Office Furniture

Over the past few years, working from home either full- or part-time has become a widely accepted practice. In fact, according to a recent Gallup study, 39 percent of office workers operate entirely from their homes. Meanwhile, 42 percent of employees have a hybrid work schedule.  

Although corporations are continuing the push to transition their employees back to the office, many will continue to operate within a hybrid schedule, allowing employees to work part of the week remotely and part of the week on site. 

In response to this dynamic work environment, facilities — especially in the office sector — are reducing or redesigning their workplaces to accommodate changing needs. Some are adopting office hoteling, a concept where assigned desks are eliminated, and workspaces are reserved in advance. Others are reconfiguring their spaces to entice people to come back to the office post-pandemic. 

“Our corporate owner–occupied facilities want their employees back at work, so they’re making their spaces as comfortable and appealing as possible,” notes Tim Murch, president and CEO, 4M Building Solutions, St. Louis. “A lot are going to be open concepts, but they’re also adopting areas where employees can hang out and socialize.” 

Whether clients are redesigning spaces or simply reducing their footprint, building service contractors (BSCs) will need to renegotiate their contracts accordingly. Changing cleaning frequencies, adjusting manpower and altering equipment and supplies are par for the course — as is the facility’s heightened expectation of a safe and clean environment.  

“Anybody that comes into the facility is still very sensitive,” notes Murch. “They want that peace of mind that comes with having a sanitary workplace.” 

Dealing with Density 

To fully appreciate the cleaning implications of a downsized or redesigned facility, BSCs first need to understand the client’s intent. Greg Buchner, president of CleanOffice, Herndon, Virginia, recommends meeting with clients to ascertain their vision for the company and what BSCs can do to support it. 

“We’re in uncharted waters because property managers don’t know what their population and the behavior of their employee base will be in January of next year,” he says. “Are they looking to overcompensate with additional services, or are they looking at this as a cost savings opportunity? We need to know where their heads are at.” 

With the adoption of remote and hybrid work schedules, daily occupancy and density levels will fluctuate and must be factored into any reassessments of cleaning services. As Curtis McLemore, CEO of McLemore Building Maintenance, Houston, points out, a decrease in square footage does not always equal a reduction in cleaning services. 

“If you reduce the square footage or alter the footprint of the facility but you increase the density, it lowers the contractor’s production rate,” he notes. “You must explain to your client that a reduction in square footage does not necessarily mean a reduction in associated cleaning costs. It could, in fact, take you longer to provide those same services.” 

Lower population densities can also have a negative impact on BSC productivity rates.  

One of Buchner’s clients is in the process of reducing its onsite workforce from 3,500 employees to 400 employees by January 2023. For the past two years, the contractor has modified staffing and reduced services and frequencies to accommodate the changes. The client has not altered the building’s layout; however, Buchner has broached the idea of closing low-use areas.  

“If a conference room or a restroom is open and available for use, all it takes is one or two people to move it from a clean to a used condition,” he notes. “We’re encouraging our clients to shut down lower activity areas and force people to use other areas instead. We’d rather clean fewer areas that truly need cleaning than constantly clean and touch up areas that are infrequently used. Contractors need to clarify how clients plan to use their facilities moving forward.” 


Ramifications of Redesigns 

In addition to determining the client’s intended use for redesigned spaces, BSCs will need to verify whether or not the scope of work remains the same. In light of the heightened need for cleaning, McLemore recommends clarifying whether the new layout will increase or decrease the need for touch-point cleaning.    

In addition, changes to flooring and furnishings could greatly impact how those surfaces are cleaned and the time it takes to accomplish the task.  

“It might still be a 5,000-square-foot building, but if it is updated with high-end furniture that the client expects to be hand-wiped on a daily basis, it’s going to take a lot longer to clean,” says McLemore. “You have to have a conversation with the client and outline what needs to happen going forward to reach the outcome they’re hoping for.” 

For clients that are completely remodeling their facilities, John Poole, an industry consultant in Atlanta, recommends meeting with the building owner and manager prior to construction and again at the midway point to discuss the new architectural amenities and establish a workload.  

“BSC’s should want to know everything that’s going on with regards to the construction of that building so they can maintain it in a fashion that meets the facility’s/manufacturer’s standard of care and doesn’t violate any warranties,” says Poole. 

In some instances, this may require the contractor to purchase a specific chemical to accommodate the architectural finish.  

“The manufacturer’s warranty is nothing to laugh at,” says Poole. “If it states you have to use a specific product on the floor manufactured by a specific company, you may be required to do that. And if the client doesn’t require it, make sure you get that in writing.” 

Poole recounts the time he installed a new rubber gym floor in a building. He contacted the manufacturer’s rep to find out if the neutral cleaner used in the building was acceptable for the new floor. The rep confirmed that it was, and Poole requested a letter to that effect. 

“A year later the floor started curling and caused a trip hazard,” he recalls. “The contractor called me and said the chemical used wasn’t approved for the floor, at which point I produced the letter. Make sure that you are up front and have all approvals in writing.” 

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BSC Tips For Efficient Cleaning After Facility Changes