How Tech Can Help Navigate the Return to the Workplace

The global health event has had a significant impact on the hospitality industry, which includes independent business owners as well as franchisors in hotel and resort chains, conference centers, and restaurants. In fact, per the American Hotels & Lodging Association (AHLA), hotels in the U.S. have lost $46 billion since the beginning of the pandemic and are on track to continue to lose about $400 million per day. And according to the National Restaurant Association,  more than 110,000 establishments – are closed permanently or long-term.

As travel restrictions, business closures and distancing guidelines developed, these businesses in particular experienced an array of unprecedented challenges. For an industry that historically relied on close contact among employees and customers, the changes were significant. But the industry is resilient, and the initial policies, processes and technology evolved to accommodate the need for businesses to keep employees and customers safe. As businesses continue to adapt, many are still asking: Where do we go from here, and how can we pivot to ensure long term viability?

Understanding Industry Trends

In addition to the effectiveness of social distancing, technology plays a critical role in enabling the hospitality industry in returning to work. The right technology can help make a difference in how a business recovers and stabilizes itself to drive future growth. For instance, many hotels added contactless conveniences like remote check-in, smartphone-enabled doors and QR code room service menus. These services were initially implemented to limit person-to-person contact, yet their continued use will shift from safety issues to an ongoing and expected convenience.

The same will likely hold true for restaurants. Many restaurants that were forced to close initially pivoted to offer delivery and pickup services. That held true for nearly every outlet from the neighborhood diner to upscale eateries. This is one trend that is here to stay.

For both industries, the way in which the employers must ensure employee safety has evolved. Employees can now clock in/out on apps on their mobile device. Additionally, employers can use text messaging and broadcast services to update employees on policy changes. And the communication goes both ways – employees can notify their employer about their health status and availability.

Returning Staff to the Workplace

Customers are just one side of the reopening equation. Returning and retraining staff presents a host of new challenges. According to an AHLA survey conducted in November, 63% of surveyed hotels have less than half of their typical, pre-pandemic staff working full time. As businesses begin bringing workers back to the workplace, technology innovations can certainly help make the transition smoother.

Companies are always looking for rapid, real-time data to deliver insights and empower nimble decision-making. At the same time, employees are increasingly demanding that employers focus on the well-being of their workers and create a workplace where everyone can work confidently and thrive – which may mean higher wages and more employer sponsored benefits. Labor is typically the largest controllable expense and when incorporating additional factors, it is imperative that employers understand all labor-related costs. Business owners more so than ever before must have precise and data-driven insights at all costs. They simply can’t rely on guess work.

Flexibility will be mandatory for employers in the coming year if they want to get back to their previous revenue levels. In fact, according to ADP surveying at the onset of the pandemic, half of small businesses and 84% of larger businesses are adjusting their business models. While major overhauls might be too drastic for many, the majority of business owners have thought of ways to adapt to their new circumstances.

Focusing on Safety and Resilience

Tech will be key to businesses managing the return to work safely. With the right tech, managers can send quick surveys to gauge worker readiness and sentiment about returning to the workplace. Tech can also enable consistent communication with workers to help educate them on new policies and procedures before they return. Employers certainly want to give workers back their livelihood, but they also should be able to deliver some peace of mind.

Neema Ardebili, ADP

As businesses everywhere begin executing their own return-to-workplace plans, those who have access to smart and innovative tools can put themselves a step ahead of their competition. By keeping employees engaged and informed, managers can set the right tone with their staff and, by extension, their customers. While the returning public will likely be forgiving especially initially, there’s no question that every business from the start will want to be ready to go, and not playing apologetic catch-up.

About the Author

Neema Ardebili has been with ADP for 14 years, co-leads the ADP Franchise Advisory Board and has expertise in a multitude of important topics related to industry HR best practices. For additional COVID-19 resources, visit