This is part 3 of a three-part series where Facility Cleaning Decisions spoke with cleaning executives on challenges they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and where they see their custodial programs going. 

What do you expect workloads to look like moving forward?

BEENE: Now that we're moving back to some normalcy, our workload will increase because our hospital surgery cases have started to increase.

KING: Our workloads will go back to normal as the world goes back to normal. We will also continue to take a closer look at cleaning demands within the public areas as we become more proactive versus reactive.

JONES: Our district will not be approving any additional FTE unless a new location or addition is added, so workloads will remain. We are using our pool of 14 subs and floaters to cover our existing staff holes. However, I have eight people retiring this year and our existing workloads will make recruiting a challenge.

Has public awareness of cleaning changed your programs, how/when cleaning is done, or how your staff interacts with building occupants? 

JONES: We always use the term “Shared Responsibility” under the Missouri green cleaning guidelines and specification for schools. We ask teachers to return the classrooms back to a reasonable clean status by the end of the day — stack chairs, clear off desks and tables, pick up pencils, crayons, books and large pieces of paper. 

Prior to the pandemic, we always provided blue microfiber rags and a cleaning solution to teachers, but maybe only 20 percent of staff requested the tools. Today, all teachers are provided blue microfiber rags and an approved sanitizer to clean most touched surfaces in classrooms throughout the day.

Do you see any benefits to the positive attention cleaning has received in the last year?

BALDWIN: We are using data to tell the story of cleaning and to support requests for increased budgets and staffing, along with purchasing ergonomic, sustainable, advanced technological equipment. The positive attention has also created more interaction between the campus community, who are recognizing the professionalism and dedication of the frontline team. Finally, we are now partnering with the wellness department to improve self care of staff.

KING: I really don't feel that the attention has changed. We have always been essential to the success of our facility and our leadership truly understands the importance of cleaning and disinfecting.

JONES: Our budget numbers for the next five years will remain pretty much the same, with a possible 3 percent average increase in operating expenses. We'll continue to explore and request funding for innovations that can improve productivity or efficiency.

BEENE: I expect that more staff and an increasing amount of technology will be coming in our future.

What challenges do you see on the horizon for cleaning departments, as we emerge from this pandemic?

BEENE: Finding good staff will be an ongoing challenge.

JONES: Challenges have always been and will continue to be hiring and staff retention. Columbia has a population of around 125,000, with an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent. A large food processing company is building a new facility in the area and will be hiring 250 workers at a fairly good wage. This will only make the job market tighter.

BALDWIN: Possible challenges include a reduction of budgets and an increase in remote work, hybrids and online learning. This may affect campus populations and spaces requiring cleaning service.

KING: Staffing. The world is different now. Many businesses are struggling with staffing. I do not see this changing anytime soon.

previous page of this article:
Perceptions Of Cleaning And Management Hurdles