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Cleaning models for the post-pandemic reality

Aug 18, 2023 | Public | 0 comments

Post-pandemic workplaces have changed. With shifting schedules, flex hours, and smaller teams, commercial cleaners are once again pivoting to accommodate lower occupancy, while managing labour and maintaining their margins.

Supply chain delays, staffing shortages, and rising inflation are all issues the industry is facing from both sides of the equation, so cleaners and facility managers need to work together to find a solution to suit everyone’s needs.

Remote work continues to be a common practice and 78 per cent of companies expect work-from-home policies to remain long-term or even permanent. Reports predict that 73 per cent of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

FC&M spoke to Randy Burke, CEO of Toronto-based DCS Global, about the ongoing challenges that commercial cleaners are facing as they struggle to optimize their labour and excel at service, while lower building occupancy seems to be a lasting trend.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

FC&M: How has reduced occupancy affected commercial cleaners?

Burke: Lower building occupancy is affecting commercial cleaners on two fronts: seemingly arbitrary cost reductions from building owners and managers, and a more complicated process for contract negotiation. With a smaller staff and often smaller workloads, many building operators are looking for cleaners to reduce their pricing – and often that’s happening without any analysis or data. Many times, managers take a situation that looks like there is less work for cleaners and determine that their services should therefore cost less than before. However, there’s not always such a direct correlation. Now, with occupancy down to 20 per cent in some areas, there may well be some validity to those requests, but arbitrarily cutting costs is a problem. These decisions need to be data-based to make sense all around.

The second issue is that many cleaners are operating on old contracts and that means that they are being held to systems, specs, and tools that were negotiated before the pandemic even happened. In these cases, there may, in fact, be an efficiency issue where buildings are actually being over-cleaned. This brings to light the need for cleaners and operators to work together to find solutions that get the job done and maximize productivity.

FC&M: What are some of the strategies cleaners can employ to address these concerns?

Burke: Getting proactive, inviting open communication, and talking to customers are the best ways for cleaners to handle these issues. Explaining why cuts may not make sense, suggesting realistic, relevant adjustments to contracts and practices, showing the math, and getting ahead of the problem as much as possible will help. Recommending changes that make sense as a way for operators to save money, gives cleaners some control over the process and the ability to plan for those changes, rather than the adjustments thrust upon them. Win-wins are possible by working together!

Cutting profit level is not the answer, it’s about finding a solution that is not going to hurt the overhead, the equipment, or the supervision. Keeping those key pillars at the forefront can simplify working together to agree on fair reductions and processes.

FCM: As this situation changes over the coming years, what skills or approaches will cleaners need to employ to continue to thrive?

These last few years have really highlighted how important it is for cleaning companies to be adaptable and ready for any situation. Building occupancy is something that is still changing and shifting, and cleaners need to be able to adjust to address these changes going forward.

For example, some companies are looking for ways to cut costs with company-wide cleaning programs, wherein cleaners schedule visits for maximum ease and efficiency. Because these occupancy levels are regularly shifting, a monthly approach is best, where the schedule is adjusted and confirmed a month ahead based on predicted occupancy.

From a practical standpoint, there are simple office tools or visual cues that can be used to simplify cleaners’ jobs and maximize time spent on site, as building occupancy continues to fluctuate. Getting creative with things like tenant tent cards that say whether the space has been used and needs to be cleaned will help refine processes from both sides.

At the end of the day, cleaners should be approaching customers with a focus on value. Looking at communicating to companies that the low bid isn’t necessarily the answer, even in today’s economic climate. The bottom line doesn’t speak to value. The simple truth is that price is what you pay, but value is what you get. Communicating your value means agreeing on something that makes the most sense for everyone.

RELATED: Overcoming objections to commercial cleaning

FC&M: What can building operators do to help address these cleaning challenges?

Burke: As cleaners need to work on optimizing their labour and lowering their topline costs, building operators need to collaborate with cleaners to increase transparency, work on better communication, and create solutions that are advantageous for both sides. Cleaners and operators need to assess and renegotiate what the new reality looks like, determine the best course of action, and decide on what’s required by both parties to simplify the process and reach success.

It’s often a good idea to hire a third party to conduct productivity studies to get help doing the math and get both sides to reach a place where everyone is happy with the end result. This type of cleaning assessment can help determine and clarify the best approach to cleaning the building, create a realistic scope, identify opportunities, and provide data for a better overall end result.

No one likes surprises, so communication is truly key as things like building occupancy are in continual fluctuation.

FC&M: Are there any positive takeaways from the current commercial cleaning landscape?

Burke: Yes, this situation has shone a light on out-of-date business models and has paved some of the way for innovation adoption like sensors, robotics, and automated systems. These tools have emerged as ways to help address some of these challenges, helping people to get smart about flexible and scalable working models. There’s a real opportunity for cleaners to look closely at their businesses and improve overall operations for better productivity and service into the future.

This article was originally featured in the summer 2023 issue of FC&M Magazine.

The post Cleaning models for the post-pandemic reality appeared first on REMINET.

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