Cleaning takes on a different value

29th of July 2021 Article by John Griep
Cleaning takes on a different value

What are the implications of the coronavirus for work and buildings, Dutch reporter John Griep asks.

What are the implications of the coronavirus culture shock for work and buildings? This was the subject of the VSR webinar held recently. During lockdown, Jitske Kramer wrote the management book ‘Work has Left the Building’, well known in the Netherlands. As a corporate anthropologist, she believes we will continue to work hybrid: partly at home, partly on location.

Does that still offer opportunities for cleaning companies? According to facility management experts, yes. Cleaning has taken on a different value; after all, a clean workplace is a safe workplace.

According to Kramer, coronavirus has caused a culture shock in her country. The crisis has major implications for collaboration and interaction in the workplace. Kramer distinguishes two interaction processes in decision-making within a culture: bullet point meetings and campfire conversations.

“A bullet point meeting is a transactional conversation, in which we organise and order what had already been ordered. In the less formal campfire conversations, there is room for transformation. Bullet point meetings are suitable for online encounters, whereas for campfire conversations online, we have to try much harder because they require trust and loyalty. We sense that more face-to-face.”

The fact that we now have to have every conversation, including campfire conversations, online is causing a culture shock, according to the anthropologist. How do we remain connected to our tribe? We develop desire lines for this, such as one-to-one walks with your supervisor and webinars instead of physical meetings. ‘It’s interesting to investigate these paths - are they only there in a crisis or
do we want to keep them? In other words, are you experiencing this time as a crisis or as
a transformation?’

One of the experts on the panel said: “I see this time as an opportunity for redefining and redesigning. Cleaning used to be generally invisible – now, hygiene is a prerequisite for returning to the office. A clean workplace is safe. As a building user, you’re no longer disturbed by the cleaners, but in fact glad to see them there. It’s a chance to be a brand.” One point raised was that as hygiene experts, cleaning companies can take control and advise organisations on how to prevent the spread
of viruses.

Another person thought that the crisis (or transformation) offers similar opportunities for hospitality: ‘I think we’ll continue to work from home to a certain extent, so that going to the office will be like an outing. People do need to think it worthwhile to come though, and hospitality can take care of that. It needs to become an experience.’

Jitske Kramer noted that this is precisely the kind of culture change that can occur as a result of a crisis or culture shock. “Cleaning has taken on a different value in this crisis,” she emphasised, “and people build their culture on what they find valuable. People shape culture and culture shapes people.

Maybe in the future, the surgeon will talk to the cleaner about hygiene in the operating room.” This is how a crisis can turn out to be a transformation.


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  • ISSA Interclean
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