Risks Lurk Behind the Door Marked ‘Employees Only’

From digital menus to contactless payment options, restaurants today are flocking to front-of-house touchless technologies to keep customers safe and coming back. But, behind the door marked “Employees Only,” there are several common coronavirus risk factors that many restaurants aren’t yet addressing. Fortunately, resolving these risks is easy and won’t require significant budget to implement. Better yet, by addressing some of these issues you’ll be able to save money and increase productivity. 

Going Digital

Everyone these days has a computer in their pocket. And while BYOD (bring your own device) isn’t a new term, leveraging each employee’s mobile device is the fastest growing solution to touchless tech operations. Consider:

Are your workers still delivering paper copies of their timesheets to a physical location at your restaurant? Employing digital timesheets enables them to use their phone or computer to submit their hours worked, thereby eliminating the need to come into the back office and congregate in the same area. It also reduces the amount of paper handling your operations people need to deal with.

How to keep your employees safe during the pandemic and beyond.

Next, posting a paper-based schedule in one communal spot (like a breakroom) forces employees to come into the workplace to see when they’re going to work. They might even have to come back when the schedule changes or when they need to request time off. Such a practice can cause a significant amount of risky contact. Switching to an employee scheduling app is an easy way to eliminate this potential hazard. It’s also easier for managers to make changes and push those changes out to employees, who access the schedule on their phones.

Speaking of scheduling, a practice known as flexible self-scheduling in gaining traction in the restaurant and hospitality industries. This approach, which became popular in healthcare several years ago, allows managers to define scheduling needs based on customer demand, while it enables employees to select, trade, and fill shifts themselves. Flexible self-scheduling enables managers to create schedules faster, with less effort, and gives hourly employees more control over their work life. The best part is, if you’re leveraging BYOD for other back-of-house operations, you can also use it to easily implement a flexible self-scheduling application.

Now, more than ever, you should be reducing any processes that traditionally required face-to-face or in-person interaction. That’s why switching from a communal time clock, which everyone has to touch, to a contactless or personal time clock is a very effective way to reduce employee exposure to coronavirus. Some surveys show that customers who use contactless time clock apps report saving up to 20 percent on labor costs. Time clock apps allow each employee to clock in and out from their mobile devices. You can even geofence your workplace so employees can only clock in when they are on premise. Mobile time clocks can also prevent early clock-ins, reduce buddy punching and provide more robust labor reporting. Another plus: It can save you money.  Customers of a popular employee scheduling app report saving up to 20 percent on their labor costs just by using the tool.

Finally, moving all non-essential in-person communication to a messaging app (preferably one that lives within your scheduling and time tracking tool) means employees can have a direct line to their co-workers and managers. For example, discussions about scheduling changes and shift trades, as well as reviews of the day’s task lists, can all be handled via mobile app. And when there is a need to communicate critical information, a BYOD practice enables managers to inform all staffers in real time without everyone having to physically be in the same spot. 

Considerations Before Implementing

If you’re new to the concept of BYOD touchless technology for back-of-house operations, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

First, you need to determine what technology your employees have access to. Smart phones allow you to leverage touchless technology for tasks like receiving work schedules or communicating about schedule changes, but much of that communication can also be done via SMS/text when necessary. However, clocking in and out on a personal device does require access to a smart phone. Therefore, if you plan to implement a touchless timeclock, you’ll first need to determine which kind of devices your employees have access to so that you can figure out the best way to reach them. 

Technically, BYOD isn’t true “touchless” technology because you need to require each employee to touch their own device (but not touch anyone else’s). Regardless, the BYOD approach enables you to have a level of control over your employees’ risk exposure, and there are plenty of checks and balances built within the solutions (like geofencing) to keep crafty individuals from misusing or abusing the system you adopt. Furthermore, you could potentially enjoy cost savings by reducing maintenance and leases on hardware like time clocks and their associated software. 

However, it’s important to note that using a BYOD approach reduces supervisory control over employees, to some degree. Restaurant operators who need a greater amount of oversight – such as physically seeing employees when they make requests requiring manager approval or ensuring that employees are in a very specific spot on the work premises when they clock in – should plan to invest in a more expensive touchless solution that includes back-end hardware and software. The same holds true for operators who prefer to keep all data onsite versus in the cloud.

Finally, companies that began implementing BYOD practices years ago would sometimes encounter resistance from employees under the argument that management was passing along some of the expense of doing businesses by asking employees to use their own data plans, SMS, etc. 

If you’re concerned that might be the case for you, note that, here at When I Work, we’ve seen resistance diminish over the past decade because of the degree to which BYOD enables employees to balance their work lives. Additionally, the amount of data used by BYOD management applications is minimal, data isn’t as expensive as it was 10 years ago, and most mobile consumers today subscribe to unlimited data plans. If you’re still sensitive to the financial impact BYOD could have on your employees, consider providing a monthly stipend for some level of reimbursement. A small amount, even $15 or $20 a month, is a worthwhile investment to keep your employees safe during these uncertain times.