The Landmark London adapts benefits to support staff through pandemic

The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has presented some challenges for the Landmark London Hotel in how to support the health and wellbeing of its employees.

Prior to the crisis, the hotel ran many of its initiatives in a face-to-face setting; now, with many employees either on furlough leave, working in small teams within the hotel, or working from home, the employer has had to think of creative ways of supporting employees’ wellbeing.

Nicola Forshaw, director of HR, says that it is important to keep in touch with the hotel’s workforce:  “The main thing is communication and that people know that we are there. For example, senior people are going into the hotel to talk to the team that is there. We’re doing some fun stuff with social media as well, which, in this time, people connect with more.”

The in-house hotel team has been doing a live feed from the hotel on Thursday nights through a private social media account. For example, it has shown a walk around the hotel which has a very different atmosphere while it is empty. On another night, an employee gave a colleague a ‘lockdown’ haircut and shared the video with the team, while on another occasion a few employees held a live cookery class.

It is important to recognise that because the hotel’s employees span a range of ages and technical abilities, communications need to be sent in various forms, says Forshaw. “We email a lot of stuff to our teams: we do a newsletter every Friday with a message from our general manager,” she says.

Included in the email newsletter are links to a social media platform where employees upload videos such as a virtual baking competition or keep fit videos.

Forshaw and her team also call many employees to give them an update on what is going on, or to see how they are doing.  “We make sure everyone is communicated to rather than just saying, ‘we’re doing this to our page’,” she explains. “So we try to [use] as many different ways as we can.”

Local benefits

The Landmark London has always aimed to offer employees benefits that add value to their everyday lives. Pre-pandemic when the hotel was open to guests, employees could take advantage of discounts at local coffee shops and barbers, perks that are valued by employees who work on shift patterns. The hotel also has an in-house laundry service where employees can have their uniforms or work clothes freshly laundered. There is also an interest-free season ticket loan scheme.

“Our benefits strategy really is to give that added value so people don’t have additional expenses to come to work in the hotel,” says Forshaw. “We have a fully-funded staff restaurant for example. We try and take away all those costs associated with coming to work.”

Online fitness

While working with employees dispersed in different locations, the hotel has transferred some of the initiatives it previously had in place in to a virtual space. Fitness classes for employees, such as Zumba and yoga, used to be held in the hotel but are now offered online. There is a virtual choir and employees have also created their own fitness challenges online, such as push-up challenges. “The communication is a big part of making sure their mental health is [okay] and to get a good feel of how everyone is doing,” says Forshaw.

Employee mental wellbeing

The Landmark London offers employees access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) and also has mental health first aiders within the organisation, support that is important to promote during the pandemic, says Forshaw.

“We’ve made sure that [the schemes] are re-communicated to everyone, and that everyone has the contact details,” she explains. “We’re quite lucky because we are all on one site, [so] we know our team members quite well. I think this is a great advantage for us because we know people that might be struggling with a situation maybe more than others. We can make sure that we give those people a call and check in with them, check they are okay.”

When staff were placed on furlough leave, the hotel’s owners took the decision to top up the government’s 80% furlough pay scheme in order to offer that little extra financial security. “We’re extremely lucky that our owner is topping up the salaries of all our permanent employees, so if they are furloughed they are receiving 100% of their salaries,” explains Forshaw. “I think that’s a great comfort to people that at the moment they’ve not had to take any pay reductions.”

The mental wellbeing of employees has always been important to the hotel, but the current crisis has highlighted the need for support. “Even before these times, it was very important for us to have a team that is very happy to engage in what we’re doing and feel good about coming to work. In these times of uncertainty and stress for everyone, I think it’s even more important. People are really going to remember how [employers] communicated to them or treated them in this time,” says Forshaw.

Career history

Nicola Forshaw, director of HR, joined the Landmark London in June 2010. Her previous positions include head of HR for Guoman Hotels and Thistle Hotels. When Forshaw was at Guoman Hotels, the hotel moved from a four star to a five star hotel and achieved the AA Hotel of the Year. Then the Landmark London achieved AA Hotel of the Year in 2019. Forshaw says: “I am so proud to have achieved this award, not just once but twice in my career, though our people development.”

The Landmark London has also been listed as one of the best companies to work for in The Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For list. “These both make me so proud as they are a real team achievement that celebrate the cultural growth within the hotel over the years,” says Forshaw. “These awards are only given when high performance can be demonstrated over a long period of time, it is our belief that the strong and robust people plan made these achievement possible.”

At a glance

The Landmark London is a five-star hotel with 327 permanent employees, and 96 on casual or zero-hours contracts. The hotel does not outsource any of its people or departmental functions, so job roles range from receptionists, waiting staff, room attendants through to human resources, accounts, sales, marketing and revenue.

The employee base is evenly split with 200 female and 223 male employees. The average length of service is unusual for hospitality at five years.

Primary objectives for employee benefits

  • To ensure that benefits have an impact on team members and that they really assist with their needs and wants. The Landmark London works hard to engage its teams with the business and wants everyone to feel that the benefits are really a benefit that they want.