many as possible to utilise all the health and wellbeing advice that’s available to them 24/7.   

Vitally, our senior team are posting a number of videos on what’s happening across the business so everyone can keep up to date visually, and feel connected to what’s going on, regardless of their location.  

For the teams in the hotels, it varies from site to site but the majority of general managers are running virtual quizzes and encouraging all sorts of physical activity to support physical and mental wellbeing.   

In some hotels, leader boards have been set up for solus ‘Couch to 5k’ runs and cycling too, so there is both gentle competition and a camaraderie that remains within the teams still onsite. Some of the live-in teams have also been challenged to become ‘chef for the day’ so those who want to cook can do so for the group. 

Virtual stag and hen nights and the Best Western Bake Off

Best Western

Andrew Glover, says: “We’ve been doing loads to keep our teams engaged over the last few weeks. As many businesses do we have a large proportion of our team furloughed so we want to keep them well connected and make sure we are doing everything we can to look after their wellbeing.

We are using a Facebook group and MS Teams groups to keep in touch with our teams.

We’ve had virtual afternoon tea party meets, Friday virtual catch ups over a glass of wine and we’ve even had virtual Hen & Stag party meets for team members who have had to postpone!

The Easter weekend we had a Best Western Bake off competition where we posted a picture of an Easter Cupcake and the team had to recreate it and post pictures of their creations.

We have a team Strava group where members of the team are sharing exercise results. We have launched a book group, a movie group and been running quizzes on a number of topics.

Our purchasing supplier has a company that are offering “Make your own pizza boxes” with £5 from every box ordered going to the NHS, so the May bank holiday we are having a team pizza night where we post pictures of our pizza making in our groups.

Films on Netflix and daily ‘at home’ gym exercises

Dukes London

Hubert Losguardi, head of sales and marketing, says:We have daily & weekly video calls on Zoom and Houseparty amongst the team. For employees that require further support or just to have a conversation, the members of the Executive team as well as the Management team (at all levels) at the hotel, have shared their personal contact details with our employees.

We share daily gym exercises (‘at home’ exercises as well as walk, run and bicycle), while doing a conference call.

We host a weekly quiz, as well as cooking sessions and masterclasses and various challenges or competitions. Also, to create more employee engagement, and support our teams, we also reward our employees with a prize. As an example, this week, the hotel will be offering a voucher of £10 per employee to create a dish and the winner, will get a one night stay for two guests at Dukes.

We encourage online training and the learning of new skills and use LifeWorks Total Wellbeing to communicate with our teams.

We also like to watch Netflix movies together!

In addition to this, General Manager Paul Skinner and I have been publishing every 10 days a letter to our guests and employees. Not only we do our best to be authentic and genuine, but also this is an opportunity to praise our employees and share with everyone all the volunteer works we have been doing and last but not least, we are also supporting and making donations to NHS and Hospitality Action.

‘Bonkers Bingo’, TikTok challenges and Dragon’s Den style pitches  

Cedar Court Hotels

Wayne Topley, managing director says: “This week was round 2 of our ‘Great Conversations focus’. General managers and I have personally called and spoken to all 350 team members to ensure they are in good shape and if they need any direct support, ensuring we have asked about family welfare as well. It has been a great way to get to know your teams even better and ensure we are providing support where it is needed.

We ran an Easter egg decorating competition for our teams families, for all to enter with prizes sent to the winners.

We have run a bonkers bingo, for the teams on Zoom. Instead of bingo it was ‘find the item in your own home’ time challenge.

We have just launched a TikTok challenge, for the teams at home and their families.

We also launched a Dragons Den style event (on Zoom) for the all 350 team members to pitch a new idea around a new business/event idea that we can offer through our hotels that drive people (safely) back to our hotel, post lock down. The event has to be legal, fun, break even on profits and teams had a budget of £5K to spend. The prize is a three-night weekend stay at our group’s Spanish hotel.

However my favourite activity has been the launch of our fitness videos based on ‘non-uber fit’ people and three different age groups. The staff love it and the teams have gone crazy for this.

Breakfast Club at Custard Communications
  • To keep morale high and encourage communication outside of the restrictions of a busy work week, a Friday Feeling call is held for the team to share positive and uplifting stories and activities from the industry or their local areas.
  • In addition, a Breakfast Club is hosted every Saturday morning, which is an opportunity for the team to cook, eat and chat with each other in a relaxed and informal setting. From learning how to cook the perfect poached egg or mixing a classic cocktail, team members have been sharing skills and learning from each other throughout a variety of masterclasses that have taken place.
  • To support the physical and mental wellbeing of the team, regular energetic workouts and calming yoga sessions are hosted by different members of the team, utilising workouts shared by the fitness teams at hotels, including Exclusive Collection’s Pennyhill Park and South Lodge.
  • Other activities include weekly family-friendly quizzes and bingo, a virtual book club and group Couch to 5K training.
One-to-one mental wellbeing checks at St Michaels Resort, Cornwall
  • Using their local suppliers the hotel team has established a Crew Provisions store where team members can order and safely collect food and household items. They can even source niche ingredients like tahini.
  • Head of Wellness, Pete Churchill has been offering one-to-one mental wellbeing check ins as a way of offering support to the team on furlough.
  • Other initiatives have included charity bake sales and pet photo competitions on Facebook all geared towards keeping people occupied and staying positive.
Executive chef masterclasses at One Aldwych, London
  • Online workouts run live by their HR team via Zoom.
  • The hotel’s Executive Chef Dominic Teague is doing cooking masterclasses online for the team.
  • The kitchen has held online cooking/baking competitions – they started with bread making.
  • Their Lobby Bar Manager has hosted a virtual team party where the team dressed up and made a cocktail that they brought along to drink.
  • The GM Janine Marshall is posting bi-weekly online video messages to everyone in the team from her garden with her resident cat.
A pets in lockdown photo competition at Calcot Collection
  • The team at Calcot Collection use Beekeeper as a means of staying in touch across their four properties: Calcot & Spa, The Painswick, Barnsley House and The Lord Crewe Arms. Each property has a social stream where everyone shares photos of the day to day.
  • The teams have been holding lots of competitions, DIY beauty tips, spa at home, lockdown cocktails, plank challenge (everyone nominating each other and then that nominee has to video themselves doing it) and bake off challenges, particularly around Easter.
  • They’ve also had a wellbeing chat – “what are you most looking forward to doing out of lockdown, who do you want to see most and what will you regret not doing during lockdown” which has provided a bit of a lifeline for people during this time.
  • This week the Barnsley House spa team held a quiz and a pets in lockdown photo competition also had a tremendous response.
#cocktailSaturdays at The Cottage in the Wood
  • To create a sense of togetherness during this time of isolation, the team at The Cottage in the Wood, Malvern, has created a #connect programme of spirit-raising, relatable content on Facebook and Instagram, engaging the hotel team to connect with weekly videos made at home that are shared to followers to emulate the hotel’s ethos.
  • #cocktailsaturday sees operations manager/cocktail aficionado Alar Allik mix cocktails in his garden including a sangria, a bishop and a margarita.
  • #motivationmonday is a simple tip shared by the team to motivate each other and the hotel’s followers, and have included head chef Mark Redwood and his 12-year-old son making bread together with uplifting tunes, to advice on creating new habits and structure in your day when we’re all adapting to the new normal.
  • #thoughtfulthursday invites followers to share whatever is on their mind, whether it’s a more meaningful method of self-reflection or simply an uplifting picture of their pet, no doubt an even greater source of great comfort to many people right now. 

Tags : CAREERScoronavirusCovid-19hotelsHRstaff engagement
Zoe Monk

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