Organisations need to be there for their teams during this difficult time, says Wendy Bartlett
I'm sure few of us were prepared for the situation we have all found ourselves in. But that's the key word – all – as I imagine there isn't a single person who has not been touched by this event.
What I am most curious about is, one year on, when we look back, how and what will we remember? What will have changed and how will it change us, and what will the impact be on the world in the long term?
While unfortunately I know people who have lost their lives, this issue has made us focus on appreciation and gratitude – and that is what I am concentrating on. I certainly appreciate and love my team – and I always have – but this whole episode has just reinforced this.
I recently celebrated a very important birthday with my partner, just the two of us in isolation, and I had the most fantastic gift: a video of my team sending me birthday wishes. Then, in the evening, my senior team appeared on an Zoom party (mainly in fancy dress) to make my evening special – that certainly was unique. Who would have thought adversity could lead to a normal party being trumped by something as special?
I certainly appreciate and love my team, and I always have, but this whole episode has just reinforced all of this
What has also been really lovely is that I've had team members at all levels dropping me a note via our internal messaging system, Yapster, and although like many in the industry some have been furloughed, their concern is that we're OK and they've told us how appreciative they are of our actions and all the work we are doing to keep them safe.
Communication is key, and at this time the team expects us to step up to the plate and be personal. Organisations need to be human and be there for their teams during this difficult time.
The team has really created a different level of community and connection. Whether it's storeroom challenges or videos on how to make their national specialities or family dishes, there have been lots of positive interactions and sharing.
The strong message is that they are there for each other – I think it's important to recognise that for some, work is their community and plays a big part in a sense of who we are. In hospitality, we are a people-based industry. We value our relationships with each other and our customers. We love interaction.
It has also brought to mind how, although we are fiercely competitive in the contract catering industry, we are also joined together by many friendships and networks of support. Not once in reaching out for help have I been refused, and that's testament to the hospitality industry and how, through every thread, it is about people and a sense of community.
One organisation I'm particularly grateful to is UKHospitality and Kate Nicholls, its chief executive, and her team. As an industry we have long struggled to have one voice to government, but on this occasion we have had very strong, clear representation.
Much of the rescue package we have is a direct consequence of Kate and her team and the relentless plugging into all aspects of the government to make sure our voice was heard. That's why hospitality featured so heavily in the early days. My hope is that, after this, everyone will realise that we can have one voice and that we are stronger together.
At this time it's important to remember that while we all have very tough journeys ahead, our sense of togetherness and community will see us through. There will be plenty to celebrate. Thank you for being a great industry. Stay strong and celebrate the positive where you can.
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