Daytime cleaning - impact on office staff

8th of October 2015
Daytime cleaning - impact on office staff
Daytime cleaning - impact on office staff

Daytime cleaning is becoming increasingly prevalent in Europe. But how do office employees feel about sharing their workspace with cleaning teams? Charlotte Branwhite from Tork manufacturer SCA shares the results of a study into the changing relationship between office staff and cleaners.

Over recent years there has been a general shift towards daytime cleaning in Europe’s offices and institutions. Cleaning teams - previously a shadowy force that tended to carry out their duties largely unseen – have emerged into the light and are now increasingly cleaning around the daytime workforce.

The immediate advantage of this change has been a significant reduction in energy costs. Where cleaning staff are on-site during normal business hours there is no longer any need to light or heat buildings overnight which means that utility costs can be dramatically reduced.

But there are inevitably challenges too, when two independent forces are asked to merge and adjust to the fact that they no longer have the workplace to themselves. The need for cleaners to carry out their work unobtrusively and speedily has become more important than ever, for example. For their part, some office workers may find the presence of cleaners to be a distraction.

But those in favour of daytime cleaning claim there are several positives to be gained from the new working relationship. It is suggested, for example, that office workers’ perception of the cleaning service is likely to improve when they can actually see the work being carried out and the person behind the cleaning trolley. Rather than complaining about an unseen cleaner who has failed to carry out this or that task, office workers are now simply able to ask the cleaner concerned to perform the job in question.

It is also possible that on-site cleaning teams may help to improve the housekeeping habits of office workers. Messy individuals who leave their lunch containers on their desks or screw up discarded documents and throw them in the vague direction of the bin may be less inclined to continue with their bad habits and risk personal embarrassment if they know the person responsible for cleaning up their messes.

But do office staff feel comfortable around the cleaners at work now that daytime cleaning has become the norm? Or do they feel uneasy about the perceived intrusion of a workforce they would prefer to have operating in the background?

Earlier this year we at SCA commissioned a study into the effects that daytime cleaning is having on office workers. The aim was to find out how comfortable office staff feel about the increasingly noticeable presence of cleaning teams in their workspace. We particularly wanted to ascertain their reactions to being “cleaned around” and whether they perceived the cleaners at work as valued co-workers or as unwelcome intruders.

Cleaners greeted at work

With the aid of survey company Questback we polled a total of 3,056 office workers between January and February this year. Responses were gathered through online web panels, and offices of various sizes were represented. Respondents from the UK, Sweden, France, Germany, Russia and the Netherlands were included in the study.

While the majority of people questioned said they generally encountered a cleaner at work on a weekly basis, how they interacted with that cleaner seemed to vary greatly from one respondent to another.

Just over 77 per cent of respondents said they routinely greeted cleaners at work compared with a tiny minority of 0.6 per cent who said they never did so. However 41 per cent admitted to never actually having had a conversation with any of the cleaners they encountered. And only half of the respondents claimed to know any of the cleaners’ names.

Office staff were evenly split over the type of relationship they wanted with their cleaning teams. A total of 49 per cent said they would like cleaners to interact with them as co-workers. The remainder wanted less interaction, with only 14 per cent preferring cleaners to remain firmly in the background.

Office workers were also generally more comfortable when some daytime cleaning tasks were carried out than others. Unsurprisingly nearly 89 per cent of respondents said they were happy for toilet tissue and soap supplies to be replenished in the washrooms during the working day, for example.

However, six out of ten people objected to carpets being vacuumed around them while 57 per cent felt uncomfortable when their desk area or cubicle was cleaned while they were working.

Uneasy in the washroom

While most respondents said they generally felt comfortable when meeting a cleaner on the office floor or in the corridor, a quarter of those questioned felt uneasy when encountering a cleaner in the washroom. However, the survey revealed that 91 per cent felt more comfortable when the cleaner concerned actually greeted them.

One key positive of our survey was the fact that office workers seem to value the work of cleaners. More than 88 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the service supplied by their cleaners and a strong majority of 84 per cent said workplace cleaning had a direct impact on the quality of their working life. Another 71 per cent felt that cleaning had a positive effect on their company’s profitability.

When asked about the most important qualities of a good cleaner, a third said speed and efficiency were key while 30 per cent cited care and meticulousness as the most important characteristics. Fifteen per cent of respondents said they valued a pleasant disposition while nine per cent claimed eagerness to help was a crucial quality.

However according to our study the concept of what constitutes “daytime cleaning” varies from one office to the next. Only a quarter of respondents said cleaning teams were employed at their office during normal business hours whereas just over 27 per cent said early-morning teams were employed.

Evening cleaning took place in nearly 33 per cent of the offices whereas night-time cleaning was carried out in just five per cent. But despite these variations, more than eight out of 10 people questioned said they generally encountered a cleaner at their workplace at least once a week.

When asked when they preferred cleaning to be carried out, just over 30 per cent had no preference. However only 7.7 per cent said they preferred it to be carried out within normal office hours whereas 25 per cent preferred evening cleaning and early morning cleaning was preferred by nearly 30 per cent. Only 6.3 per cent wanted cleaning to be carried out at night.

Daytime cleaning is still in its infancy and the amount of work completed during office hours varies from country to country. A study carried out by the European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI) in 2012, for example, showed that 80 per cent of cleaning was then being carried out during the daytime In Norway. This compared to 75 per cent in Finland and 70 per cent In Sweden. However in other countries daytime cleaning was slower to catch on with
only 11 per cent of cleaning being carried out during normal office hours in the UK, for instance.

But as it becomes more prevalent, there is every hope that daytime cleaning will bring further advantages. For example it could lead to better lines of communication between cleaners and office staff and enable them to develop direct working relationships.


As the trend continues, office workers will potentially develop more respect for cleaning staff and be able to address any performance issues on the spot rather than having to communicate through ineffective or convoluted channels.

When it comes to the training of cleaning teams too, staff development is easier to organise during daytime hours. And cleaners who work during the day will no longer need to worry about the security and transport issues associated with working at night along with the physiological and emotional stresses of shift work.

All about the people

Unlike many other industries that are becoming increasingly automated, cleaning is very much all about the people. Cleaners who are happy, healthy, motivated, well-trained and respected members of society are more likely to be efficient and productive than those who are tired, stressed and undervalued. They are also likely to interact with office staff in a more friendly and co-operative way.

It may take some time before all those concerned become accustomed to the move towards daytime cleaning. But in the meantime we feel that the intelligence gained from our survey will help to clarify the types of concerns held by office workers. And this will help facilities services managers to understand all the issues and enable them to streamline the process of switching their cleaning regimes over from night-time to daylight hours.


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