The Front of House staffing gauntlet

Front of house staff

All businesses know the importance of reception staff; they are the first point of contact for employees, clients and other visitors to the building and it’s vital they provide a great first impression. However, managing a good reception service can be challenging and difficult to sustain.

Depending on the level of visitor traffic coming into the building, the reception role can have a low workload. It can be tricky to balance the need for someone to be available to assist visitors and finding other work for them to complete during quieter times. Any additional work may fall down the list of priorities if there is a significant increase in the client-facing aspect of the role.

Front of House can be a lonely place

The work itself is often repetitive and this can lead to staff feeling dissatisfied. Our research indicates that the average turnover for reception staff is 6 months, with personnel citing boredom at work as the main reason for leaving, resulting in ongoing recruitment issues. High turnover can reflect poorly on the organisation, and it can lead to other frustrations internally as well – time and energy spent on training only for an employee to leave soon after and lack of consistency for other staff and regular visitors to the building such as delivery drivers. In addition, recruitment and training costs are not usually factored into the direct cost of running a FoH.

There are logistical problems as well. Most manned buildings only have enough work and footfall to only justify one receptionist. This means there is a daily struggle to find cover for lunchbreaks at reasonable times resulting in very early or late lunches so as not clash with other members of staff. Likewise finding cover for doctor’s appointments, annual leave or sickness can be an ongoing headache for the Facility Manager. With the recent strike actions, reception staff may not even be able to make it into the building in the first place and usually without much notice.

Issues of short-notice absenteeism are the most costly and time-consuming to resolve, as well as one of the most frustrating issues for the Facility Manager to deal with. Many reception staff have the responsibility of opening the building ahead of the first tenants arriving – if they’re ill or delayed, then the Facility Manager will get a call and have an early morning dash to locate keys and open the building. There is then the challenge of covering the rest of the shift; agency staff command a much higher hourly rate and are not going to be familiar with the building’s procedures and therefore the service provided may be limited.

A functional desk can also be modern
A functional desk can also be modern

There are solutions at hand to help resolve these issues. Outsourcing the FoH to an external supplier is a common one. They take on the responsibility of finding last-minute cover or ensuring the workload is sufficient and managing recruitment issues. However, it will typically double the cost of operating a building’s FoH, putting a high value on convenience.

Where key management is the real hinderance, then automation is another solution to be explored. Remote access with door operations configured on a timer is a common way to reduce the reliance on someone on-site. But this too has its downsides – there may be issues with insurance which makes the traditional lock-and-key a must.

A third way is to consider how technology can help resolve many of issues mentioned. A reception service doesn’t need to be in-person and can be provided remotely through a digital platform instead, such as vPod, Sentry Interactive or Lares Digital. Likewise there are innovative, secure keyless solutions such as DoorDeck or Simons Voss which help mitigate the Facilities Manager’s constant headaches. There isn’t any need to compromise on service-level and a digital solution can often be far more flexible and even used in combination with existing reception staff. More importantly, it removes the stress, cost and frustration that Facility Managers are regularly facing with their current set-ups.

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