Even though two years have passed since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, there are still many facility management challenges that are impacting the commercial cleaning industry. Some of the biggest challenges that continue to plague departments encompass cost control throughout all levels of facility organizations; managing a safe return to work and/or daily operations; optimizing space utilization needs within the facility; enhancing both employee experience and customer service; and, of course, custodial staffing (recruitment and retention).  

A current business report from CNBC News stated that “hiring outpaced quitting, with 6.7 million people taking new jobs in November 2021. However, the overwhelming majority of these workers were leveraging the tight job market to take new jobs that could be done remotely or with flexible schedules.”  

Many facility leaders are faced with this dynamic and continue to struggle nationwide with numerous unfilled custodial vacancies. These vacancies have, in turn, significantly impacted scheduled cleaning and maintenance in facilities. 

Handling Change 

While many of these challenges may seem overwhelming, facility managers can attempt to gain some control over employee and customer engagement with the existing staff and leadership teams that are in place. For example, as a result of dealing with 65 custodial vacancies at the University of Georgia campus — due to the COVID-19 pandemic, early retirement and budget restrictions in 2020 — our team made the conscious decision to re-examine the facility cleaning scope of work. We also focused on how the new scope of work would be shared with our employees and campus partners to build buy-in and to level cleaning expectations with revamped building inspections.  

One change that was implemented was to reduce cleaning frequencies in private/single-person offices in most of the 300 resident instruction buildings. Meanwhile, we increased the work tasks (and our staff presence) in public/high-contact areas.  

This revised cleaning scope of work was widely communicated. It was shared in our employee-in-training refresher sessions, with campus stakeholders throughout several marketing platforms, at individual stakeholder meetings, and was included in the official Campus Return-to-Work document that was sent from the president’s office.  

When that scope of work changed, our custodial team also reviewed our Building Inspection forms to coincide with these updates. Due to the reduced number of available cleaning staff, we shifted our employee training and customer communication plan based on the APPA Levels of Cleanliness on our inspection matrix. Whereas our campus-wide inspection goal is an APPA Level 2 (Orderly Tidiness), the reduced service standard needed to be lowered in some areas where there was no active campus faculty/staff (remote work departments) and in areas with fewer assigned staff.  

When changes like this occur, it is extremely important to provide transparency to customers. Communicating changes will help them understand and buy into a shared vision of healthy and safe facilities with the facility management team.  

next page of this article:
Creating Cleaning Routines that Stick