When to clean is a question building service contractors and facility managers are devoting more attention to these days. Cleaning during the day has proven effective in 24-hour facilities, such as airports and hospitals, that don’t have evening downtime anyway. But now, more day-operated buildings, such as commercial facilities and office buildings, are making the transition to day cleaning as well.

Both BSCs and facility managers have praised day cleaning for cutting down turnover, reduced energy costs and needed staff, however, day cleaning can also help improve the image of the janitor. Stereotypically, cleaning is a job many people don’t see as desirable. Although the pay and the tasks contribute to that perception, a big problem is that cleaning is done at night, when no one is around.

Day cleaning helps put a face on cleaning. It brings personality to the job. It helps build a relationship between the cleaning staff and the building occupants that breaks down the stereotypical perception of janitors while benefiting the overall cleanliness of the building.

Rapport rewards
Having janitors in the building during the day doesn’t make them a part of the scenery, but rather a vital addition to the existing clientele workforce.

“The cleaners — normally unknown, unseen, and untouched, that come in when people go home — now become part of the team,” says Ian Greig, CEO, Daniels Associates, Inc., Phoenix.

Greig likens the day cleaner to the UPS delivery person at his office. She comes in every day and is personable. Greig and his staff communicate with her on daily basis.

“A day-cleaning worker is a cross between a janitor and a Wal-mart greeter. Their job is to be friendly,” says Greig.

The friendly personality and professional attitude helps change the public perception of the janitor.

“Now, occupants come in contact with the cleaner, realize they’re real people,” says Steve Spencer, facilities specialist, State Farm Insurance, Bloomington, Ill. “Usually they just see results. If results are bad, they assume they’re bad people.”

When the cleaner is not around, customers are quick to complain or place blame when things go wrong. With a cleaning staff present, mistakes can get corrected instantly and directly. If occupants have a specific request or pet peeve, it will be easier to get the message across in person.

Day-to-day contact between the cleaner and tenant also promotes a level of trust, says Terry Woodley, vice president of Woodley Building Maintenance, Kansas City, Mo.

“Security issues go away if [cleaners] leave the building the same time occupants do,” he says.

Typically, when items go missing, the cleaning staff, guilty or not, are at the top of the suspect lists because they are unknown and unsupervised.

“At one account, we used to get eight theft calls a day — everything from bubble gum and candy to phones and laptops. Now, we haven’t got one theft call,” says Spencer.

Education in effort
Both the janitor and the customer employees have a lot they can learn from working side by side.

“The cleaner is no longer the subservient, silent cleaner. They are in charge. They tell the customer what’s going to be done,” says Greig.

Janitors and occupants begin to get a feel for one another. The janitor may start to see patterns in a schedule. They begin to know whether or not a trash can needs to be emptied everyday. They start doing tasks that need to be done instead of simply making rounds to kill time, says Greig. And anytime the tenants witness someone cleaning, this will help increase the notion of a sanitary environment.

For example, in one building Spencer stopped buying toilet seat covers because people weren’t using them anymore. Since they saw the restrooms being cleaned by the staff, there was no doubt that the area was sanitary. There was no reason to cover an already clean environment.

Placing janitors under the eyes of the occupants teaches the client what really happens in the building after he leaves. Sprint World Headquarters Campus in Overland Park, Kan., recently switched to day cleaning and Kim Jones, has already seen change in customer’s eyes.

“[With day cleaning] there’s an effect on customer impression — so many people see what we do. People don’t realize how much is entailed in a janitor’s daily job. It’s kind of an out of sight, out of mind thing,” says Jones, senior project manager at the site, a Woodley Building Maintenance account.

Occupants who see the effort may become more conscious about cleanliness. Instead of leaving messes for an unseen cleaning staff, they’re more apt to clean up after themselves, says Greig.

“The tenants are keeping their area cleaned because they know the cleaners are coming, they know who they are. People have a tendency to clean. It’s like cleaning up the house before company comes over,” says Greig.

When tenants address small problems like spills immediately, they don’t usually spiral into project work for the janitors later.

Recycling also has improved with day cleaning. Janitors aren’t taking time to sort through the recycling bin, but rather occupants are more conscious about what they are throwing away and where they are disposing of it. Occupants don’t want to create extra work for someone they know by tossing an apple core in the recycle bin, adds Greig.

In turn, janitors need to keep face in front of the customers. Cleaners no longer can ease through their job, but instead have to constantly perform up to expectations because people are watching, says Spencer. With more eyes on the cleaners, managers are needed less often.

“You don’t need several layers of management in the building to keep track of everyone. Now, you only need one person. You don’t have to follow [workers] around because people are in the building,” adds Spencer.

And those people will be able to directly leave feedback for the cleaners. Traditionally, most of the compliments and complaints a janitor receives come through a third party. They don’t know who the message is from and the sender doesn’t really know who they’re even talking to.

Direct communication helps improve the janitor’s image of himself, says Greig. The janitor can now see the direct impact he has on an account. With an inspired workforce, the change in image will be easy to rectify.

Two Sides To Every Story
Does day cleaning hold all the answers? If this is the route to take, why aren’t more customers asking for it?

“Day cleaning is gaining interest, but only a miniscule percentage of buildings capable of being cleaned at both day and night are being cleaned during the day,” says James Harris, Sr., CBSE, founder of Janitronics Facility Services and CEO of the consulting firm Concepts IV, both in Albany, N.Y.

Promoters of night cleaning point out that day cleaning is not a cleaning system, but rather a time to clean. It won’t be an answer to problems, but rather it creates new challenges.

For example, putting cleaners in front of building occupants puts obstacles in the way of the cleaners; cleaning at night allows workers to cover large areas safely.

“With day cleaning, you look for unoccupied space,” says Harris. “You can’t clean a restroom when someone is in it.”

Some building service contractors find it offensive to ask tenants to leave an area in order to clean. It certainly doesn’t help rapport to ask someone to stop his business so you can do yours. With the limited access to open space, many areas can’t be cleaned during day hours. Large and loud tasks will need to be performed when occupants aren’t around — either before or after the company’s hours. It would be counter-productive to try and clean busy areas with people around.

“Would you wash a plate while someone was still eating on it?” asks John Walker, president of Managemen and founder of Janitor University, Salt Lake City.

Being able to access space easily leads to greater productivity and overall cleanliness. And if a building is clean, seeing the janitors working won’t make it any cleaner.

“The perception of clean? That’s just conjecture,” says Walker. If you come into a clean building in the morning, your first impression sticks.”

The cleaners aren’t the only ones affected by day cleaning. Occupants are in greater danger of tripping over machine cords, spilling chemicals or slipping on wet floors. More attention will need to be paid to safety precautions.

The good relationship between cleaner and occupant does run a risk of being too friendly. The occupant might start asking the janitor to perform non-cleaning related tasks such as retrieving deliveries, says Walker.

And, Walker isn’t too sure he wants people to see what janitors actually do. Recently, he was in an airport and witnessed janitors day cleaning. What he saw disheartened him — workers chatting and equipment not labeled properly. If day cleaning is to be the norm, BSCs must prepare efficiently or run the risk of tarnishing the janitor’s image even further.