Cleaning all day?

25th of November 2010

ECJ speaks to one contract cleaning company that has successfully converted one of its largest contracts into a daytime cleaning operation, and another for which daytime cleaning is an inherent part of the business model. We also examine the advantages and disadvantages of the daytime cleaning concept.

In recent years daytime cleaning has become one of the most often-used phrases in the professional cleaning sector. Many see the drive to convert more cleaning contracts from night to daytime working as being the solution to many of the sector's personnel challenges - unsociable hours, high staff turnover, morale and unacceptable wages to name just a few. But is it really as simple as that - just how practical is it to implement daytime cleaning on a wider scale across the industry?

One contract cleaning company with a wide range of clients, some of which have now been converted to day cleaning, is Emprise. This independent support services company employs over 5,500 people delivering multiple services to clients on a national basis in the UK. Two contracts that have successfully moved from night to day clean are The British Library and David Lloyd Leisure, one of the UK’s most prestigious chains of health and fitness clubs.

ECJ spoke to Michael Goodwin, who manages the David Lloyd contract for Emprise and was involved in the changeover. Having had the contract since 1995, the idea of daytime cleaning was first discussed with the client in 2004. “One of the main reasons for contemplating it was the visibility of cleaners," Goodwin explained. "Nobody actually saw anyone doing the cleaning so they assumed it wasn’t being done. Members and staff only saw our locker attendants who were present during the day, but they were doing only general tidying up.”

When the decision was made to remove night cleaning savings were made immediately on utility costs – there was no longer any need to heat and light the buildings. This has been significant because some sites have tennis courts which had to be lit when being cleaned during the night. The cleaning teams were then amalgamated so cleaners also performed locker attendant duties during the day - resulting in more cost efficiencies.

Now there are cleaners on-site all day in all the gyms and fitness facilities Emprise cleans – from before they open to after they shut. "Certain tasks have to be performed out of hours, of course, so there is sometimes a night team," Goodwin added. "But essentially it means the experience for members is the same all day in terms of a clean facility."

So what was the reaction of the cleaners to the new conditions? "They were very pleased to be offered a job during the day if it fitted in with their commitments," replied Goodwin. "I don’t believe night work is good for the body and it is certainly very tough on people. It’s like having jet lag all the time. But for some people the fact is night work is what suits their lifestyle."

The experience of being at work has been made undeniably better for the cleaners by having a daytime job - Goodwin is convinced of that. "For the cleaners’ wellbeing and pride day cleaning was so much better because the client saw what they did and appreciated for the first time how hard they work. That’s so important for their self-esteem and motivation. And we have found that the best-run sites are those where the management from the client organisation engages with the cleaners. We also experienced a jump in customer satisfaction – the visibility of cleaners always scores highly with David Lloyd as a client."

Breeds self-confidence

The cleaners wear uniforms featuring both Emprise and David Lloyd brands and they also engage with members under the ‘brand standards’ guidelines. "This breeds self-confidence within the cleaners themselves, and the members really love it because previously they just didn’t register how the cleaning was being done." Everyone working on the David Lloyd contract is also employed on a full-time basis.

Emprise was also fortunate in that David Lloyd as a client was entirely open to the idea of daytime cleaning because it wanted a more cost-efficient operation and a perfect clean throughout the day. Money has been saved on the contract because there are now actually fewer cleaning hours per week and no gaps in service at certain times. So all ways round it can be termed as a success.

That is not to say, however, that daytime cleaning does not come without its challenges. At David Lloyd Emprise was obliged to find new ways of cleaning when the change was made. Battery powered machines are used where possible in order to avoid cables lying around, however Goodwin pointed out that while battery technology for larger machines such as scrubber dryers is adequate for daytime cleaning, there is some way to go still for vacuum cleaners in his opinion.

The health and safety requirements of daytime cleaning are more stringent and better staff training is a must. "Cleaning of showers and floors in a more localised way so as not to inconvenience members for example, and putting more signs up around areas that are being cleaned. This means some duties do now take longer, but the cleaner does have more time."

Cleaners also require extra training in those aspects of their role that are more public-facing.
Because the cleaning operation is taking place around the working day of a building, it's also vital an extremely detailed cleaning schedule is compiled and a daytime cleaning operation must be very tightly run. "For example we may be restricted to 10-minute slots in certain areas," Goodwin explained. "That does make everything easier to control and supervise, however, in a way that is just not possible with night cleaning."

It is also important to emphasise that being a daytime cleaner in a David Lloyd fitness club is not an easy job, and Goodwin explained why. "In certain areas hygiene is absolutely vital – showers and washrooms for example. The floors get wet and scuffed and the fact they are high-grip means they hold dirt. So the work is physically hard, there is never a slow moment, they always have to be smiling and ready to engage with a member. Having said all that, however, since changing to daytime our cleaners are much happier and find their work much more rewarding."

While acknowledging that in the leisure sector the change to daytime cleaning can be fairly straightforward, Goodwin explained other sectors, such as corporate, can be more difficult. "Sometimes it takes more effort to implement but some clients do need to be more forward-thinking and of course the cleaners in daytime operations need to be so much better trained."

One business that runs with daytime cleaning at the core of its operations is Hotelcare in the UK, which has found its niche in the hotel market. Headed by managing director John Blasco it now cleans over 185 hotels nationwide, 105 of them in London, and employs over 2,700 people. Among its clients are well-known brands including Accor, Radisson, Jurys Inn and Intercontinental.

Nature of hotel cleaning

Blasco explained: "The very nature of hotel cleaning is that it is carried out during the day when guests have vacated rooms. We operate shifts from 8am for room attendants and these are staggered throughout the day until 4pm. Then there is an evening operation for maids doing turn-down, cleaning rooms at short notice (in airports for example) and special tasks such as floor cleaning.

"The cleaning operation has to fit around the life of the hotel so restaurants have to be done between breakfast and lunch for example. Mopping in public areas must be managed carefully and other hotels have large conference facilities - we have to work around those schedules. Daytime cleaning is a necessity."

All Hotelcare staff are offered the option of having a full-time job and Blasco is keen to emphasise the career development that is available to them. He is also pleased with the way his clients interact with the cleaning staff, and how much they are valued. "Housekeeping is the largest department of any hotel and cleaners are always highly visible. It’s a tough physical job and operations are running 24 hours a day. I'm glad to say our clients are fully aware of just how important the cleaning operation is to the smooth running of the hotel."

It's clear, then, that daytime cleaning brings numerous benefits for both client and contractor on certain types of site. That's not to say that it will work across the board. Michael Goodwin summed up: "I believe contractors and clients will try to implement day cleaning where they can because of the environmental issues involved and the cost savings to be made. But sometimes daytime cleaning is simply not practical because of noise levels, etc. And a certain degree of client snobbery does still exist about having cleaners visible during the day.”


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