Day Cleaning: Facility Managers Weigh In
People fear change. And for building occupants and facility managers, day cleaning definitely represents change.
Tenants often fear that daytime cleaning tasks, such as noisy vacuuming and trash removal, will interrupt their work and their privacy; facility managers worry about tenant-custodian interactions or the challenges of scheduling cleaning around business meetings.
"The biggest concern is fear of the unknown change in culture," says Dave Hewett, former chairman of Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International and currently an independent facilities management consultant. "You're about to change the culture of the work environment, and that makes everybody nervous."
Despite apprehensions, more and more facility managers are being driven to switch from nighttime to daytime cleaning. And, with guidance from their building service contractors, many are finding that with the right planning and forethought the transition can be a smooth one that results in tangible as well as intangible benefits.
Zapping Energy Costs
According to Hewett, there are three key issues today's facility managers face that drive them to adopt day cleaning: budget constraints, janitor turnover and the pressure to be more sustainable. In today's economy, many facility managers are being forced to cut costs, says Hewett. By moving from night to day cleaning, facility managers will see significant savings first and foremost in energy costs.
James Baker, director of facilities for Armstrong World Industries Inc., made the decision to start daytime cleaning when electrical rate caps expired in December 2009, causing the company's electrical costs to increase roughly 80 percent. Day cleaning was implemented at the company's main headquarter campus in Lancaster, Pa, which consists of 26 buildings covering approximately 1 million square feet.
"We calculated that by not having housekeepers here three to four hours every night, not having lights on, or heating or cooling the buildings to the extent that we used to, the savings would be around $150,000 a year," says Baker.
In early 2010, Armstrong began discussions with its BSC about moving from traditional nighttime cleaning to day cleaning and how to implement a successful program.
"It was a pleasure to hear that our housekeeping provider does day cleaning at another location, and it works," says Baker. "We were quick to ask them many questions about what they'd learned that could help us."
Following this initial meeting, the company held a meeting with key managers on site to introduce the day cleaning program.
"We tried to answer questions people had about how they were going to do their jobs when people were in the building cleaning," says Baker. "We relied heavily on our outsource provider to answer some of those questions."
In June 2010, the program went into effect and after two full months of day cleaning and modifying building schedules, Armstrong began saving roughly $3,000 a week in energy costs.
Many companies that switch to day cleaning gravitate toward more sustainable practices in general. Hewett is seeing more and more companies combining day cleaning with a green cleaning program. Baker's contract cleaner, for example, switched to low-decibel vacuums to minimize noise levels as well as microfiber mops to replace wet mops, thereby reducing wet floors and the potential for slips and falls.
For Steve Spencer, facilities specialist in the facilities management department at Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Insurance, the key incentive to switch to day cleaning was not high energy costs but rather a high janitor turnover rate.
"One of the biggest problems we had with contract cleaning was turnover," he admits. "Because it was really high, we weren't getting consistent cleaning."
Spencer toured several of State Farm's facilities and interviewed day porters who were happy with their jobs and had held them an average of 10 to 15 years.
"They said they worked during the day because it's easy work, people are friendly, and they can be home with their families at night," he says.
In addition, some custodians preferred daytime cleaning because they experienced public transportation issues or feared for their safety at night. Spencer presented his strategy for daytime cleaning to the company, and in 2000 he got a call from the Louisiana office requesting his help.
"They were averaging eight theft calls a day, everything from candy to cell phones and laptops," he says. "They had 600 percent turnover in their cleaning staff with the contractor, and their building was filthy."
In June 2000, the Louisiana office switched to day cleaning, and the results have been highly successful, says Spencer.
"We sold that building seven years later and the contractor was still there. Cleaning costs were down, the satisfaction and quality of cleaning was up, and every person hired in 2000 was still on staff."
News spread quickly and that year two more of State Farm's offices jumped on board. Today, approximately 39 of the company's buildings are practicing daytime cleaning or cooperative cleaning where tenants dump their own trash.
While quantifiable savings, such as lower energy costs, are the primary advantages of daytime cleaning, facility managers are appreciating other unexpected benefits as well. Tenants begin to form relationships with custodians, which translates into fewer complaints and more satisfied customers.
"You're developing a cleaning process that results in more effective and efficient cleaning, and tenants develop relationships with the cleaner," says Hewett. "They're satisfied, even if the work isn't as good. It's a psychological phenomenon that people aren't going to be critical of someone they have a relationship with. There are no longer accusations that the janitor stole something out of my desk drawer or other complaints that can never be validated."
Preparing for Change
Because day cleaning necessitates interactions between tenants and cleaners, facility managers stress the importance of training — an area in which they rely heavily on their contract cleaner. Prior to implementing day cleaning at Armstrong's main corporate campus, Baker's BSC scheduled training with all its employees regarding how to interact with and speak to customers during the day.
Facility managers also emphasize the need to be highly organized when switching to day cleaning and work closely with BSCs to develop a schedule around the occupancy of the building. Baker relies on feedback from building occupants to help address safety concerns and adjust cleaning schedules when necessary.
According to Hewett, there's been an increased interest in day cleaning during the last six months, and it's just a matter of time before the majority of cleaning is done during the day.
"I believe in the next five to seven years you're going to see a switch from the current percentage of buildings that are day cleaned," he says. "I think that will reverse itself and most buildings will be cleaned during the day."
Facility managers are not the only beneficiaries of this change; BSCs, too, can reap the rewards.
"We've been able to show contractors there are economic benefits for them in making these changes," says Hewett. "Their employees stay around longer, there's less turnover, and you typically create longer term contracts with property owners."
Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.