Behind the scenes in the pandemic

Steve McGregor, group managing director, DMA Group

Whilst some hotels have remained closed throughout the pandemic, others have continued to operate, even supporting key workers. Closed for leisure but still functioning at a vastly reduced capacity, hotels must keep their people and customers safe by ensuring that vital maintenance procedures are still carried out. To further complicate things, these buildings are not designed for long periods of closure or reduced occupation, so maintenance procedures needed to be adapted to account for this.

Facilities management teams – traditionally working ‘behind the scenes’- have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic, caring for security and building integrity, and ensuring that sufficient social distancing and hygiene protocols are in place to keep building users safe. DMA’s ‘life of building’ solution may not have been designed with a global pandemic as part of that lifecycle, but this holistic approach has been vital in quickly adapting to challenges as they arise ensuring no detail, however small, slipped through the gaps.

Hotel care in a global pandemic

Hospitality relies on proactive services and unmatched attention to detail, so the sector was well positioned to adapt to the restrictive demands of the pandemic, and again as we begin to emerge from it. Many features of daily life can and will be adapted to further safety measures and protect building users.

Good ventilation can minimise the risk of the virus spreading by reducing its concentration in the air. Communal areas such as hotel lobbies and corridors must have adequate air flow. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Through the UK winter, keeping windows open may not be ideal so air conditioning units and ventilation systems have been adapted to increase air circulation. This can be further aided by identifying areas with lower air flow such as corners where pockets of air may become stagnant and supplementing air conditioning with standing fans.

With many en suites out of use, taps and showerheads are at risk of legionella growth. Properties that are out of use for only a couple of weeks are at risk of an outbreak. Facilities management staff must implement additional control measures such as regularly flushing all unused taps.

Caring for customers

Effective communication across all parts of hotel management has never been more important. Facilities teams need to be kept up to date with protocols and must be able to communicate these with customers. Whether a room needs deep cleaning, or a new one-way system has been put into place, these measures will not be effective if they are not implemented across the board.

It is undeniable that the hotel sector has taken a massive hit during the pandemic. A poll of almost 3,500 people from McKinsey Consumer Leisure Travel found that most leisure travellers would want to see additional health and safety measures in place in hotels before they would feel comfortable about travelling again. With the rapid roll out of vaccines in the UK, we might well see a time soon when travel will be possible again, but hygiene anxiety is likely to linger for much longer. This increased attention to customer needs and safety will likely become a fixture in hospitality.

Taking a holistic approach

Meeting these demands requires a cohesive set of frontline teams able to communicate effectively and compliment one another’s work. For DMA Group, this approach has been the focus of our Life of Building philosophy. Taking a whole-life approach means looking at the long-term health of the building and the organisation that it houses. 

The work that continues to go on behind the scenes in many organisations has been vital in ensuring the built environment remains safe and ready for our return. Hotels have been vital in housing key workers and those self-isolating. We must not underestimate the importance of caring for and maintaining every site throughout such challenges. The lessons that frontline teams have learned will make them stronger and more resilient in the years to come.

By Steve McGregor, group managing director, DMA Group

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