Back in 1994, when Steve Spencer joined State Farm Insurance, he had big dreams and new ideas for maintaining its buildings. Spencer, State Farm’s facilities specialist in cleaning and interior maintenance, oversees cleaning contracts, specifies floor coverings and coordinates and teaches its Interior Maintenance School.

After working for the organization for two years, Spencer developed a vision for its building operations. In 1996, Spencer introduced two cost-saving ideas that would radically change the way contractors cleaned — day cleaning and cooperative cleaning.

The two new ideas would give cleaning operations, usually performed when the buildings are closed, more visibility and impact.

Spencer, who once worked in a hotel and then in a hospital, says day cleaning “is in his makeup” and he thought the concept would be beneficial to State Farm.

First, he says, cleaning workers tend to be more productive when building occupants are around.

“A night crew needs multiple supervisors,” Spencer says. “But during the day, we need just one person because there are many ‘supervisors’ throughout the building. And if something is not right, we will get a call.”

Another advantage to day cleaning is energy-cost savings. When lights are no longer left on at night for cleaning crews, organizations can save money. Building security improves, as well, because contract cleaners are no longer in the building “alone” and also other resident thieves no longer have night cleaning workers to blame for stolen items.

Building occupants also tend to show more respect for cleaning workers when they see them working hard to keep the building clean. For example, people are more likely to pick up dropped paper towels from restroom floors and wipe water drips off sinks if the cleaning worker is around.

Spencer likes the idea of incorporating building occupants into cleaning so much, he came up with the concept of “cooperative cleaning,” which suggests occupants help clean buildings by emptying their own trash receptacles.

Seven years ago, when Spencer came up with the concept, State Farm employees already were responsible for dumping their own recyclables in a central container in the building, so he says cooperative cleaning “was a part of the culture.”

Spencer promoted day cleaning and cooperative cleaning together. One of his goals with day cleaning was to minimize office interruptions. Cleaning workers didn’t need to enter office areas except to empty trash, so he thought if employees emptied their own trash, there would be even fewer interruptions.

It took four years — it was not until 2000 — for the first State Farm facility to agree to implement day cleaning, but without cooperative cleaning. Facility administrators were not comfortable asking their employees to empty their own trash. Then, in December 2002, two buildings with day cleaning already in place agreed to try cooperative cleaning.

Today, 16 of State Farm’s approximately 2,700 buildings have day cleaning. Three buildings incorporated a combination of daytime and cooperative cleaning, including a 24-7 call center. Ten more buildings are at different stages of transitioning to daytime or day/cooperative cleaning.

A typical day’s schedule
In general, day-cleaning staffs start around 5:30 a.m. in order to get certain jobs done before the building opens. All public areas, such as the main lobby, human resources and executive areas are cleaned and ready for office workers and visitors. Also, the cleaners wash restroom floors and sweep aisles between the cubicles and hallways.

Once the building opens, one male and one female cleaning worker cleans the restroom stalls and sinks not being used, so the restrooms are never closed. When all the restrooms have been cleaned, they start over again, the next time around stocking and touching up restrooms all day long. At this time, workers clean entry glass and entryways, break areas and respond to spills and special cleanups.

Additional cleaning crews come in after lunch. At this time, State Farm employees move their trash cans to the outer walls of their cubicles. Cleaners do not have to step into work spaces to pick up trash, causing fewer interruptions. Dining room and food-prep areas also are cleaned in the afternoon.

“All that leaves is private offices and inside cubicles,” Spencer says. “Once a week, we ask the contractor to come in either on a Saturday or at night to vacuum and dust these areas.”

Building occupants get used to the routine and prepare to have their offices cleaned by clearing off their desks and work areas.

Making a smooth switch
The transition from nighttime cleaning to daytime cleaning and/or cooperative cleaning is a huge change for building occupants, cleaning contractors and cleaning workers. Spencer has to work closely with everyone involved, preparing and educating them for the change.

“There are only problems when offices go into it [daytime/cooperative cleaning] without getting me involved,” Spencer says. “Mostly, it’s a pretty easy transition if I am involved.”

He says the cleaning programs have to be tailored to each building.

“No two buildings are exactly alike, even if the design of the building is exactly the same,” he says. “People are different, schedules are different.”

There are stumbling blocks to the transition when working with an existing contractor vs. a new contractor, he says.

“We have to tell them the old contract is not what we want to enforce,” he says.

He adds that night-cleaning personnel and day-cleaning workers come from two totally different labor pools He says night workers often are young adults and minorities. Day workers tend to be older, some semi-retired and some stay-at-home moms and dads. But Spencer says the aging Baby Boomer population makes it easy to find part-time day workers.

Positive results
Day cleaning and cooperative cleaning are beneficial to State Farm, as well as other types of facilities.

“The real plusses are the 5 to 8 percent cost savings on cleaning,” he says. “We eliminate duplication of jobs. For example, we had a restroom stocker during the day in addition to a night crew for restrooms. Now the day time person does both.”

State Farm’s Monroe, La., facility used to have eight theft calls a day, Spencer says. Since June 2000, the facility has not had one theft call.

Buildings that have implemented day cleaning have saved as much as 7 to 8 percent in utility costs, Spencer says. Cooperative cleaning in most cases brings another 25 percent labor savings.

Spencer says day cleaning and cooperative cleaning are not for every facility.

“I developed [day cleaning and cooperative cleaning] because of my knowledge of State Farm,” he says. “I have reservations that it would work in a multi-tenant building. But it could work in schools, hospitals and hotels.”

He says it is important to have an open mind, communicate with everyone involved and tailor cleaning programs to fit specific buildings.