Q: Can you successfully implement day cleaning in educational facilities?

Day cleaning, isn’t a new scheduling option, but it has gained popularity in recent years. Most often, facilities that have 24-7 operations force cleaning managers to plan around the activities of occupants, but more conventional facilities also are considering the concept to save costs.

While many housekeeping managers balk at the idea of relying on unpredictable occupants to determine when to clean rooms, the majority of departments that have tested day cleaning say they have been able to develop a system for working around building activities, says Steve Spencer of State Farm Insurance, a cleaning industry expert who has studied and implemented daytime cleaning in some of his commercial facilities.

Some of the biggest improvements he has seen can be in energy savings due to reduced lighting use, increased security and improved communication between occupants and cleaners.

Giving it the old college try
Washington State University switched to day cleaning about 10 years ago to reduce payroll costs. Swing and night shift employees were paid at a different rate than daytime workers, says Tom Parrish, custodial manager. The department saved an average of $1,044 per person, per year when about 40 workers volunteered to work an earlier shift. More have moved to days over the years and now two-thirds of the cleaning staff work a 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. shift.

“I think it’s helped our retention of our employees because it gives them evenings to spend with family,” says Parrish. “Another big plus is the interaction with the clients. Cleaners are part of the departments out there as much as they are working for us. And this has helped increase communication between the clients and front-line employees so they can respond quicker if there’s a need.”

While Parrish says day cleaning has worked well for his operations, he still has some large classroom buildings, a gym complex and a small floor crew that operate on second shift because of high traffic and use. Most school and college settings will need to determine the right mix of services and schedules to fit their needs.

His experience has been that most workers can complete classroom and public area cleaning before occupants enter the buildings in the mornings. Then, they vacuum offices during the lunch hour.

He also discovered that day cleaners were able to cover larger areas than those on later shifts. Part of the reason has been that occupants have been making more of an effort to keep areas clean now that they have gotten to know the people who have to pick up after them.

“We used to have people making a mess eating popcorn on a daily basis and shortly after we switched to days, the messes stopped altogether,” he says.

Elementary experience
Spencer has seen daytime cleaning instituted in K-12 environments as well. In these cases, restroom floors and other large areas are cleaned before school starts. Restrooms are cleaned during class times. Schools with carpeted hallways will vacuum during class times with low-noise machines, making sure all doors are shut first. Hard surfaces are dust mopped with microfiber heads at the same time. Classroom cleaning occurs during periods when rooms are vacant. Project work still is scheduled during school breaks.

When there are after-school activities that crews must clean up after, Spencer suggests including the cost of a cleaner into the team or club’s facility use fees. That then covers the cost of bringing in a janitor to clean and lock up. It avoids any hit to payroll but still gives some staff a chance to make some extra money, he says.
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