Remember when companies provided executives offices with windows and doors along the outer walls of a building and placed the remaining workers in cubicles within the interior? In these commercial facilities, every employee had space to claim and decorate as his own, and when everyone needed to come together workers met in a conference room.

Today’s office space looks much different. Companies are saying good-bye to private offices, giving employees access to smaller workstations that are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. Collaborative workspaces are the name of the game, where workers gather on sofas and chairs or around cafeteria tables to team up on projects. And shared private enclaves, where several workstations are set up in a single cubicle space, are popping up everywhere.

The collaborative workspace not only looks and functions very differently; it must be cleaned differently, too. 

“It’s not just a standard office environment anymore,” explains Senior Property Manager Jeff Mabrey at Hines Interest Ltd., Dallas. 

“Contractors need to find ways to make themselves more valuable to property managers of any size building. They need to really look at the services they’re providing and cleaning frequencies. And they need to think about how they can evolve over time.”

Cleaning challenges

What do these changes mean to BSCs? It means they’re going to have to change the way they clean, says Mabrey. 

New facility designs require changes in cleaning frequencies, cleaning equipment and the cleaning itself.

Collaborative workspaces bring with them a host of cleaning challenges among them the fact that a lack of ownership comes with the territory, says Mabrey. 

“Because an area is not assigned to them, no one takes care of it. It’s not theirs,” he says. “So these areas get kind of destroyed.”

State Farm found wastebaskets must be strategically placed to make it easy for workers to pick up their trash. 

“Without enough wastebaskets, people leave their trash on tables for someone else to pick up,” says Steve Spencer, a facilities specialist. 

Wipes also need to be readily available to employees so they can disinfect the areas they’re working in. 

“Many workers want to wipe down the general area with disinfectant before they use it,” Spencer explains. “During cold and flu season we need to be hyper-vigilant to avoid the spread of germs.”

With more workers telecommuting and office facilities decreasing in size, the density of the worker population ebbs and flows, also altering the times when these areas should be cleaned and how often they must be cleaned.

Putting more people into a smaller footprint can increase the time it takes to clean, Spencer says.

“If we make the cubicles smaller and increase capacity by 25 percent, that’s 25 percent more wastebaskets, 25 percent more desktops to wipe off, 25 percent more small spaces to vacuum,” he says, noting it’s important to include that 
distinction in bids for service.

It may not always increase frequency, however, notes Mabrey. For instance, having more telecommuters decreases the amount of paper being shuffled in the office, which may in turn reduce dust accumulation. 

“That combined with fewer desktop surfaces, fewer workers in the building every day, and improved HVAC systems, may actually reduce the amount of dusting required,” he says. 

And specifications that once required complete wipe downs of every surface, every day, may incorporate daily spot cleaning instead. 

“You might have to spot clean a desk to get a water ring off,” says Mabrey. “But you may not have to wipe down every horizontal surface every day.”

Fewer workers inhabiting the office may lead to less trash being produced. While there may be more wastebaskets placed around the building, they may not fill up as quickly so it’s likely they will not need to be emptied daily, Hewett says.
Vacuuming frequencies also may be reduced. 

“In some of the buildings, we’ve reduced that spec to a weekly full vacuum versus full vacuuming every day of the week,” says Hewett. “Cleaners come through and get the visible soil out and that’s it.”

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis. She is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.