Furlough to frontline: Thoughts from hospitality staff returning to work

From furlough to frontline

Thoughts from the staff pouring your pints this weekend

For four months, the nation has been in lockdown, with Covid-19 distancing us from our friends and families, taking our loved ones and sending the economy and unemployment rates spiralling into disaster. After weeks of isolation it seems thousands of us are itching to get our hands on that first cold pint again, or enjoy a meal at a favourite restaurant, but how do those returning to work to serve you feel about it? Hospitality workers are now on the frontline of the pandemic response whichever way you look at it… they are now interacting with the public and are at the coalface of restarting our economy… so as Scotland reopens indoor dining this week, we questioned some hospitality workers on how they coped on furlough and their thoughts about the UK’s return to hospitality, and allowed them to answer anonymously.

How did you feel being on furlough?

“Guilty tbh. It’s weird to be paid to stay at home, and so disengaged from the community the pub has too.  I was relieved to not have to deal with people’s cavalier attitude about social distancing and even more relieved not to have to turn away people who were scouring the city for places that were still open”

“It’s been super good for my mental health. The first couple weeks sucked but once I got a bit of a rhythm it was good and kinda just gave me time to sort myself out a bit”

“Furlough has been okay, obviously had the bad days like I’m sure everyone has but I’m quite an adaptable person and once I got into a vague routine and took up running I started to enjoy the free time. Knowing as well that my furlough payments were essentially guaranteed every month really helped. I can’t imagine the stress some folk will have gone through not knowing when their next pay would come from”

“Being on furlough was a bizarre feeling. I’ve made work my life, so to not have that structure was unusual. I tried to make the best of it though, plenty of exercise, puzzles and Harry Potter marathons. I also hosted a quiz for all our staff which was great. I think by that point we all needed to see some familiar faces”


What have you missed the most while on furlough?

“There are so many people I’ve lost contact with that I was seeing either every day or consistently at the same time every week. It’s hard and isolating.”

“My colleagues/friends. That’s literally it”

“I miss the sense of community you get in the pub. You get to know the regulars and you become part of their lives. I suspect many of our older regulars are missing us right now!”

“I’ve missed seeing everyone of course, but I stayed in reasonably good contact with my pals”


How are you feeling about returning to work? Is it too soon to re-open?

“I quit my job. Safe to say I didn’t feel good about reopening!”

“In the current situation, I feel it’s too soon”

“I think whether we open now or in two months, we are going to incur the same problems, so we might as well open and ease into it now”

“I’ve always felt incredibly safe to go back. I believe that all the right measures are in place to ensure safety for staff and customers so I don’t think it is too soon at all”

“It’s giving me the fear and I can see a panic attack coming before my open on Wednesday. I think I’m struggling to conceive the fact that it’s suddenly okay to go from only seeing a couple other households to being in a pub with 30+ other households”

“I’m excited, bring it on!”


Do you think your pub/restaurant is prepared to cope with the new measures?

“I hope so. We’ve got heavily reduced capacity, screens and things to help with social distancing. Reduced number of tills, encouraging contactless payment, sanitiser stations everywhere. I feel the pub has done what it can and now we’re in the hands of the public. We’ll see how it goes”

“I do think the pub is prepared to cope with new measures as best as possible. As the bar is small, reopening was delayed to such as time as they could accommodate customers and staff in a safe environment. I think their choice to wait is wise and it will pay off in the end. The bar community in Edinburgh is very tight-knit and people are sharing their experiences which Is informing lots of plans and operations going forward”

“We have already reopened in England and things are going as smooth as it can be so far, minus the small percentage of problem customers who refuse to adhere to the rules. You can tell the management think it is a hinderance though, as we are paying staff to be there simply to clean surfaces every 15 minutes, while on a reduced capacity making less revenue”

“Yes, we have everything in place and I’m confident it will be problem free”


Do you trust the public to respect the guidelines and measures in place?

“Yes, I do. I think everyone just wants to get back to some sort or normality and so people won’t want to risk losing that again”

“Given the state of pictures from places like Newcastle and Soho, plus beaches during heatwaves, absolutely not. I expected to be met with a lot of aggression and disrespect and it was already a tense situation in the lead up to lockdown with a lot of aggravation from non-regulars.”

“They can barely stand on a sticker on the floor at a supermarket, so no”

“I think the photos that have been seen in the media of areas like Soho have been a misrepresentation of how it has been. I’ve personally not seen any issues so far, everyone has been super respectful of the guidelines, so I’ve got no reasons to have any misgivings or trust issues with regards to it going forward”

“I don’t trust the general public at all, like yeah we can put all the measures in place for social distancing but you can only spoon feed people so much and I don’t really trust them to adhere. My friend had her first shift back in England and they had people deliberately breaking the measures”


Is there anything you want to say to those planning on visiting a pub/restaurant when they reopen?

“Respect social distancing and be nice to the staff enforcing it, this is a new set up for us too and we’re just trying to do our best for everyone’s safety”

“Just be careful. Follow the rules”

“Wear a mask, be kind, and remember it’s not all about you – the people serving you have families and friends they want to keep safe too. And remember there are other ways you can support your local, takeaways are also good!”

“Be respectful, be sensible, and embrace the new normal”


Whether you are returning to bars or restaurants at this point or not it’s important to know what we at Brewgooder believe – that those at the coalface of hospitality are hugely valuable to our economy and society and as they are being asked to step up to allow us all to begin to return to some sort of normality, we encourage everyone to respect them, to support them, to wear a mask when asked to do so and to stay safe.


Well Digger