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We draw inspiration from the world around us and we want to share our knowledge with you. Tap into our latest thinking on the issues that matter most in hospitality today and find out what trends are going to shape our industry in the future.

6 Challenges Threatening Hotel Housekeeping in 2018
9 April 2018, by Cem Benhason in Hotel Operations
6 Challenges Threatening Hotel Housekeeping in 2018

Our planet has become much smaller, which has made travel easier and more accessible than ever before. Parallel to this trend, customer behavior and expectations are evolving at a rapid pace. Travelers nowadays are driven by social media, seek unique experiences, and are becoming increasingly demanding. Thus, it is significant that hotels focus on ultimate guest satisfaction, positive feedback and loyalty. Two crucial determinants of guest satisfaction are the comfort and cleanliness of hotel properties, which are ensured by the hardworking members of the largest department in a hotel, the housekeepers, aka. heroes behind the scenes.


Let’s look at the 6 challenges hotel housekeeping is facing in 2018, and how they should be tackled:


1. Security

Over the last couple of years, terrorism has become a very real and serious matter for the hotel industry. Hotels have been considered a soft target by radicals, as they are exposed establishments with shallow security measures, and the potential is high for the number of casualties. The latest major incident was last October’s shooting at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay, in which 58 nearby concert-goers were killed and more than 500 were injured, and the shooter was able to move at least 10 suitcases filled with firearms and ammunition to his room undetected over three days.

Soon after, brands such as Disney and Hilton changed their “Do Not Disturb” policies, allowing housekeepers to enter the guestrooms daily. Although such measures have also triggered discussions regarding guest privacy, hotels need to do what is necessary to ensure public safety and security, and room attendants will play an integral role. It is important for hotel managers to revisit their security measures, including occupied room protocols, and train staff members rigorously so that they can analyze suspicious situations and promptly notify the management.


2. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a major concern for many hotel employees, particularly for those in housekeeping where the room attendants are generally required to work alone in guestrooms. Preliminary research gathered from workers in the hospitality industry found that a staggering 89% said they had experienced one or more incidents of sexual harassment in their working life. And, many of these abused go unreported as staff fear to lose their jobs. In the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations against several high-profile men, and as the #MeToo movement has shown, the public acceptance of such behaviour has changed.

Unionized housekeepers in New York City have been using “panic buttons” that are designed to protect employees from assaults by the guests. Hotels in Seattle and Chicago began implementing similar systems at the end of 2017, and recently, a California bill was introduced that requires hotels to adopt anti-sexual harassment policy and preventive tools. Hotel managers too, must create awareness regarding this matter, encourage their employees to speak up and establish zero tolerance policies with total commitment.


3. Health and Safety

Hotel housekeepers are mandated with physically challenging tasks that pose injury risk factors, such as forceful exertions including pushing heavy trolleys, awkward postures while cleaning, repetitive motions for long periods and little rest, which can result in serious injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) states that on average a housekeeper makes about 25 beds per shift, which requires at least 15 lifts per bed: that makes 375 lifts per shift, and is almost equal to an hour of heavy exercising! Imagine doing the movements incorrectly during your workout routine – you would be most likely inviting injuries. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, up to 95% of housekeepers complain of physical pain, and 70% of injury claims are reported by housekeeping professionals.

To help increase health and safety at the workplace, staff members need to be trained to move correctly, use their bodies effectively, and execute their daily tasks in a safe manner. Creating a holistic awareness on ergonomics can not only help improve their health and productivity in the workplace but also their quality of life would be boosted. When the wellness of staff is heightened, guest satisfaction would enhance, as happy employees generate happy guests.


4. Staff Recruitment and Retention

As the travel and tourism sector is growing at a rapid pace, staff recruitment and retention has become increasingly important over the years. Finding the right people has always been a challenge for hotels, especially for entry-level jobs such as housekeeping, due to factors linked to compensation, working hours and advancement opportunities. Despite the common perception, a housekeeping job can lead to various opportunities, and recruiters should address the candidates with compelling reasons to build a career in the largest department of a hotel. In addition, employee turnover is an endemic issue for the hospitality industry, as it can go up to 50% for non-management staff. The housekeeping department particularly suffers from high employee turnover, due to employee input-benefit ratio not being ideal; in addition, many of these positions are often seasonal or only part-time.

To reduce employee turnover and related costs, as well as to prevent dissemination of a negative back-of-the-house culture, hotels should improve their onboarding processes to rigorously educate their employees about their tasks, and outline organizational values and standards. Providing ongoing training, adopting incentive programs to advocate loyalty and holding team events to express appreciation are also adequate ways of ensuring that the associates have pride and ownership in the business.


5. Sustainability

Sustainability is no longer considered primarily as a marketing issue or a niche topic in the hospitality industry. Hotels are continuously stepping up their sustainability initiatives to ‘green up’ their operations. These initiatives currently range from changes such as linen and towel re-use programs, energy optimization projects, waste management activities and adopting biodegradable cleaning products.

As the department that deals with the cleaning of the premises, revamping housekeeping operations and adopting ‘green policies’ can significantly help hotels to reduce their ecological impact. Selecting optimal cleaning products, investing in environmentally friendly equipment such as energy efficient vacuum cleaners, reducing water consumption in laundry operations, implementing shampoo dispensers instead of small bottles to decrease waste and plastic use are some of the ideas that can be considered. In addition, hoteliers can refer to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines, the world’s forerunner in the environmental certification of buildings, to ensure that they minimize their ecological footprint.


6. Reputation

In today’s reputation economy, the customer’s voice is louder than ever. With just a few taps on their smart devices, they can access a myriad of reviews about numerous properties, and make a purchasing decision based on the experiences of other guests. One of the industry’s current biggest opportunities, and challenges is that the digital word of mouth spread through social media has become a substantially powerful tool that it can instantly turn you into a hero or zero. Imagine a guest is dissatisfied with the poor maintenance of his/her room and shares the experience with his/her network. What are the chances that this guest will return? Slim. How likely will this guest’s network be repelled from your property? Very. Guests expect their rooms and public areas to be clean; it’s a fundamental expectation that is often taken for granted. They will not come and specifically thank you for the cleanliness and comfort of their rooms, on the contrary, if the expectations are not met, chances are higher that you will have an online review that probably will give you a headache.

In order to ensure high service quality and consistent application of SOPs, comprehensive training practices should be implemented where employees can learn by doing, and master your hotel’s specific procedures and standards. When housekeepers continuously maintain the rooms in a flawless manner, supervisors can dedicate less time on inspection and invest in adding unique touches to the guest experience. Surprising the guests with a personal note with some delicious chocolate, for example, can ultimately enhance your hotel’s reputation. In the end, who doesn’t like chocolate?

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