Corinne Zudonyi

The minute the clock chimed midnight on January 1, we all celebrated, eager to put 2020 behind us. To say it was a challenging year is an understatement. Our lives at home and at work had been upended in a moment's notice and we absorbed hits over and over again.

As I do every January, I took a moment to reflect on all that has happened. The more I thought about it, the less I dwelled on the pandemic and the more I recognized the positives from an unprecedented year.

In fact, three specific positives came to mind. The first was the recognition given to the cleaning industry.

For the last 15 years, almost everyone I've encountered in this industry has been fighting to elevate the importance of commercial cleaning. Unwilling to fade into the background, cleaning managers have fought for a voice in the boardroom, stressing the vital role they play in the health and safety of building occupants.

The pandemic fast-tracked these efforts and thrust cleaning professionals into the national spotlight. We watched as our peers stood at podiums next to hospital chiefs of staff and Fortune 500 CEOs to answer questions and calm fears for the national media.

In 2020, cleaning and the hardworking people in this great industry were finally receiving the recognition they deserved. That recognition is what brought on the second positive: support.

Once people started recognizing the value of strong cleaning programs, they began putting their money where their mouth is. Technologies that were deemed too expensive just months earlier were being purchased in bulk. Staffing was reevaluated, along with cleaning frequencies, and funds were reallocated to accommodate the needs. Departments across the country were given the tools necessary to do the work and guarantee the health and safety of their building occupants.

And despite orders to isolate at home, janitors reported to work day in and day out throughout the pandemic. That brings me to the third positive from 2020: recognition of the people. Frontline workers across the country were soon gracing the pages of national newspapers, sharing their stories along with doctors, nurses and emergency personnel. Everyday Americans opened their windows daily to cheer cleaning staff as part of the "frontline heroes" fighting this virus.

Doing our part, we launched a new section to recognize frontline workers. Managers are encouraged to nominate candidates for the "Faces of the Frontline" section, featured in every issue.

As tough as last year was, you can always find positives. The good news is that cleaning is in a great position to thrive in 2021.