Corinne Zudonyi Headshot

I recently spoke to a long-time reader who oversees a large contract cleaning company. He is normally difficult to track down because of a very busy schedule, but this time proved especially challenging. Turns out, in addition to his managerial tasks, this building service contractor found himself moonlighting as a nighttime janitor. When we finally connected, I learned that his team had been down six frontline workers for as many months, and it was all-hands on deck. 

Unfortunately, this is a situation more BSCs are finding themselves in. Staffing challenges aren't unique to the cleaning industry, but they are widespread because of the rigors of the job, the hours, and the often-unfavorable pay. But these aren't the only reasons people leave the cleaning ranks. As this reader learned firsthand, the nightly rigors of the job were amplified because of the poor cleaning tools provided.  

I often say, "give people the tools and they'll do their job," but I feel like I should clarify that further. "Give people the right tools and they can do their job better."  

For example, this reader mentioned that he had been dust mopping stairs, but only had a Kentucky string mop for the job. Cleaning times indicate that it should take a worker roughly three minutes to dust mop six stairs and a landing using this tool — as its heavier weight wears on workers' bodies. Meanwhile, if he used a flat, microfiber mop — normally lighter weight and more absorbent — he could cover twice the number of stairs in less time (12 stairs and a landing in 2.40 minutes).  

The same proved true when this reader transitioned to vacuuming. At his disposal was an older, heavier 14-inch upright, which is estimated to take 21 minutes to tackle 1,000 square feet. Had he used a backpack vacuum with a 14-inch orifice carpet tool, he could have tackled the same area in just over eight minutes — thanks to better ergonomics and high suction. Make it a battery backpack and he could have tackled the stairs, landing and carpets with that single tool, all without having to stop and bend to move outlets. 

Human resource experts often talk about the importance of onboarding and training as a key to staff retention, but I'd argue both are wasted efforts if employees aren't provided the proper tools to do the job. Now is the time to re-evaluate the equipment used on your front lines, not just for employee satisfaction but also for productivity. If nothing else, it’ll make subbing on the night shift easier.  

Corinne Zudonyi is the Editor-in-Chief of Contracting Profits and has been in the cleaning industry for 17 years. She also oversees, Facility Cleaning Decisions magazine and Sanitary Maintenance magazine.