It’s the second day of working from home with our handsome, brilliant, and energetic one year-old. After days of talks of the COVID-19 impact on the airline industry, news reports finally hit home for many hospitality workers. Restaurants and bars are closing around the country, and hotels are experiencing record low occupancies. Retail stores are now shuttering until it’s safe to re-open. It’s too early to tell how long the damage will last, but millions of people in the travel and hospitality industry will soon be (at least temporarily) without jobs.
Collateral damage is likely. Suppliers, intermediaries, service providers, contractors, and supportive infrastructure will all soon feel the effects.
For those of us on the fringe, still hanging on, life isn’t easy. Guilt of watching housekeepers, restaurant servers, store clerks and bartenders lose their hours while we struggle through difficult projects and conversations is overwhelming. Added to that: the prospect of furloughs, financial uncertainty and no telling when this will all get better. And even more: many of us are finding what it is like to work at home in isolation from our friends, extended family, co-workers and neighbors as we take on the new roles of caretaker and homeschooler.
“If something happens, how will we pay the bills?” “What if he screams during a conference call?” “Do we have enough in savings?” “Should we refinance the house?” “When will we ever do the dishes?” are common questions.
It’s a lot.
We’ve just entered a period of uncertainty, discomfort, and unrest all while trying to stay six feet apart from everyone else in the world.
So what can we do about it? Here are three ideas to start:
- Enjoy time with your family. There will never be another opportunity like this in your life to spend so much time together.
- Take the news in daily doses, not a constant drip. There won’t be much good news, so why not consume something you enjoy?
- Use social media as your balcony. Sing, play music, share a funny (but not misleading) meme. Interact with your friends and neighbors and remind everyone that we’re all going to be okay.
This isn’t going to be easy, but neither was 3rd shift, back-to-backs, opening after you closed, managing a tight turn in the ballroom or at the front desk, or covering that extra shift when you needed to be somewhere else.
Together, as an industry, we’ve been through some crazy things, too. There was 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008, Avian Flu, and countless hurricanes just to name a few. Despite all of these setbacks, we always emerged further ahead. Hotels are chicer. Retail is more luxurious. Restaurant food is better than ever. Craft cocktails raised the bar. Planes are greener. Technology is converging, and career paths are more promising.
What’s different about the service culture is that we do everything in service of others, and that spirit is what will carry us through.
Many people in the world outside of the hospitality industry don’t know the lengths that workers will go, or sacrifices that workers will make to ensure their guests feel safe, welcome, and well-taken care of. And that’s exactly what we’ll do for each other right now.
Hospitality exists when you believe that the other person is on your side.Danny Meyer