After 25 years’ service at the same hotel, Revenue Manager Caroline Farmer can now truly say that she feels ‘right at home’ at work – quite literally.
That’s because she has been living at Sketchley Grange Hotel and Spa, at Hinckley, near Leicester, since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown started in March.
But no one can accuse the 42-year-old of ‘sleeping on the job’ for the past few months because she has been performing just about every task there is to do at the venue, which is managed by Focus Hotels.
She said: “When the lockdown first started, I asked if I could stay here for a couple of nights.
“I was not planning on moving in for longer, but I was asked if I could stay because the hotel needed some extra people on site, and I’ve been here ever since!
“In the first few weeks, it was quite daunting being in a big hotel with only one other member of staff on site, but there was still plenty to do to keep myself busy, and then, after a few weeks, we opened for essential workers.”
In those first weeks, Caroline was busy contacting wedding and conference organisers in order to provide them with alternative dates.
But when essential workers started staying at the hotel, she found herself getting involved in a whole host of different duties.
Some were familiar to her – she has worked on the revenue side of the business for six years, before which she fulfilled a number of different roles – and some, like housekeeping, were completely new to her.
She said: “I have a new-found respect for my colleagues who do all the house-keeping; it is really hard work.
“It was very rewarding taking care of someone from the very start of the visit to the very end, from taking their initial enquiry to checking them in when they arrived, cleaning their rooms and looking after them throughout their stay, seeing the booking through from start to finish.
“It was also very interesting helping with the wedding side of the business, which I had not really had any involvement in before. I usually get involved in the more corporate-type of events, whereas weddings are far more personal.
“But it was great to think that, after being here for 25 years, there are still new experiences to enjoy and new skills to learn.”
Her standard working day would begin with a few hours checking guests in, then dealing with emails concerning weddings, conferences and bedroom reservations, answering the phone, and then spending up to five hours on housekeeping before a final check of emails.
She said: “I love working at this hotel; it has always had a very homely-feel to it, but now that applies more than ever.”
General Manager Paul Noble said: “Caroline has been an absolute gem over the past few months.
“She took on many different roles to help look after the essential workers. As time went on, and we brought some more members of staff back, she also took on the role of looking after the younger staff members, even cooking meals for them because we had no chefs working.
“We’ve got a great team spirit here, but the lockdown has brought everybody even closer together. It’s been a huge learning curve for many of us, with people dabbling in areas of the business they have not experienced before and getting a much better understanding of the work that their colleagues do.
“Caroline has done an absolutely amazing job and has proved herself to be a vital member of the Sketchley Grange family.”
Lynn Hood, Chief Operating Officer of Focus Hotels, said: “At times of crisis, you hope that everyone will come together and do whatever it takes to help keep their business running.
“Caroline is a shining example of a true ‘team player’, taking on a variety of extra tasks and roles, always with a positive attitude and a smile.
“It’s always so nice to hear about someone who has been at the same hotel for so long, but who remains so committed to providing the best possible service to our guests, and who is still keen to learn new skills.
“We’re so proud to have staff like her as part of the Focus team and would like to thank her for all her efforts during these difficult months.”