The rapid spread of COVID-19 and the global health pandemic has put professional cleaners on the front lines of public health. However, the truth is that janitors have always been the frontline workers, protecting public health without much notice. In times of crises, professional cleaners become the essential workers we depend on to keep buildings safe and protect health. But who is taking care of them?

Now more than ever, the health of contract cleaners should be a top priority. By implementing a series of programs that focus on healthier facilities and workers, building service contractors will see improved employee morale and an improved bottom line.

According to Ben Walker, chief operating manager of ManageMen, a Salt Lake City-based training and consulting firm, job dissatisfaction is most often motivated by hygiene factors including working conditions, relations with coworkers, policies, rules and employee health initiatives.

“This is not a new concept,” says Walker. “It is based on theories about understanding employee satisfaction introduced by Abraham Maslow back in the 1950s.”

Maslow, a developmental psychologist, developed a five-tier model of human motivation. His work, called “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” is depicted as a pyramid with physiological and safety needs at the base, moving up to include belonging, esteem and self-actualization. If safety and physiological needs form the very foundation of human motivation in the workplace, then health and safety should form the bedrock of any successful company policy.

By making sure a BSC has programs in place that focus on worker wellbeing and health, frontline workers will feel valued and appreciated.

Public Health Training

While a large majority of the public has stayed home during the global COVID-19 pandemic, professional workers have continued to show up to deep clean and disinfect inside facilities. In fact, cleaning professionals join healthcare workers as those who are most at-risk for contracting COVID-19. BSCs should be doing as much as possible to take care of the health of their frontline workers today, but also in the future when life resumes as normal.

Walker advises all BSCs to fully understand and communicate the responsibilities and expectations of their employees regarding any outbreak, particularly with COVID-19. Training should focus on providing a deep understanding of the routes of transmission, chain of infection and the science behind disinfecting, as well as the importance of handwashing. In a crisis, it is even more important to communicate clearly and often so that a workforce believes their best interests, safety and health are in mind.

The good news is, having a clear outbreak plan with a focus on protecting worker health will keep employees motivated, even in a time of great uncertainty and fear.

“Most cleaners receive what has been called a ‘here’s your keys, don’t get in trouble’ training,” says Walker. “Any BSC should take time to define what well-trained really means. Having the resources to back up in-depth training will educate your workforce and instill confidence and calm in your employees.”

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