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Reaping The Benefits
The three C’s of leadership — collaboration, communication and conflict resolution — have long been the mainstay of corporate America. Today it’s a concept custodial managers also must embrace, particularly if they’re moving to a day cleaning operation. For all the benefits such programs provide, without these elements in place, these operations may falter, warns Allen Rathey, president of InstructionLink/JanTrain Inc., Boise, Idaho.
Day cleaning presents a public relations opportunity like none other for a cleaning department — when it’s executed correctly, Rathey says. “There can be a kinship that develops between the cleaning service and the customer itself, which makes for wonderful public relations.”
But in the same breath, Rathy warns that without collaboration between the custodial manager and the facility supervisor, solid communications channels in place, and a method for conflict resolution, day cleaning also can be a public relations disaster.
But it’s long been said that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. And this is definitely true when talking about day cleaning. Custodial managers across the country have reaped tremendous advantages by cleaning during the light of day, and these positive effects make such efforts worthwhile.
As the green movement sweeps across the country, leaving no industry untouched, conserving limited energy resources is one of day cleaning’s primary advantages.
“A lot of facility managers are looking at their energy bills, and realizing that one-quarter to one-third of the utilities they use are being spent at night by cleaning crews,” says custodial expert Charles “Mickey” Crowe.
Crowe, who operates CleenTech Consulting Group LLC, a custodial consulting firm based in Woodstock, Ga., says reducing a company’s utility costs represents the primary driving force behind many moves to day cleaning. Statistics show companies can lessen utility expenses 25 to 30 percent by switching from nighttime cleaning operations to day-based ones.
While saving energy strikes a chord among many with today’s skyrocketing utility costs, custodial consultant Bill Griffin, president of Cleaning Consultant Services in Seattle, Wash., cautions managers to cover all bases before making a change based on energy savings alone.
“If the building is not used at night, there may be some energy savings because they can turn down the HVAC systems and lights,” he says. “Some buildings are modern enough to do this, but some are not, and some buildings operate 24/7 and may not find any savings.”
Beyond the obvious energy savings, other inherent benefits exist as well. As Rathey points out, “It’s a lot easier to see what you’re trying to remove during the day.” Spots on windows become readily visible, as do cobwebs or crumbs on the floor in the light of day.
“There’s an opportunity to clean better because you can see better,” says Rathey.
Day cleaning also increases the cleaning service’s visibility fostering mutual respect between cleaning crews and building occupants. In fact, the process boosts interaction between the two. Tenants can more readily ask a cleaner to perform a service for them. For example, they may request that a housekeeper dust a specific area. Such interaction works both ways because custodians can also make similar queries. For instance, they might say, “I’d be glad to dust that. Do you mind moving this out of the way for me?”
Greater custodial visibility often translates into reduced complaints, adds Griffin. Tenants in facilities employing nighttime operations often question what cleaning crews do. In daytime efforts, the staff knows cleaning is being done — they see it happening all around them.
And as places such as Disney World can attest, day cleaning can enhance everyone’s cleaning efforts. At Disney World, cleaning staff garbed in white can be seen throughout the park cleaning up.
“It becomes a visual cue that this is a clean facility,” says Rathey. With these visual reminders in place, vacationers often become less casual about keeping things in order.
“The psychological component to seeing cleaning efforts taking place should not be discounted,” Rathey says. “It’s what keeps major resorts like Disney World clean because everyone catches the clean bug.”
Not only that, but increased accountability goes both ways. Griffin says the level of cleaning custodians perform rises because they see, and often know, the person sitting behind the desk and feel a responsibility to them.
“Accountability can go up,” admits Rathey, though he adds if the service provides a well-managed program, accountability exists whether day- or nighttime-based.
Ducks In A Row
According to custodial experts, successfully moving to day cleaning requires due diligence on the part of the cleaning organization. It involves getting buy-in from the property manager and building staff, and setting up schedules and other processes before entering the front door.
Stressing the system’s inherent benefits greatly aids buy-in among building occupants. Telling them the measure will be more environmentally friendly and lower costs helps ease concerns, as does sharing information about neighboring facilities that have already made the change.
“Sometimes it actually helps to take [concerned individuals, be it custodians or facility managers] to a successful day-cleaned facility to demonstrate how such a program operates,” says Colin Butterfield, a cleaning consultant with British Columbia-based Yoredale Consulting.
Supplying business employees with a number to call should they need anything also helps. Custodial supervisors must be very communicative as issues surface, says Butterfield.
For instance, Butterfield recalls a custodian who used the tail end of the workday to clean restrooms. Turns out this bothered those who wished to use the restroom before leaving work, and the cleaner had to rearrange his efforts.
“You’ve got to be flexible and make sure that people know you’re prepared to reschedule, then objections become less objections and more requests to rearrange things a bit,” says Butterfield.
Because not everyone feels comfortable having cleaning staff around, Butterfield also points out it’s critical to hire the right staff from the operation’s onset. Custodians need to be personable, have a presentable appearance and be willing to help out. On the flip side, he also cautions against hiring the social butterfly.
“You’ve got to employ people who are approachable, personable and clean, but also perform their jobs and don’t just bring in cookies or candies and chat with the day staff all day,” he explains.
Phasing in day operations also eases fears. Butterfield recalls that workers in a Victoria, British Columbia, company resisted day cleaning because of a bad past experience. With his guidance, they decided on a process that included contacting facility administrative staff to notify them of their plans, introducing the cleaning crew to business employees and implementing the process one floor at a time.
“If you’re successful on one floor, everyone else tends to go along with it,” says Butterfield.
Logistical concerns surround working around building occupants, with complications including everything from productivity issues to safety concerns and noise level problems. System development and advance planning prior to launching a daytime setup helps eradicate these concerns, Rathey adds.
It’s imperative, says Rathy, to know where facility employees will be and what they’ll be doing at specific times of day, and then organize cleaning around this schedule. For example, if a call center that operates 24 hours a day needs to be vacuumed, there must be a clear set of protocols, understood by both parties, as to when vacuuming will occur, what’s involved and what cooperative efforts will be required.
“The success or failure of any operation depends on the planning process and the relationship you have with customers,” Rathey stresses. “It has to be a very collaborative effort because you are in the customer’s space during the day.”
Training, Training, Training
“To ensure a program’s success, there needs to be a culture that creates an employee workforce that is proud of what they do, is well trained and has the right tools for the job,” Rathey adds. “We are a labor-focused industry but in the day cleaning scenario we become a people-oriented one.”
Consultants recommend cleaning managers educate workers in customer service, training workers to be polite, flexible and willing to educate building staff about their custodial duties. Butterfield recommends teaching custodians the reasons behind using certain machines and products so they can explain to tenants why they do what they do and use what they use to do it. They might note, for instance, that the chemicals used are environmentally responsible and shouldn’t cause any harm, or point out that the vacuums used are the quietest in the industry and do not re-circulate dust.
Rathey notes managers must anticipate all variables and train for them, such as who gets precedence when someone needs to use the restroom and it’s being cleaned, among other things.
“This can be a PR issue,” he says. “If you’re so focused on getting the job done because management says you must clean 10 restrooms by 10 o’clock, you’re going to be a little rude.”
Safety becomes another concern — when working around people a number of potential liabilities arise. “There may be electrical cords moving about the floor, you may need to wet surfaces to clean them, or you may have to operate machinery with a sound level that’s disturbing,” Rathey explains.
Such concerns can be addressed through training, scheduling and proper equipment. Workers must be aware of how their duties can affect the safety of those in the building and be trained to perform their jobs with the safety of occupants in mind.
Training also should focus on what Rathey refers to as vulnerable populations, or those with asthma and other chemical sensitivities. Addressing their needs through Green Seal chemical products or vacuums with filtration systems becomes very important in a day cleaning scenario.
Affected individuals require a direct channel to communicate their issues with the building manager, and many times the solutions are fairly simple. Rathey recalls an instance where a software company employee reported she used an inhaler and ran her air cleaner every time the cleaning crew vacuumed. The cleaning operation switched to vacuums with four-stage, high-level filtration, and her issues abated.
Rathey recommends concentrating on technologies that remove contaminants from the environment, not add to them. This includes chemistries offering less toxicity than other cleaning products; low-noise, high-filtration vacuums; and waterless/low-water-use floor care equipment. Backpack and cart-based vacuums, both designed for quiet operations, are gaining popularity in daytime setups, as are vacuums incorporating quiet operation modes.
Because slipping and falling become a concern as workers come and go, equipment may change and processes must be altered to address this issue. Small auto scrubbers might be employed in restrooms or entryways, but in most cases the best way to address restroom cleaning or other floor work is to schedule it during convenient times of day. For example, if a facility has several restrooms, it may be possible to close one or two at a time for cleaning purposes.
Another solution is to develop a hybrid operation, where most cleaning occurs during the day, but a portion takes place after hours. Here, cleaning managers often employ a day staff to maintain restrooms and other high-use areas during the day, but engage in deep-cleaning efforts in the early morning or early evening hours.
“The benefit is that you are day cleaning, but also tapping into one of the main advantages of night cleaning, which is cleaning when no one else is around,” says Rathey.
Be All To End All
These consultants caution anyone considering day cleaning to go into it with their eyes wide open. “There are few silver bullets that work in every situation,” Griffin says. “You’ve got to evaluate carefully, get people involved in the process and ease into it.”
But when you consider the payoffs — the cost savings, the visibility it brings the service, and the improved relationships between tenants and custodians — it makes sense to give it a try. With open communications; a collaborative and vested effort between the facility manager, building occupants and the cleaning contractor; and a means to resolve conflict or concerns quickly, day cleaning definitely pays off.
“It’s the training, it’s the tools, it’s the culture you’re creating that makes a day cleaning program successful and an inspirational experience for everyone involved,” Rathey concludes.
Leigh Hunt is a freelance writer based near Milwaukee, Wis.