Cleaning up a reputation

18th of October 2018 Article by Lauren Kyle
Cleaning up a reputation

Lauren Kyle, head of cleaning at Sodexo, believes the industry needs to 'clean up' its reputation and come into the 21st century.

Technology makes an increasing impact on cleaning, but for the industry to truly advance we must shed our dusty image.

We need to start to get people thinking about cleaning in a different way if the industry is to keep up with others.

We've seen how the Internet of Things has changed how people order taxis, takeaway food or control their home heating from their smartphones. Cleaning, in its own way, has also joined the digital revolution.

Sensors in washrooms now show cleaning teams when soap, towels and other commodities need to be replaced, allowing time to be spent more effectively.

Robots, too, are playing their part. Autonomous cleaning devices help reduce manual workload for employees in an industry that can be physically demanding on its practitioners.

Chemical reduction in cleaning products is seeing the industry play its part in a world more sensitive to its environmental impact.

So, technology, innovation and environmentally friendly advances are helping the cleaning industry to keep up, but if we are truly to modernise, we need to start looking after people better.

Many other industries have professionalised over the last decade. Cleaning still has a way to go.

While I was speaking on this issue at the Sodexo Live thought leadership seminars last month, some of our most outstanding cleaners were being recognised for their contribution at the Sodexo Service Excellence Awards.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission report ‘The Invisible Workforce' cited these awards and the recognition of cleaning employees as good practice in the industry. These awards are a fantastic way to celebrate the success and commitment of our people and a highlight in Sodexo's calendar, but what a difference it will make if we can really change perceptions outside the industry.

The contribution of cleaning professionals to health and wellbeing in society is huge - and yet very often overlooked and under-valued.

It's essential we give cleaning teams a clear sense of their part in the overall purpose of an organisation and encourage positive career paths to motivate people to develop their experience and expertise.

The old story about the employee at NASA who, by mopping the floor, said he helped to put a man on the moon still stands. Nowhere can we find a better example than in the healthcare setting.

Infection control is rooted in healthcare regulations, inspections and targets. The cleaning team at a hospital is essential to patient care.

The industry needs to transfer this credo to other environments. For example in an office, white collar workers will often take it for granted if one person brings in a cold this winter, the whole office will get it. If the focus is on more regular cleaning of touchpoints like lift buttons, door handles and keyboards this will absolutely lead to less infection spreading through the workplace.

For many this is a step change away from the traditional cleaning schedules, where tasks are completed and washroom checklists are ticked one-by-one.

Not only does a realigned cleaning strategy reduce the spread of infection, but employees will subconsciously respond better to a tidy workplace, where they feel comfortable and cared for. Ultimately, this means your client's employees will be more productive.

But to do all this, we need more than technology, robots and apps - we need to redesign cleaning for the 21st century to make it central to improving everyone's quality of life.

 

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