As hoteliers complete their budgets for the new year, it’s critical that they add industry safety standard technology to their priority list
By Robb Monkman
With the sweeping implementation of new safety standards and legislations, hoteliers are quickly shifting focus towards employee protection. Recent world events have led to a notable development of a new employee safety culture in hotels and protecting those working alone in guestrooms or other remote areas who frequently find themselves in vulnerable, risk-oriented situations needs to take precedence. Hospitality is an industry focused on the guest experience, but more attention needs to be paid to the employee experience ― and fast — if teams are to return in time for reopening.
Even before the pandemic, reports of unsafe working environments for hotel staff emerged in the media. Surveys of housekeepers around the nation revealed these laborers were being sexually assaulted at more than twice the rate of workers in other industries. With incidents of injury, assault or harassment against hotel staff being notoriously high across the industry, it was imperative that hotels seek out every opportunity to protect their team ― and their reputation ― from unnecessary risk and harm. Enter COVID-19. Hoteliers are now facing an even bigger safety concern ― protecting their staff and guests from an invisible threat that puts their lives at risk by just coming to work.
Fortunately, technology has advanced to a point where it is keeping workers safe. Next-generation panic buttons are leading the way as the true future of worker safety. An innovative, best-in-class, cloud-based employee safety platform will protect hotel workers no matter where they are on premises and serve as a complete security system capable of providing protections in any situation. Using Bluetooth® and GPS technologies, operators can precisely pinpoint the location of a staff distress call down to the specific floor and room number. If the employee in danger moves, his or her location will be tracked and updated in real-time, ensuring that help will arrive quickly and efficiently. Having the power to locate an employee within seconds of a distress call helps hoteliers create a safe, confident workplace — ensuring the wellbeing of staff, just as they are expected to care for the welfare of guests.
As hoteliers fine-tune their 2021 budgets to include technology innovations that transform the guest experience, it’s critical that they not overlook solutions that also ensure the safety of employees. While there are legitimate concerns about the affordability of safety platforms given the recent lack of occupancy, and therefore lack of revenues, hoteliers can rest assured knowing there are cost-effective alternatives that are making deployment of panic buttons quick, easy, and under budget ― especially if the hotel can leverage existing technologies that enable it to purchase less hardware.
Here are 10 reasons why panic buttons should be a top line priority of hoteliers when budgeting for technology in 2021:
1. Panic Buttons are a Legal Requirement — Currently, local ordinances in states such as Washington, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Illinois, and parts of California have signed in laws that require hotels to provide wearable/portable panic buttons to their employees at no cost. Miami Beach, for example, requires hotels to provide safety buttons or notification devices which offer GPS tracking to all hospitality staff. With more and more cities pending approvals on further initiatives, panic button mandates continue to make their way into several collective bargaining agreements across the country. Hotels that fail to comply will be fined. For a detailed view of state-specific requirements and applicable fines, click here.
2. Panic Buttons Meet Brand Standards — More than 60 hotel companies that are members of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. pledged to equip their housekeepers and other service employees with panic buttons as part of their voluntary commitment to the association’s 5-Star Promise initiative — the hotel industry’s assurance of enhancing employee safety. The industry’s largest brands and management companies vowed to enhance policies, trainings, and resources, plus provide more than 1.2 million employees with safety devices (panic buttons) to strengthen safety and security for staff and guests. Reneging on this promise could tarnish each brand’s reputation and impact employee loyalty. With hotel companies struggling to get teams back to work post pandemic, defaulting on this pledge could negatively impact a hotel’s ability to reopen and properly serve guests.
3. Panic Buttons Drive Employee Retention — In the case of hotel employee safety, it’s not just a matter of preparing for, and preventing risk, it’s a question of what your employees’ well-being means to your property. Investing in employee safety breeds a company culture that reminds employees (and guests alike) that hotel staff is valued and protected. When it comes to the hospitality workplace, the case for enhancing the general, day-to-day wellness of staff is apparent. The process of hiring and training new employees consumes valuable time and resources and is undeniably expensive. Plagued by notoriously high staff turnover rates, hoteliers should feel especially inclined to invest in employee retention. More than that, we are in the business of servicing happy guests. The best way to ensure that guests remain happy is to show empathy to workers and invest in technologies that keep them safe.
4. Panic Buttons Reduce Legal Fees — Should a staff incident happen at your hotel, the owner or operator can potentially be held liable and defending yourself isn’t cheap, especially if it goes to court and a jury reacts negatively to an employer denying workers a simple a tool to report such incidents in real time to get help. Panic buttons create evidence that can hold up in court. General commercial liability policies may cover legal expenses, but not all. To plug coverage gaps, McGowan Program Administrators has crafted Hotel Umbrella Insurance that covers sexual harassment and other employment-related claims.
5. Panic Buttons Piggyback Off Other Technologies — Integrating with and leveraging existing hardware and software systems already in use at the property can lead to increased functionality and reliability as well as a decreased cost of deploying a robust safety platform. Even further, the platform can provide a simple, user-friendly interface and require little to no training, with fast and seamless integration with current hotel systems, such as WiFi solutions providing wireless access points or workforce management systems and housekeeping apps that eliminate the need for Bluetooth® Beacons to be installed. In most cases, hoteliers can save up to 50 percent on CAPEX costs by piggybacking off existing communication systems.
6. Panic Buttons Protect Your Hotel’s Reputation — Research shows that 69% of job seekers are likely to reject an employment offer from a company with a bad reputation; a bad reputation costs a company at least 10% more per hire. The reason why so many municipalities created panic button legislation is in a direct response to media reports of crimes against hotel employees, and we all know that the media has the power to make or break a hotel. No matter how beautiful a property may be, or how much it has invested in cutting-edge technologies and amenities, it can’t operate without its people. But workers will not stay at a hotel continues to ignore all the risks. Panic buttons will go a long way towards boosting a hotel’s online reviews and word of mouth reports. After all, employees are consumers too, and they can tarnish your reputation just as easily as a disgruntled guest.
7. Panic Buttons are Flexible, Scalable and Operate Everywhere — Today’s employee safety platforms are entirely customizable to the size and scale of your hotel, offering various tiers of service that can be customized to fit your property’s precise needs. In addition to providing employee safety, they also deliver operational excellence and drive additional revenue opportunities. This allows for the creation of a truly individualized, best in class safety platform that ensures the on-going protection of hotel staff, as well as the continued optimization of your hotel’s operational model. While smartphone functionality and app-based solutions are beneficial, safety option exist that support stand-alone LTE panic buttons to work without the need for a paired smart device. This simple, yet still discreet and effective implementation allows support staff to receive precise location-based alerts both on and off property, in the case of a staff-related emergency or injury.
8. Panic Buttons Extend Security Services Beyond Housekeeping — Having mobile access to emergency alerts is critical in these uncertain times. Whether an employee needs immediate assistance with a hotel guest in medical distress on the golf course or a worker finds himself or herself in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation in the parking garage, panic buttons can be leveraged for use beyond traditional back of house departments. Essentially, any in-room dining or minibar attendant, registration agent, pool lifeguard, masseuse, valet, or office administrator can summon help in seconds — including mobilizing first responders for guests or co-workers who may be in medical distress.
9. Panic Buttons Can Be Deployed Quickly Propertywide — Depending on the size and scale of each hotel, panic button installers can easily work through up to 100 rooms per day, ensuring swift deployment across the property in record time.
10. Panic Buttons = The Right Thing to Do — Do you remember when adult movies were part of a hotel’s in-room entertainment package? Although they were a revenue-driver, removing them was the “right thing to do” for the overall good of hospitality. In the same vein, investing in panic buttons at a time when revenues are non-existent is also the “right thing to do.” Although hoteliers are hesitant to spend money right now, and understandably so, putting employee safety above all else — including the guest experience — is necessary to motivate employees to come back to work so that hoteliers can reopen their doors and get back on their feet.
It’s still a dangerous world out there. Hoteliers are obligated to reduce the risks impacting their people. Even with heightened cleaning standards and sanitizing technology, it may be difficult to lure essential hotel workers back. Investing in a safety platform that is cloud-based, easy to use, and integrates seamlessly with existing hotel software to provide location-based alerts in the event of an emergency speaks volumes about the integrity of the hotel company and their desire to protect their people. Nothing should take more precedence than employee security in these uncertain times.