A rollercoaster of a year

21st of June 2021
A rollercoaster of a year

Dominic Ponniah is co-founder and ceo of Cleanology, a Top 50 UK cleaning company with offices in London and Manchester. Like the majority of cleaning businesses, the past year has been extremely challenging. Here, he speaks about the effect of the pandemic on the company.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for cleaning companies everywhere. For Cleanology, with clients in London and Manchester, it’s been no different. As a business serving clients in sectors hardest hit by lockdown, it’s been badly affected.

“In March 2020 we were winning new contracts and things were going really well,” Dominic Ponniah explains. “Then Covid struck.

“Almost overnight, client after client emailed us to say they were closing their buildings. In that first most chaotic period we were literally dealing with 400 clients - all closing offices, reducing cleaning hours.”

The majority of Cleanology’s clients had closed by the end of March last year. “Eighty-five per cent of them had absolutely no activity,” he continues. “We were left with a small head office team of staff. Unfortunately some people did lose their jobs.”

As the UK now emerges from its third lockdown, some activity is resuming. “Even those offices which are open have low occupancy though so our service is much reduced,” Ponniah says. “And we have never had such a bespoke service - every client wants something different. Some have closed their offices and moved out, others will make decisions later in the year."

Many of Cleanology’s staff, therefore, have spent most of the past year at home on furlough. Naturally this has impacted on their mental health so there’s been a good selection of online training available to keep them engaged. “Many of them, however, have gone back to their native countries,” says Ponniah, “and they won’t be coming back so we have lost a lot of good people.”

Now, there’s some uncertainty ahead. “Nobody knows how things will pan out from here. There will definitely be changes in how office space is used and it’s difficult to say if our industry will bounce back - it will be very slow. On the positive side, however, cleaning is much more important to our clients now. They want to make their staff feel safe and confident to come back to work, however I can’t see the five-day week at the office returning for many firms.

“There will be a smaller footprint for us but what we lose in area, we will make up in quality of service. Visible cleaning will bring people back and hopefully that will impact positively on daytime work - as cleaning becomes a more prominent part of the client operation.”

Significant challenges lie ahead for the sector, Ponniah believes. “But there are some green shoots,” he says. “Buildings are reopening, we have won some new contracts. We’re feeling more optimistic and we can see the finishing line now.”



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