Richard, Nights Team Member, Premier Inn Harlow
Getting back into the working world after a while, or embarking on something new later in life can be daunting. Fear, self doubt and questioning whether it’s even possible is holding people back from starting a new chapter in their life. At Whitbread, we want to turn around the negatives and help you change your story – both the stories you tell yourself about lack of confidence, ability or employability, and your future ambitions too. You’re at the best place to #ChangeYourStory, with the UK’s leading hospitality business.
“I was Director of a company in Leytonstone in the 90s that looked after refugees and homeless people needing shelter. Refugees coming into the UK and families who, for whatever reason, were now without a roof over their heads would be sent to us from councils and agencies. I was a Live In Manager for the venue, which was 2 houses knocked through into one with 14 bedrooms.
“We could have up to 60 people with us at one time, and we would be cooking breakfasts and helping them with their various problems. The job was full on, but it was satisfying making other people’s lives a little easier in what were harrowing times for them. I got a lot from teaching people English and getting them onto courses at the local college. It’s funny, there were so many nationalities in the house but it still felt like a big family!
“We had an Albanian refugee come to us, who didn’t speak a word of English and I taught him what I could. We became firm friends and he’s now a Councillor for Waltham Forest. Kastriot was actually my Best Man when I married my wife Jacqueline in 1999.
“My wife and I chose to move off the premises and moved to Essex. Sadly, Jackie got ill around this time and, as her condition got worse, I was required to take her to lots of appointments. This had a knock on effect to my role at the shelter and I had to leave. I was needed in the day and had to have lots of time off , which is not something many employers can accept.
“As Jackie’s carer, we relocated again – this time to Sheering in Hertfordshire – and I needed a job that could fit in around her. Life, as we knew it, had changed and working during the day just wouldn’t fit into our schedule. I applied for the night shift role at Premier Inn and another at a supermarket.
“I was offered both on the same day, but I wanted to work here and more than 15 years on, I’m so glad I did. It’s a job with people – good, bad or ugly – and I need that interaction. I feel it’s where I come alive – previously I’d been a Manager at a Cinema and I’d worked at Butlins, so speaking to people comes easily to me.
“On September, 2003 I began at Harlow Premier Inn. I’ve really enjoyed it – the close-knit feel was here the moment I walked through the door. We’re a team first and foremost and that means a lot. We’re here for each other and that was role modelled by my first manager. She understood my situation at home and that I could be called away at any point, but it was never made to feel like a problem. If the worst was to happen, there was support for me. I knew that, I felt trusted and it helped me.
“The safety and security of our guests at night sat with me and that was just fine. I enjoy the day to day greeting and my rule of thumb is I treat guests as I would like to be treated. A great night’s sleep is guaranteed and I’m doing my bit to make sure we live up to that promise.
“We’ve got a great team here at Harlow and from the day I joined we’ve had a tradition of team nights out. It’s hard to put your finger on what makes working at Premier Inn special, but you could ask anyone and I think they’d point to the atmosphere. We all get on and that’s reflected by how we treat our guests.
“I don’t think I’d come off nights now – it suits me, just as working in hospitality does. I think you’ve got to have empathy with guests and don’t be afraid to show your personality. That’s the key. If you can bring that to the table, it means the world to our guests.”