Winter is here, along with the inevitable rise in people falling ill with colds, flus and other seasonal illnesses. Norovirus in particular is set to be rife this year, with estimates from Public Health England indicating that as many as a million people will catch the bug.
For hospitality businesses, this can mean trouble. For most, the run up to the festive season is the busiest trading period of the year and the increased number of people passing through a hotel each day means the spread of germs becomes much more likely. At a time when managers need all hands-on deck, the spread of a seasonal illness can have a damaging effect on both customer perceptions and staffing levels.
Should staff members need to take time off to recover from flu, hotels can be left understaffed and unable to find cover at short notice. Many diligent employees will still go to work when ill, so-called ‘presenteeism’, but this can have a detrimental effect on customer experience. No customer wants to be served their food and drink by someone who is clearly unwell.
With this in mind, it’s vitally important that an exemplary hygiene policy is in place from the moment staff and customers walk through the doors of a business, to the moment they leave.
Doormats are the barrier between a business and outside grime, as the majority of dirt is brought into a building on people’s shoes. A professionally laundered mat service ensures dirt and moisture is trapped at the entrance and floors are kept clean. Encouraging staff and customers to use hand-rubs positioned by entrances will stop the transmission of bacteria onto shared surfaces like door handles or tables, while reinforcing perceptions of cleanliness.
For staff responsible for handling food, practising exemplary hand hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Proper, effective and most importantly regular hand-washing must be supported and encouraged. Supplying posters advising on the correct way to wash hands can help. In customer washrooms, having automatic soap dispensers can provide a “no touch” solution to help stop the spread of bacteria from person to person. Dispensing quality soap also encourages regular usage to help kill bacteria on hands.
Hand drying is just as important as hand washing as germs thrive on wet hands more so than dry hands. Providing suitable drying options – whether automatic dryers or paper towels – can also help reduce bacteria spreading through hand-to-surface transmission.
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases too, but many people do not effectively cover their mouth or use a tissue. Fortunately, there have been some significant advances in aircare technology recently that can actually clean the air as well as scent it. Deploying these products in shared areas such as dining rooms and kitchens can effectively kill airborne bacteria automatically.
During winter, it’s to be expected that either staff or customers will bring germs into a hotel at some point. By anticipating this early and meeting additional hygiene needs with a pro-active approach, this does not have to damage business. Employing effective solutions that protect both staff and customers against the spread of germs, can minimise staff sickness over the busy festive period and ensure the business is fully prepared for the hygiene challenges of winter.