Front of house are critical to reopening museums, but must be safe

As museums plan their eventual reopening it is apparent that front of house (FoH) workers will be essential at all stages, from the initial planning to their long recovery. We hear from Will Tregaskes from Front of House in Museums on the importance of FoH colleagues during reopening and beyond.

“Many working in operations are now months into long vigils ensuring our museums, throughout lockdown, are safe and ready to reopen. A substantial number of FoH have spent months furloughed, waiting to return to work. They will be essential to reopening museums and need to be un-furloughed and given time to prepare to reopen. Why? Who knows your museum better than your FoH team? Their knowledge of bottlenecks, visitor behaviour, people management and the museum building itself are invaluable. Using their knowledge now will save time, money and ensure our museums are prepared

FoH will be vital when we do reopen as they will be at the forefront, communicating clearly to visitors the measures in place and ensuring they remain safe during their visit. The ALVA Attractions Recovery Tracker has highlighted the importance of the active demonstration of safety measures to potential visitors and the need to feel safe when visiting our attractions. The importance of FoH has already been demonstrated; Tairāwhiti Museum has estimated 25% of visitors did not follow instructions and were forced to respond to visitor behaviour, changing layouts to ensure everyone’s safety.

Independent museums do and will rely on commercial income for their survival, as highlighted in this BBC News article. Be it admissions, shop, café, or other income streams, they rely on FoH. These income streams will be crucial to independent museums recovering from this sector crisis. From marketing campaigns encouraging back visitors to staffing the shop and café, FoH will be essential to generating income and increasing overall spend whilst visiting our museums.

We will not return to normal but will move forward into a ‘new normal’ and FoH should be a part of shaping what this means for our museums.. We have the opportunity to redefine the sector, removing past inequalities and create an inclusive workplace culture. Working as a museum-wide team will be key to ensuring the best experience not only for visitors but for all our colleagues too. When FoH return to front facing work they must be safe- physically, mentally and financially. If FoH are safe, they can focus on what they do best and be an intrinsic part of the sector’s reopening and recovery.”

Read more from Will Tregaskes on the FoH Museums blog.