High-fives, hearts and cake

11th of April 2024 Article by Lotte Printz
High-fives, hearts and cake

The first Cleaners’ Day in Denmark went well with the sector, says Lotte Printz. Media still reluctant.

Imagine entering an empty office every night when everyone else has gone home, working on your own without the support of colleagues and without any recognition for your job whatsoever…

That’s what everyday life for many cleaning operatives looks like and that’s how one of numerous posts on social media started on December 4th 2023 when the first ever Cleaners’ Day went ahead in Denmark. Social media was overrun with support and expressions of approval from cleaning companies and other workplaces that employ cleaning operatives. The mayor of Taarnby encouraged municipality staff to give cleaners a pat on the back on passing them in the corridors.

Around the country, cleaners were also met with high-fives, chocolate hearts and cake. And some employers had organised luncheons, bought flowers for their cleaners and produced badges to make this special day more visible.

Cleaners surfaced, so to speak, and their visibility increased - at least for one day. But the whole point of this celebration is, of course, to draw more attention to the valuable work they do - generally. In workplaces and society at large.

“Their work and efforts are absolutely essential to society. The Covid era showed us that cleaning needs prioritising (…) and thankfully it seems as if cleaning is made a ‘visible profession’ wherever possible. To ‘see’ your cleaner and to have a dialogue help strengthen the industry image,” chairperson of DRF (the Danish Association for the Technology of Cleaning and Maintenance), Jytte Hansen, said in the cleaning industry magazine ‘Rent i Danmark’ leading up to the event.

The two started the initiative. It was, however, a successful Nordic cleaning industry network that set the whole thing going, and the Danish ‘take’ on Cleaners’ Day was strongly inspired by the other Nordic countries where a similar event has taken place for years.

Now, it seems, it’ll be a recurrent event in Denmark, too. Speaking to ECJ after the event, Jytte Hansen stresses:“One thing is to draw attention to this sector and enhance the industry image. Another is to improve conditions under which cleaners work. Their quality of life and wellbeing. Contributing to their wellbeing will eventually help reduce sick leave.”

“Another important factor is that ‘visible cleaning’ will benefit integration of the many people of foreign origin who work in this industry and who may struggle with the Danish language,” she adds.

While generally considered a success within the industry, Cleaners’ Day did not really hit the headlines on a broader scale. The cleaning industry is rarely covered in mainstream media – unless there’s a scandal involved as Jytte Hansen puts it. Or as it happened at the beginning of 2024 when parents complained about ‘visible cleaning’ in an Odense nursery as it felt insecure for their children to see ‘strangers’ and vacuum cleaners moving around in their vicinity!

However, hopes are still high in the industry that ‘visible cleaning’ will survive the criticism and that mainstream media will eventually spot the positive sides of the business.

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