The Struggle is Real.

Marathon not sprint

Getting tired of “COVID” and all of the challenges that come along with it? We can only be hyper-vigilant for so long… like that initial adrenaline rush that peters out. Unfortunately, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

We are all taking in vast amounts of new information every day and adjusting to an entirely new set of behavioral habits, and it’s exhausting. An article from Harvard Business School, Business Research for Business Leaders, authors note that COVID “is stretching and breaking apart even the strongest teams…

Most of us are dealing with unprecedented tasks and decisions on the job and in our personal lives. And we are all, one way or another, grieving. According to David Kessler, an author and grief expert quoted in a recent HBR article, “The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

We need to take care of ourselves first so we are capable of taking care of others – not only our guests, but our staff, our coworkers, our families…

Based on multiple conversations with hospitality managers and owners across the country in various wine regions (WISE Community Forums), we’ve heard some great feedback on managing these challenges.

Staff Fatigue & Motivation
It’s not easy to not only wear a mask for 8 hours, sometimes outdoors and in heat. But we also have to pay attention to sanitary procedures, social distancing, and new protocols with opening / closing procedures, in addition to hosting guests – is it any wonder that our teams are tired of it all?

Here are some great tips on managing staff fatigue and motivation:

  • Conduct a weekly mental and physical well-being check-in with staff.
  • Empower staff – let them know they won’t get in trouble if they need to reinforce rules with guests, that the company is taking COVID seriously and none of us want anyone to be at risk.
  • Assign a ‘COVID policer’ – make one person the main person to oversee all the protocols. By delegating to one (manager), the staff can do what they do best – engage with guests, sell the brand/wine/clubs.
  • One winery with multiple tasting rooms created a private team page on Facebook. “It’s great because they can give each other support too. With four different tasting rooms, it’s great for them to be able to interact and provide ideas and support for one another.”
  • Consider having laminated checklists with a timed cleaning schedule (every 30 minutes check the bathroom, etc.) to help keep the sanitation protocols easy to remember.
  • Remain positive and supportive of the staff members who are getting tested – they already have fears, so we want to support and cover them if needed.
  • Offer more shifts, shorter shifts (4-6 hours), since the longer shifts are too exhausting with opening & closing duties that take more time.
  • The fatigue is real – there is a lot of moving around, with more hosting of experiences outdoors.
  • Mental health for the staff is important – these are hospitality people who thrive on human interaction, and the limitations that have been placed on human interaction have been especially hard on those of us in hospitality.
  • Wine incentives – for motivation (if they seem down or tips are down) have them take a bottle home with them (especially if long on a SKU); it ends the day on a positive note.
  • Have winemaking team do a run through of all the wines – especially if you haven’t done it in a while, it helps to re-engage the team and give them some motivation.
  • Staff morale – stock freezers full of popsicles and ice cream sandwiches during a heat wave – watch the team’s energy levels and happiness change.
  • Try to provide a sounding board for staff so they can express their concerns and feel supported
  • Give the staff the empowerment that it’s okay to take the time for the cleaning – helps give the staff some confidence.
  • Staff needs and concerns are important, so we need to pay attention. Give it careful thought. Take it seriously. There is no such thing as over-communicating.

A core WISE principle is first we need to take care of our team members so they can then take care of our guests…but don’t forget to take care of yourself as well.

According to the HBS article, we should “protect the core, and pivot to new opportunities.” We’re better off accepting the reality that the future isn’t what it used to be and figure out how to make it work. We’re beyond the ‘new normal’ and now in the ‘next normal’ – what does your ‘next normal’ future look like? Will we be able to ride out the crisis to emerge stronger than before?