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In this roundtable discussion, Facility Cleaning Decisions sat down with the Editorial Advisory Board to address some of the biggest challenges cleaning managers are facing. Here are some of the highlights. 


FCD: Green, sustainability and ESG (environmental, social, governance) initiatives are picking up once again. What initiatives did you already have in place and what are you considering adding in the future to keep pace with expectations?  

Martinez: We have IPM (Integrated Pest Management), green-certified cleaners, our carpet cleaning program, our on-site generation and our recycling program. What we are looking at for the future is transitioning into no-wax floors, so we don’t have to strip, wax or burnish. These floors will be easier to maintain and are water-wise. In Salt Lake City, we are in a drought, and it takes a lot of water to strip, scrub and re-coat waxed floors. We are also looking into ultraviolet (UV) lighting technology for disinfection. Our district has a sustainability action plan that outlines a goal to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2040. 

Baldwin: University Housekeeping here at North Carolina State University received our Green Seal Certification in 2019. We are No. 6 in the nation to receive the certification and the first university in North Carolina. We continue to adhere to the certification requirements to stay in compliance. 

Jones: There has really been zero change in this area for us, but our district did create a position that main responsibilities are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance and Sustainability. 

King: We work with our system Sustainability Team. This team provides updates to the entire system, we look from energy reduction, waste reduction, recycling, and we are always looking for initiatives to green our environments. 

Crowell: Microfiber cleaning continues to be utilized, which ultimately reduces overall chemicals used. Our focus moving forward is to continue to find ways to reduce water and energy consumption. 

FCD: How are you communicating your green/sustainable/ESG initiatives with building occupants and facility stakeholders? 

Baldwin: Our sustainability department is great in spreading the news about our accomplishments. In 2020, the department was awarded the Business Innovation for Environmental Stewardship Award. The award is presented for business practices that demonstrate environmental stewardship. In 2021, the department received the North Carolina State Sustainability Award in the category of Sustainable Department/Organization. The City of Raleigh also recognized the department's accomplishment. The recognition from the sustainability department and the City of Raleigh shares the story of the ongoing practices and dedication of the department for the campus and the surrounding community. Students often contact us to learn more as part of class assignments and projects. 

Martinez: We currently communicate through email, social media and weekly newsletters. We are looking into a dashboard to put on a monitor at each school that has all our sustainability accomplishments and data for that school. It’s important because you want the staff and community to know how environmentally responsible we are, and that we are looking out for the health and safety of everyone who occupies our buildings. We want to share that we have the data and certifications to confirm that what we are doing is legit. 

Crowell: We relay information through our Resident Council meetings and staff meetings. This communication has become expected. 

Jones: This is really the new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance and sustainability coordinator, but my department works in conjunction with them. Our environmental quality and energy manager works under the coordinator. 

King: We have a system sustainability team. This is critical as it keeps all our sites focused on the same goals, provides positives we are involved in and ensures accountability. 

FCD: Is your facility back to full-time occupancy, or are there hybrid schedules in place and how has this impacted the department?  

King: We stayed at full-time work for our team. 

Jones: We are 12 percent short staffed in the custodial department, but our cleaning schedules remain the same. Our district has approved unlimited overtime for my staff and is allowing hourly staff in other departments to work at their existing pay with overtime after 40 hours per week. 

Crowell: We have continued with a hybrid scheduling for managers and above. We have been able to reduce cleaning time in many areas because of this. The challenge is making sure that areas don’t get missed if a person’s schedule changes frequently. 

Martinez: We operate a full-time team. 

Beene: We're still utilizing both. Unfortunately, our department would definitely need to be on site. The employees need to see leadership so they can see we're here to support and listen to any concerns, or just give them a smile. 

FCD: What trends/challenges do you see on the horizon for cleaning departments as the months go on?  

King: Staffing will continue to be a challenge for some time. 

Jones: Increasing FTEs (full-time employees) to accommodate the cleaning needs in future additions and new buildings will be very difficult to get approval for. I am asked to find adjustments first, but since we are always short-staffed, we just use existing FTEs and are open to hire. The possibility of outsourcing one building such as a high school is always an option, so we can pull staff to fill gaps in other buildings — that is, if hiring and staff retention does not improve. 

Crowell: There will be continued challenges in the recruitment of staff. Managers should have all your support documentation available to demonstrate and support your staffing needs. Advocate for your team and your critical functions. I believe we will need to re-look at team cleaning as the positions get harder to fill and maintain. 

Martinez: It depends on where you live. Right now, in Salt Lake City, we are dealing with potential flooding. We had a particularly bad winter with record snowpack, and now that temperatures are rising into the 70’s and 80’s, the snow is going to melt quickly, and we may not be able to sustain the runoff. There is also the potential of future health threats. Hopefully these won’t be as bad as COVID, and we should be better prepared, but the threat is real and our department needs to be mindful of prioritizing health. Schools also need to be mindful of security. With the recent uptick in school shootings, it seems our focus has shifted to security, and that might take our focus off our cleaning protocols. 

Beene: Finding staff — currently our biggest challenge is finding floor technicians. To work around this issue, we're implementing “train the trainer” programs. We always want to try to promote from within as much as we can. 

Corinne Zudonyi is the Editor-in-Chief for Facility Cleaning Decisions magazine and She has been involved in the jan/san industry for over 17 years. 

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