Day cleaning puts cleaning crews on display in a building's "theater" with housekeepers acting as the star performers in the show. But, if day cleaning operations fail to follow a script that includes solid communication, proper equipment and well-trained employees, Allen Rathey, president of InstructionLink/JanTrain, Boise, Idaho, warns the curtain will close completely on these operations.

"When you are on the floor of a day cleaning operation, you are on display," he says. "When you are in that 'theater' you had better perform with full knowledge that your performance affects the business and the workers who have to be there while you're cleaning."

Casting light on cleaning operations by moving cleaning to the daytime can improve the image of an industry long plagued by poor public perception. On the flip side, it can also tarnish it further if sloppily executed. Experts agree there are four key elements to day cleaning success: communication, compromise, cleaning tools and cast members. If one or all are not in place, these operations may fail.

Walk The Talk

There's an old saying, "If you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk." For cleaning operations moving to day cleaning, this begins with communicating to the highest level of the organization on down why the move makes sense.

"You have to be able to communicate to senior management why the change in cleaning is happening," says Colin Butterfield, president of Yoredale Consulting Ltd. in British Columbia, Canada.

The reasons may be fiscal. It saves money to clean during the day, says Steve Spencer, State Farm's facilities specialist in cleaning and interior maintenance in Bloomington, Ill. State Farm, which began day cleaning in 2000, slashed its energy bills nearly nine percent by moving cleaning to daylight hours. By turning the lights off at 5 p.m. every day in a 300,000 square-foot facility, Spencer says companies can save $80,000 to $160,000 a year. They also can cut cleaning costs by eight to 10 percent annually, which quickly adds up.

Other positives exist as well. For instance, workers clean more efficiently and effectively during the day when they are supervised and cleaning is more scrutinized. Likewise, building occupants tend to clean up after themselves when they see housekeepers cleaning up after them.

Facilities with day cleaning programs in place also experience a reduction in employee turnover Ñ a big plus in an industry where attrition can be as high as 300 percent.

"Our turnover has dropped to less than 10 percent a year since we went to day cleaning," Spencer says.

Some may not realize it, but security may also improve when day cleaning. The perception of theft is greatly reduced when building occupants know the cleaners. They are less likely to point fingers at people they know personally. Break-ins may also drop because buildings no longer remain open at night. And finally, cleaning crew safety may increase because workers are no longer working alone at night.

"All of these things need to be communicated when promoting day cleaning," says Butterfield. "If building occupants understand why it's happening and know the benefits, they'll be more likely to cooperate."

That said, the work doesn't end once everyone understands the "why" behind the move. It then becomes important to clarify how cleaning will occur, with emphasis on the fact that it will not impact occupants' ability to work. Occupants need to know cleaning will be scheduled around the work they do, and not the other way around; and that quiet equipment and fragrance-free chemicals will be used.

"Everyone has the perception of a noisy vacuum banging around the office, with a boom box on the cart blaring music and the smell of cleaners in the air," Butterfield says. "These concerns have to be dispelled."

The cleaning operation also needs a clear plan for cooperation. Butterfield says this is where inspection, communication and tracking software can help.

"This software formalizes communications with the client and offers feedback opportunities for clients at the same time," Butterfield says. He explains the software gives occupants a place to schedule events and helps cleaning managers schedule around those events. For instance, if a client books a training room for Friday, the software generates an e-mail apprising cleaning supervisors of the change. The system then prints out the day's activities enabling cleaning crews to vary schedules based on client input.

State Farm utilizes this type of software and gives both occupants and clients access to it. Cleaning supervisors pull this schedule at 2 p.m. each day to craft the following day's schedule.

"This doesn't mean a change in the staff's time," says Spencer. "It just means a change in where they go at certain times."

State Farm also requires all cleaners to wear communication devices. When the unexpected happens, such as a break room spill, it's addressed immediately instead of the following day. This reduces complaints, adds Spencer, who says his organization rarely receives negative feedback anymore.

The Spirit Of Compromise

Some managers comment that cleaning operations are too set in their ways for day cleaning. If this is the case, it might be because the spirit of compromise isn't also part of daytime operations, says Spencer. Cleaning crews cannot barge in and clean at will, without flexibility in the process.

This may require coming in a few hours early to clean sensitive areas before workers arrive, he says. The first crew arrives at 5 a.m. to clean State Farm's main entrances, executive offices, human resources areas and restroom floors.

Cleaning restroom floors before people arrive offers tremendous benefits, says Spencer, because once they're done, they do not require mopping again until the following morning.

"You don't have to put up "Wet Floor" or "Closed for Cleaning" signs, because they're already done," he explains.

State Farm cleaners also sweep or power vacuum main and secondary corridors before occupants arrive, while cubicle areas receive a thorough vacuuming and dusting on Saturday mornings.

The remaining cleaning takes place during the day. For instance, entrance cleaners focus on entry ways, cleaning glass, dusting and more throughout the day; break room cleaners keep those areas clean; and restroom specialists go from restroom to restroom cleaning sinks, toilets and stocking supplies all day long.

The company handles trash removal a little differently. Housekeepers ask occupants to place wastebaskets and recycling bins outside cubicles at specific times of the day. If they miss those times, workers can empty their own wastebaskets into recycling and trash receptacles placed in strategic areas throughout the building.

"Cleaners just grab the wastebasket as they go by and do not stop if the basket isn't out," says Spencer. "That's the closest they come to employee workspaces."

Cleaning Tools

The old cliché, "Use the right tool for the job" also comes into play. Noisy vacuums and harsh smelling chemicals have no place in a day cleaning operation.

At minimum, day cleaning operations require quiet vacuums. State Farm utilizes low-decibel vacuums (under 68 decibels) with long hoses that allow housekeepers to reach into tight spaces without disturbing workers. These vacuums come in a variety of forms, including backpack, canister, uprights and even ride-on machines, to name a few.

Riding sweepers rated at 70 decibels or less also help because they enable crews to vacuum large areas before workers arrive. A large office building may have 70,000 square-feet of carpeting, and these sweepers help workers get the job done in two hours. A big decrease when you consider it may take up to eight hours to vacuum the same space with a battery-operated sweeper or even longer with a traditional vacuum.

"These machines can cost $8,000 to $10,000," says Spencer. "But they pay for themselves in less than six months because you can do the same area in two hours instead of eight to 12."

Other handy tools include quiet cleaning carts that do not clatter around and microfiber cloths and mops. Chemical-free cleaners, or those with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are also important when day cleaning. Powerful cleaners that remove dirt and kill bacteria, but minimally impact indoor air quality are a must.

"Chemical-free cleaning changes the way cleaners interface with work surfaces and workers in the areas being cleaned," Rathey says. "You can work around people using water and there's not going to be any fumes, any chemicals or any sensitivity issues."

Choosing Cast Members

If a worker's unkempt or sloppy, it's going to become painfully obvious during the light of day. The successful day cleaning operation pays as much attention to choosing the right cast members as it does the cleaning products it uses.

"You've got to have workers who not only know how to use the tools but also know how to deal with people," Rathey says. "Your workers have to be very carefully selected to fit into the day cleaning universe."

Workers must be able to communicate with others and be very aware of their surroundings. They need to be taught where to put power cords, mop buckets and signs and how to safely use mops, brooms and chemicals.

"These things are all part of the normal training process, but are enhanced in the daytime," Rathey says. "We want occupants to see us working consistently with a high level of safety in mind."

He warns not to assume that workers possess good people skills and use common courtesies. Training should encompass these issues. Workers need to look good and act appropriately to further enhance the day cleaning operations.

Whether a housekeeping operation is already cleaning during the day or looking into it, it's critical to take a look at the script and ensure it passes muster.

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer/photographer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.