This is a monumental week as pubs, cafes and restaurants in England reopen indoors under the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown. For over a year, these outlets in the heart of the city centres have been forced to shut their doors, reconfigure their internal design to adhere to social distancing, have outdoor dining only, or turn to a delivery service model. Yet, as restrictions lift these businesses can now hopefully look to a brighter future as they rely heavily on the office trade.

There are reaffirming news headlines which suggest that the office isn’t dead just yet. For example, JP Morgan has told its UK staff that more of them will return to the office from next month as restrictions ease. These stories compliment the positive conversations we continue to have with our own clients when it comes to the return to work.

These conversations go beyond creating one-way systems and social distancing guidelines, which was first discussed in the spring of 2020. Customer service skills and a sensitive, personable approach will be paramount. We are aware of that, and we have prepared for it.

Many people will be returning to a workplace that is either familiar or strange. Friendly faces and dedicated working spaces will be welcome, but these will be accompanied by hygiene anxiety and new precautions to get used to. FoH staff will be responsible for guiding visitors and guests through this process in a sensitive way while reliably enforcing safety measures.

Some people manage their own stress by taking it out on others. This may mean an increase in aggression towards staff and colleagues in the workplace. This is particularly likely if certain staff need to be removed from the workplace. Many workplaces, for example, may choose to implement temperature checks at their site entrance. FoH staff are likely to be responsible for checking temperatures and turning away those who exceed the limit. Being turned away at the door will not be a pleasant experience for anyone so officers will need to be sensitive. People skills have long been important in FoH but the post-pandemic era will require a sensitivity and empathy that goes beyond traditional roles.

A great dose of empathy will be required on all fronts. Some people will be excited to be back, some will wish they were still at home. Some may have been back 2 or 3 days a week, some may have been furloughed the entire time. Everyone has experienced this differently. But what is guaranteed is that FoH staff will be the first person returning workers see as they walk through that reception lobby with their latte from the local independent cafe. They can rest assured that they will be greeted with a smile from us.