The Future Front of House

Updated: May 8

How can companies handle visitors?

We remember positive experiences and, more importantly, we talk about them. Whether it was a visit to a museum, store, hotel or business, we come away from great experiences and we can’t wait to share that experience. Trip Advisor alone has over 800 million reviews on their website; imagine visitors could review their experience in your HQ, what would they say? Great experiences lead to great meetings, which lead to business. Your company can’t afford to have poor visitor management.

In a connected world where we have the technology and instant communication at our fingertips, companies must keep up and ensure visitors receive an experience that is communicative, smooth, and safe.

Traditional visitor experience involves:

· Checking in with a concierge service

· Taking a journey through security barriers

· Greeting a security guard to let them through once attended by the host

· Being allocated a separate pass for the barrier system

This method of the visitor experience is outdated and it’s easy for this process to become fragmented over time; it’s commonplace for visitors to spend time waiting in a queue to speak with the reception staff, for a security guard to provide them with a pass, or for their host to greet them.

Companies must consider the entire visitor experience; from the moment the guest receives an invitation to visit your building, right through to saying goodbye to them in the foyer; each step of the process should be carefully considered.

Modern visitor experience looks like:

· An informative email invitation

· Google Map directions your location

· Full confirmation of all details such as time, date, room, host etc

· A QR code to enable check-in

· Contact details for the host

· Motion sensors to detect arrivals

· Contactless, three-second check-in

· COVID self-certification options

· Thermal temperature scanning

· Tailored security access

· Directions to the correct meeting room

The ‘new normal’ workplace

Covid-19 has changed the world of work for everyone.

Many people were sent home in March with their laptops and notes to embark on a home working journey that is likely to carry over into 2021. Sitting at makeshift desks in kitchens and spare bedrooms, over 4 million office workers have spent most of the year with low risk of being exposed to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, 10.6 million people in the UK have quite literally risked their lives to keep essential services running in the country. Healthcare workers, supermarket employees, taxi drivers, care workers and many more professions stayed business as usual during the lockdown. 15% of those key workers were at risk of Covid-19 due to an underlying health condition and just 14% of key workers were able to work from home.

A study by the Office of National Statistics shared that the most at-risk jobs in terms of being exposed to the disease are:

· Dental nurses

· Nurses

· Medical practitioners

· Residential wardens

· Care escorts

While those who are at risk due to their proximity to others:

· Dental nurses

· Dental practitioners

· Midwives

· Paramedics

· Ambulance staff

*Source, The Independent

It’s clear from this data that public-facing key workers are at the highest risk of being exposed to Covid-19. As businesses begin to think about their return to work plans, front of house staff and facilities teams who interact with large numbers of employees, visitors and contractors are likely to become at risk of catching Covid-19. Of 359 jobs listed in a UK statistics survey receptionists currently rank position 70 for exposure to the disease; a higher rank than taxi drivers, who in May were one of the most dangerous occupations to have during the pandemic. Building caretakers are ranked at 35, with an even higher risk of exposure to Covid-19.

*Source, BBC.

Receptionists have a multitude of responsibilities, but it’s no secret that the job is a very public-facing role. Receptionists are known as “the face of the company”; they are the first person to interact with a visitor or employee in a traditional front of house setup. Receptionists greet people with a friendly smile, welcome and direct guests, show contractors to their work areas, take deliveries and assist employees with facilities enquiries. All of these tasks are crucial to the everyday operation of the building, but in a post-pandemic workplace, can prove very dangerous to anyone in that role. Receptionists are at risk of interacting with virus carriers, people who haven’t self-certified their health status, registered for track and trace, and people who aren’t wearing correct PPE.

And there are reputation risks. The world is watching and ready to criticise those who do not put the safety of their workers as a top priority. During the lockdown, exposés by the media saw some industries thrust into the spotlight for the wrong reasons, including fast fashion and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Unwanted press attention can be devastating in a climate of economic uncertainty; where consumer spending is directed towards careful purchases, the last thing corporations need is negative attention regarding a matter that should be taken care of.

Facilities Managers have a responsibility to keep everyone safe at work, including front of house staff. It’s a huge duty for Facilities, but if executed correctly, they can set the organisation up for a safe workplace throughout 2021 and beyond, with all staff working on tasks in a safe and secure manner.

How does guidance support front of house?

The Health and Safety Executive England have set out specific actions that workplaces should undertake to be Covid-secure, including:

· Risk assessment

· Social distancing

· Cleaning, hygiene and hand-washing

· Providing employees with information

· Home working

· Protecting vulnerable workers

These actions will protect front of house staff to some extent, but more must be done in order to protect receptionists and other front of house staff from exposure to the disease. Let’s breakdown the HSE guidance.

Risk assessment

While reception and front of house areas will undoubtedly be part of the risk assessment in the mind of a FM, the HSE risk assessment only mentioned reception areas twice. To ensure FOH staff are safe, Facilities Managers should ask themselves additional questions:

· Location of front of house staff – where will they respond to enquiries?

· Can people freely access the building?

· How can contact between reception staff and the general public be limited?

You can access a copy of the HSE risk assessment here.

Social distancing

The HSE advise using floor tape and signage to enforce social distancing in the workplace. While this does provide somewhat of a temporary solution, it also raises challenges:

· Psychological safety: will employees feel safe at work with masses of tape, screens and signs in your building? Will this encourage people to return to the office?

· Trust: businesses must trust employees to act responsibly in the workplace.

· This is a quick fire, short-term solution to a challenge that is likely to follow us for some years.

· If a company employs multiple reception staff, how do you keep them on the front desk in a socially distant setting?

Cleaning, hygiene and handwashing

HSE recommend workplaces supply hand sanitiser and disinfectant products, plus disinfect premises using fog, mist and vapour. This is great information to follow, additional thoughts for receptionist areas should be:

· Regular cleaning of the reception area

· Hand wash in the entrance area

· What methods should be used to keep receptionists safe from disinfectant products?

· What methods should be used to protect front of house staff from people traffic in a busy area like a reception?

Access the cleaning guidance here. Providing employees with information