Kew & A with Natalie Harlow

We catch up with Holiday Inn Birmingham M6J7's Night Receptionist

What is it you do at Kew Green Hotels?

I’m currently a Night Receptionist at Holiday Inn Birmingham M6 J7. I started out as a day Receptionist and helped cover sick leave for one of my colleagues who did the night shift. From covering those shifts I knew that nights were where I belonged and decided to move full time to nights. It’s been an interesting 4 years with Kew Green and I can’t wait to spend many more years with the company.

Tell us about you outside of work

Outside of work I do quite a bit! I love photography, mostly focusing on automotive and nature, and I like to bake cakes and cookies. I go on as many road trips as possible with friends and my manager Tami, as well as going kayaking, camping, and to automotive events (car shows and race tracks etc).

Talk us through your experience of lockdown and what it’s meant for you as an employee.

Lockdown, for me, was both a blessing and a curse! My boyfriend of 6 years decided to call it quits which left me without anywhere to live. I spoke to my General Manager, Mark O Connor, and explained my situation and he actually offered for me to stay at the hotel until I found myself somewhere to live (which was harder than I thought given that the UK had now gone into lockdown!). Waking up basically at work was a very strange feeling, although I was very thankful for the lie-ins! It also offered me the flexibility to be able to help out during the daytime, as well as being on hand on days off if anything needed to be done. As we couldn’t see our families, my colleagues became family to me.

During lockdown, all the volunteers learnt to do new things and became:

  • expert decorators – painting doors and back offices
  • chefs – running the grab and go breakfasts
  • temporary families for key workers who hadn’t stayed with us much before this time.

In April, I turned 27 and was dreading having my birthday during such a weird time in our lives, but my night-shift team mates taped balloons to my bedroom door and surprised me with a cake, prosecco and pizza! I actually cried when they came over with a cake as it was such a lovely thing to do.

How were you supported through the COVID-19 lockdown?

I have to say that I don’t think I would have kept my sanity if it wasn’t for the support of my colleagues – Tami, Christine, Debbie, Phil, Fran, Dave, Tony, Razwan, Vitalie and Harry. We all got to know each other more during this time and grew really closed which was a huge help for some of us who couldn’t see our families. Kew Green supported us with PPE, new policies, new ways of working in this unusual time, and our business-wide internal Facebook group was a huge help: seeing virtual dance classes, tips on surviving and getting food envy from chefs posting their food pics… it emphasised the huge family feel we have here at Kew Green Hotels.

What’s the biggest thing 2020 has taught you?

I think 2020 has taught me that you never know what is around the corner. My favourite saying – “tomorrow is not promised” – was made real during this period of time; you really don’t know what tomorrow will bring if it comes at all. Live today like it’s your last, put 110% effort into everything you do! I have become a better person during 2020, a more confident and happier person despite the circumstances. I think we should all take time out of our busy days to pause and have a proper look around us and think about what we can do to make the day a better one.

Let’s hope the rest of 2020 is as interesting as the start and hope for a better 2021 🙂