How the University of Michigan Makes Sure Custodial Workers Are Seen — and Appreciated

It started with a random Google search. Now it’s a growing program that unites building occupants with the people who clean their buildings, giving them an opportunity to connect and get to know one another. And most importantly, it gives the people who work in that building an opportunity to say “thank you” to their custodians.

Three years ago, when John Lawter, Director of Custodial Grounds and Services at the University of Michigan, began looking for ways to recognize his team, his Google searches led him to Custodial Appreciation Day, which is held annually in early October. 

“I never knew something like this existed,” he said. “I knew it could be a great way to say thank you to the people on our team.”

This team was presented with U of M scarves for chilly Ann Arbor winters.

Like many custodial teams, Lawter’s team works mostly at night when students, faculty and staff are out of the office. Very rarely do the building customers have an opportunity to see the hard-working people who clean their building, let alone meet them. So Lawter and his team decided to dedicate the entire month of October to the custodial staff at U of M. 

The key difference to this program compared to other Custodial Appreciation events? He encouraged their customers, the people in the buildings on campus, to develop their own recognition events—it wasn’t just an event coordinated and attended by custodial department.

“It’s been pretty amazing to see the response to this program,” he said. “Each year, more buildings organize and find some way to recognize the cleaners in the building.”

Last year, 27 buildings on the U of M campus hosted their own events to recognize custodial workers. Lawter says that the more the word spreads about Custodial Appreciation Month, the more buildings participate. 

These events might include a pizza party, a potluck or a short ceremony where staff are given school swag, including sweatshirts or other apparel. Lawter makes it a point to attend each event, so the team recognizes how valued they are within the custodial department too. Several deans at the schools within the University have also been known to make an appearance. 

Branded apparel, like these long sleeved shirts from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, are a great way to say “thank you” to your custodial team.

“When you attend these events, it’s always wonderful to see the response from the people on our team,” he said. “There’s no doubt that the recognition from the people in the buildings where they work has a big impact on them.”

In addition to boosting morale and making cleaners feel appreciated, Lawter says that the events also help improve communication and relationships with the building occupants. 

As the program evolves, Lawter and his team is working with other groups on campus to grow awareness and resources for recognition to encourage all buildings to participate. But no cleaner goes without a party or some token of recognition in October. Lawter make sure of that.

“We’ll have a pizza party for the team when their building doesn’t host an appreciation event,” he said. “But the longer we do this, the fewer events we host internally. The entire campus community really appreciates the work of our custodial team and does a great job of showing it.” 

What Makes a School Dirty?

Should we care about dirty schools? Well, the short answer is yes, but probably not for the reasons you think. While visible dirt may keep students and staff from feeling positive about their environment (known as topophilia), a growing body of evidence has found that dirty schools may pose larger challenges— resulting in things like lower test scores and increased absenteeism. 

This is an issue in normal times, but an even greater problem coming out of a pandemic. With a considerable number of children having lost valuable learning time, schools need every edge they can get to keep students engaged and performing.  

There are almost 130,000 K-12 schools in the U.S. and little oversight over how they are cleaned. In many schools, public and private, you’ll find vacuum cleaners that belch out dust, custodial closets that showcase a host of expired and outdated products, and custodians that wear a wide variety of hats—they do everything from keeping external walkways clean to vacuuming classrooms to stewarding after school events. 

As any parent, aunt, uncle or teacher knows, kids can be dirty. Really dirty. And within our public schools alone, there are more 50.6 million students, based on federal projections for the fall of 2021. 

In the effort to provide students with a safe and clean learning environment, what other factors should educators identify for that might contribute to a dirty school? 

  1. Poor maintenance of cleaning equipment. You have to clean your cleaning equipment. Replacing vacuum filters, regularly laundering microfiber or other cleaning cloths, cleaning out mop buckets are all preventative maintenance strategies that help make for cleaner schools and longer lasting equipment. 
  2. Cross contamination between areas. Most schools have kitchens, restrooms and classrooms. When the systems aren’t in place to prevent movement of cleaning tools and equipment between areas, the same cleaning cloth might be used to clean a restroom sink, kitchen counter and/or a desk. 
  3. Underestimating cleaning frequencies. In a recent study that analyzed microbes on desks in three Connecticut schools, researchers took samples and examined how cleaning impacted surface microbial concentrations. Study authors concluded, “Current school surface cleaning protocols and cycles may be ineffective at reducing student exposure to fungal allergens and microbes of human origin.”
  4. Limited training for custodial workers. In many school custodial, training encompasses a few days (or hours) of following someone around to learn the job. Very few cleaning operations have a comprehensive training program in place that not only teaches employees HOW to clean, but WHY they clean. Training should not only provide workers with the overall understanding of why their jobs are critical and how cleaning impacts the health of people in the buildings they clean, but also protocols for how and when to perform specific cleaning tasks.
  5. The absence of cleaning systems. Cleaning isn’t about pushing dirt around, it’s about removing dirt and unwanted substances from the environment. And without the proper cleaning systems in place (e.g. moving from the top of the room to the bottom, disinfecting without cleaning), there’s a good chance custodians in your buildings are just moving dirt from one place to the next. 

The pandemic has changed the way so many look at cleaning, and this is increasingly true in our nation’s school systems. How we clean and maintain our schools has a direct impact on our students. As organizations look to utilize federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and other funding resources designated to help schools successfully reopen, it’s a great opportunity to examine the equipment, processes and training used by custodial workers.

Successfully managing a school environment is a necessary educational investment. But it’s one that pays off.

Learn more about how you can work to clean up your school in this post:  Why Dirty Schools are a Big Problem—and What We Can Do to Clean Them Up  https://managemen.com/why-dirty-schools-are-a-big-problem-and-what-we-can-do-to-clean-them-up/

Picture with green background and person standing at a podium with text reading "evangelists for clean."

Evangelists for Clean

A colleague recently shared an article from EdWeek titled, “How Much COVID-19 Cleaning in Schools is Too Much?” In the article, the author discusses how COVID-19 has led to an increase in cleaning and disinfection activity in schools (no surprise) and the subsequent impact of that “cleaning” (or disinfection, more appropriately).

Pointing to a study that showed an increase in asthma attacks with “cleaning” in homes, the author suggests that we should “avoid overdoing cleaning” in schools to limit the potential health impact on students because COVID isn’t primarily spread through surfaces. 

Ugh. As we all know, you can’t “overdo” cleaning. You can overdo disinfection, but that’s another topic we addressed early in the pandemic in this post

The thing I want to draw your attention to is that the EdWeek website draws 1.5 million visitors a month. It is a primary resource for educators across the country. And sadly, this isn’t the only journalist who gets it wrong.  

It’s been a year since our lives were flipped upside down by the pandemic, and there hasn’t been a day that’s passed when I’ve read something in the news or watched a commentator on TV get something wrong about cleaning. Many of you have likely experienced the same—it started with the images of spacesuit-clad disinfectant warriors and has continued through today with articles around hygiene theater. 

Friends, our work must begin now. As professionals in this industry, we must work to educate others about the critical differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. We must help them understand the importance of cleaning on our health. This starts in conversations with our neighbors and continues when we read or watch something on the news about cleaning. When a journalist gets it wrong, like in the article mentioned above, take a few minutes to drop them a note and let them know that cleaning and disinfection aren’t one and the same. 

We’ve talked a lot about how cleaning has taken center stage throughout the pandemic, but sadly, people still don’t understand it. By evangelizing our work, we will help clarify these misconceptions and further professionalize this industry that we’ve all grown to love. 

Your pal, 
Ben


P.S. Feel free to drop Ms. Sparks a note. I know I will. 

blue box with text reading "want to work for an os1 organization?

Want to Work for an (OS1) Team?

Why work for any custodial operation when you can work for an (OS1) team? Recently, we’ve heard stories of custodial workers moving across the country just so they can work for an (OS1) facility. Why? Because it gives them the assurance that the program values their work, has the systems in place to ensure a balanced workload and is committed to excellence.

Here are several great positions in (OS1) organizations currently available:

Michigan State University

Service Manager II

Working Hours: Monday – Friday 4:00 PM -1:00 AM

Posting open 03/10/2021 – 3/23/2021

This position will support the departmental mission by providing high performance training and staffing services for a team of over 400 administrative and craft professionals who serve over 13 million square feet of space in 110 buildings. This position will directly supervise the second/third shift office assistant. This position will coordinate, facilitate and maintain accurate records for all safety, skills, on boarding as well as any mandated training. This position will be the primary staffing contact for recruitment and processing of student and On-Call staffing. This position will engage in high performing, leading edge practices, valuing people, partners and stewardship. At IPF, we are committed to fostering an equitable, inclusive culture; engaging and hiring a diverse workforce.

Operations Supervisor I

Working Hours: Sunday-Thursday 9:30pm-6:30am

Posting open 03/10/2021 – 3/23/2021

This position coordinates and oversees the activities of the custodial staff in a group of campus buildings; trains and evaluates employees; plans staffing and time schedules; enforces departmental and University rules; resolves employee complaints and grievances; prepares forms and records to maintain working inventory; responds to emergencies, inquiries, and complaints from faculty, students, tenants, and the public; inspects and assesses problems, damage, and condition of buildings to facilitate repair and maintain safety standards. This position will engage in high performing, leading edge practices, valuing people, partners and stewardship. At IPF, we are committed to fostering an equitable, inclusive culture; engaging and hiring a diverse workforce.

To apply for these positions go to careers.msu.edu.

University of Texas at Austin

Building Attendant Leader second shift 5:00 pm to 2:00 am.

Job Description:

Schedules and coordinates the work of groups of cleaning workers using standardized practices set by the University. Advises them of special assignments or changes in work routine.

—-

Job Details:

General Notes

Hiring decision contingent upon applicant clearing a background check.

Responsibilities

  • Work in all University buildings. Schedule and coordinate the work of groups of cleaning workers using standardized procedures. Advise them of special assignments or changes in work routine.
  • Inspect and document cleanliness of university facilities and individuals’ work performance. Manage performance through observations, inspection, and communication of goals and standards. Evaluate, direct, and discipline employees.
  • Process and review time reports, inspection reports, absence documentation, supply order forms, performance records, performance evaluations, and periodic project reports.
  • Conduct training and ensure compliance with safety and operational procedures. Conduct meetings with staff. Promote and follow safety guidelines and maintain safe working conditions. Report safety problems to the Building Services Supervisor.
  • Receive and handle special requests and complaints. Keep supervisors informed. Effectively communicate with supervisors, clients, and employees using a variety of methods.
  • Direct quarterly rotation of, and training for, specific duties, including: Restroom Specialist, Light Duty Specialist, Vacuum Specialist, and Utility Specialist.
  • Attend and actively participate in training. Perform blood-borne pathogen cleanup. Responsible for equipment inventory and ensuring equipment security.
  • Responsible for security and organization of University keys, access cards, and alarm codes. Ensure all applicable exterior and interior doors are secured and alarms are set according to schedule.

Required Qualifications

Required education: high school diploma or GED. Experience following basic work instructions. Two years of experience in any one of the following fields: custodial, environmental services, hospitality, warehouse, production, or facilities services. Experience in a supervisory capacity. The ability to read and understand work orders, instructions, product labels, product directions, and other written job materials. Ability to understand and follow verbal and written instructions. Good communication skills, interpersonal skills, and customer service skills. Basic computer skills. Ability to write simple correspondence and fill out standard forms. Ability to work according to standardized processes. Stable work history. Strong attendance record. Must have a reliable means of communicating with the department outside of work by phone.

Relevant education and experience may be substituted as appropriate.

Preferred Qualifications

Preferred education: associate degree or bachelor’s degree. Experience supervising custodians in an (OS1) cleaning environment. More than one year supervisory experience. Excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, and customer service skills. Advanced writing skills. Working knowledge of safety and sanitation measures appropriate for custodial work. Basic computer skills. Successful completion of the advanced OS-1 Comprehensive Certification Program.

Salary Range

$31,536.00 ($2,628.00 monthly)

Click here to apply: https://utaustin.wd1.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/UTstaff/job/UT-MAIN-CAMPUS/Building-Attendant-Leader—Night_R_00011624

Texas Tech University

21087BR – Senior Lead Custodian (9PM-5AM) Library

21218BR – Custodian $11/hr (430PM-1AM)

21982BR – Custodian $11/hr (430PM-1AM)

21977BR – Custodian $11/hr (430PM-1AM)

21980BR – Custodian $11/hr (430PM-1AM)

22807BR – Custodian $11/hr (430PM-1AM)

22946BR – Day Custodian $11/hr (8AM-5PM)

Coming Soon:

Night Supervisor (430PM-1AM)

Please email James at james.peel@ttu.edu if you are interested in learning more about any of the positions listed!

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC is looking for 2 Housekeeping Zone Managers.  Great Pay with shift differential and Carolina Blue skies.  Come give us a try at www.unc.edu!

Zone Manager

Posting Information

Position TypePermanent Staff (SHRA)
Is this an internal only recruitment?No
Position TitleBldg & Env Services Supervisor – Advanced
Working TitleZone Manager
Position Number57398
Vacancy IDP012439
Budgeted Hiring Range$45,000 – $47,268
Pay Band Information
Salary Grade EquivalentGN06
Full-time/Part-time Permanent/Time-LimitedFull-Time Permanent
If time-limited, estimated duration of appointment
Hours per week40
Work ScheduleM-F, 4:00 PM – 12:30 AM
Department Name and NumberFS-Housekeeping Svcs-Zone 08-242008
Date First Posted03/04/2021
Closing Date03/15/2021
Position LocationChapel Hill, NC
Position Posting CategoryHousekeeping and General Services
Department DescriptionHousekeeping Services is comprised of a staff of more than 400 employees who provide cleaning service and floor care to over 40,000 campus customers in the maintenance and operation of the University’s 8 million plus sq. ft. across approximately 250 teaching, research, medical, administrative, residential, athletic and library buildings. Housekeeping Services is committed to fostering a culture of civility and respect for its diverse workforce as part of its commitment to being a leading building and environment services organization within a leading public institution.
Equal Opportunity EmployerThe University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, race, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or status as a protected veteran.
Position DescriptionThe Zone Manager is one of 20-25 supervisors who organize and manage the daily cleaning operation of 10-30 subordinates for a group of University buildings, which on average encompass a total cleaning area of 500,000 square feet, including but not limited to offices, lounges, restrooms, student housing, classrooms, laboratories, entrances, exits, and stairways. Each Zone Manager’s assigned area may require additional specific knowledge and experience. These may include expertise in housing and residential student facilities in a campus setting, including management of summer turns; research, laboratory, and medical settings, including contamination containment and disposal of hazardous waste and related health and safety regulations; academic and administrative settings, including classrooms, offices, and historically-valuable facilities and holdings; and special event facilities, including athletic, academic and campus-related community events.
Minimum Education and Experience RequirementsHigh school diploma or equivalency and one year of experience in the area of assignment; or equivalent combination of training and experience. Some positions may require certification or eligibility for certification.
Essential Skills, Knowledge and AbilitiesRequires demonstrated ability to communicate clearly and effectively both orally and in writing concerning work assignments, work performance and adherence to workplace policies, as well as perform quality inspections of employee work. Must be proficient in scheduling and planning. The successful candidate will have the ability to supervise a large, diverse work unit in a fast pace environment. Must have working knowledge of proper cleaning techniques and safety requirements in order to train Housekeepers in these areas. Must have ability to read and interpret Safety Data Sheets. The applicant must be able to organize work assignments and work schedules, manage the supply inventory for the group, and operate within available supply limits. The Zone Manager is the primary contact with the group’s University customers (faculty, staff, students, and visitors) and must be committed to outstanding customer service and be able to communicate effectively and positively with these clients orally and in writing. Must be knowledgeable of federal personnel policies and management practices appropriate to a high-functioning workforce. Functional ability in Microsoft Office or similar suite of programs (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, email, calendaring). This position is designated as a mandatory employee and is required to report to work in the the event of a public health emergency. This position is designated as an adverse weather emergency position and the employee is subject to being placed on-call and is required to report to work in the event of an adverse weather emergency. Must be able to serve on-call duty on a rotating basis for weekends and holidays several times a year. Must have ability to work a flexible work schedule based on department needs, which sometimes requires work on the weekend; for example, training, inclement weather, exam week, graduation, student move-in/move-out, and flexing work schedule as requested by customer’s cleaning needs in buildings such as residence halls, science/medical; in addition, flexing work schedule as requested by customer’s cleaning needs for sporting events, labs and exam schedule, which sometimes requires work in the morning, afternoon, evening and weekend.
Preferred QualificationsThe preferred candidate will have five years supervisory experience, to include at least one year of supervisory experience in institutional housekeeping, preferably in an academic or medical/research environment. Experience applying Federal and State OSHA standards and personnel policies preferred, as well as experience in appropriately applying North Carolina employment policies in managing State workers. Experience in collegiate residential housing housekeeping, including experience in scheduling and completing residential rooms and apartment turnover for summer camps and graduation in a fast pace environment is preferred for positions in the housing area. The preferred candidate will also have knowledge and skills in team cleaning processes. Preferred candidate will have experience in cleaning research, laboratory, and medical settings, including contamination containment and disposal of hazardous waste and related health and safety regulations; Experience in academic and administrative settings, including classrooms, offices, and historically-valuable facilities and holdings; Experience in special event settings, including athletic, academic and large-crowd community events.
Required Licenses/CertificationsMust possess a valid NC Driver’s license or the ability to obtain one.
Special Physical and Mental RequirementsWork is routine and repetitive in nature and may require strenuous physical exertion. Applicants must be able to lift/move objects weighing up to 50 lbs., and climb stairs. Employees are required to adhere to safety requirements by wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment.
Position/Schedule RequirementsEvening work, Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens, Exposure to Hazardous Materials, Night work occasionally, Non-Healthcare TB exposure, On-call occasionally, Overtime occasionally, Rotating shifts occasionally, Valid NC Driver’s License, Weekend work occasionally
Position Attributes
Stimulus/ARRA FundedNo




Applicant Documents

Required Documents

  1. Curriculum Vitae / Resume
  2. List of References

Optional Documents

  1. Cover Letter

Posting Supplemental Questions

Required fields are indicated with an asterisk (*).

  1. * Please select the response below that best describes your experience/education for the Building Environmental Services Supervisor position.
    • High school diploma/GED, Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate and at least one year of experience in related field.
    • Combination of post high school education and/or experience in related field to equal at least 1 year
    • Did not complete high school but have a combination of high school education and related experience to equal 5 years (ex. 3 years of high school and 2 years experience)
    • None of the above
  2. * Mandatory employees are employees whose presence is required to ensure that essential University operations continue without interruption during adverse weather or emergency events, including a public health emergency. Mandatory and Communicable Disease Mandatory Employees are expected to report to work or remain on the job, and if deemed necessary by their supervisor, to work a differing schedule or shift than normally assigned. Do you have the ability to serve as a mandatory or communicable disease mandatory employee and report to work in support of essential (mandatory) University operations, even under conditions that may require the University to close?
  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. * Please describe your supervisory experience.

(Open Ended Question)

  1. * Do you currently have a valid North Carolina Driver’s License or the ability to obtain a valid North Carolina Driver’s License by your potential start date?
  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. * How many years of Institutional cleaning (university or medical setting) do you have?
  1. 0-5 months
  2. 6-12 months
  3. 1-2 years
  4. 3+ years
  5. Please describe any team cleaning housekeeping experience you have.

(Open Ended Question)

Mt San Antonio College is currently recruiting for Lead Custodian, and Custodian I. Applications are still being accepted for both positions despite the initial screening date posted. Both positions can be located via the link below or via indeed.com.

https://hrjobs.mtsac.edu/postings/7975

picture of a mop with the text is there a right way to clean?

Is There a Right Way to Clean?

In 1971, Coke produced the “Hilltop” television commercial. Even if you weren’t alive then, you have likely heard the jingle sung by a group of teenagers singing looking like Julie Andrews in the mountains during Sound of Music. 

“I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.”

With troops still in Vietnam, the message was of inspiration and hope, intended to unite people everywhere… with a Coke. 

A similar environment exists right now as we start to emerge from the pandemic. Things have been divisive, but one thing that unites us all is that in some form, pretty much everyone cleans. In fact, we’ve cleaned more in the past 12 months than we ever have. And it’s anticipated that this will continue for the foreseeable future. 

But are you cleaning the right way? Is there a “right way” to clean? You just spray and wipe, right? Run the vacuum. If it looks clean, it must be clean, right?

Unless you’re in the cleaning industry, there’s a good chance you don’t know:

  1. You should always clean from top to bottom.
  2. Most disinfectants require the first step of cleaning and an established dwell time in order to work effectively.
  3. You should maintain different cleaning tools for different areas of your home or building.

This might not seem like a big deal, but when you have a bunch of people cleaning and not using cleaning products improperly, we run into issues with indoor air quality, chemical accidents, cross contamination, and more.  

“I’d like to teach the world to clean, in perfect harmony…”

Picture this scenario…

Short on staff, a housekeeping manager asks Jim, who just arrived for his first day on the job, to start cleaning rooms. She shows Jim the supply cart and gives him a list of tasks he needs to complete in each room.  

Jim enters the first room and removes the sheets from the bed. Next, he vacuums the floors and wipes down surfaces throughout the room—the nightstands, desktops, switches and door handles. Spotting a cobweb near the ceiling, he removes it with an extension wand, also dusting the top of the armoire. 

Jim walks into the restroom next and sprays the faucet, toilet and shower with disinfectant spray, immediately wiping them all down with the same cloth used in the main room. After cleaning the toilet, he mops the floors and leaves, repeating the process in the next room.

What’s wrong with this scene?

You’ve got to give Jim some credit. He followed the instructions he was given, but in this scenario, Jim isn’t cleaning. He’s pushing dirt around, and with it, he’s likely moving dirt, bacteria and likely viruses around too. 

As we mentioned earlier, this can cause a host of issues—within a home, a hotel, a hospital—any indoor environment of any size.

Yes, there is a right way to clean. And the better the protocols and systems you have in place—and the training that supports those protocols and systems—the cleaner and healthier your indoor spaces will be.

A moment to pause and reflect…

For most of this, this past year has felt a lot like we’ve been treading water in the middle of a huge lake. But finally, we can see a boat coming toward us to offer a break. As we get a moment to pause, it’s important to reflect on what went right during the pandemic. What can we improve?

COVID-19 has forced us to acknowledge the importance of cleaning in our indoor environments. It’s a pathogen that can be spread through hard surfaces, and it isn’t the last pathogen that will spread this way. In fact, there’s a good chance that we’ll face another pathogen that has even greater transmissibility via fomites in the not-so-distant future. 

Look around your house, your children’s schools, the hotels and stores you visit. Are they being cleaned properly, or are people just pushing dirt around? Have workers received training and do they understand that you should work from top to bottom when cleaning a room? Do they understand that you can’t just spray a disinfectant and wipe it with the same cloth you’ve used to clean the rest of the building?

There’s a science to cleaning, and it’s important we follow that science to keep our indoor environments safe and healthy for everyone. 

“I’d like to teach the world to clean, in perfect harmony.”

The Power of the (OS1) Community


During a “normal” year, my schedule would start to fill around February. I’d plan trips to many of your campuses and facilities, excited to conduct audits, catch up with you and your teams, talk about what’s new at the office and in the industry.

But… we’re still not at normal yet. While I’m starting to plan travel for this summer, it’s all tentative. Sure, the vaccine is on the way and there’s a good chance that we’ll regain *some* form of normalcy in the next six months, we have no idea exactly what that will look like. Further blurring that picture is the fact that the virus continues to mutate and evolve. No one can say for certain how will that impact immunizations and transmission? 

But that’s not stopping us. We’re embracing the uncertainty and focusing on what is certain: YOU. The (OS1) community is the foundation of what makes this cleaning system so effective. So, from the newly reconstituted Simon Institute to the Cleaning Industry Trainer’s Guild, you are all working so hard to organize communication and empower (OS1) users everywhere.

You won’t find another community like ours. We share. We network. We build relationships and trust. And most importantly, we’re dedicated to excellence in everything we do. 

Helen Keller once said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” 

As we’ve said all along, the pandemic has thrust cleaning and public health into the spotlight. People everywhere want better cleaning programs that effectively remove dirt from buildings and protect their health. We have a powerful message, and it’s time for our community to work together to share it. 

Your pal, 
Ben

Want to learn more about (OS1) and our community of users known as the Simon Institute? Drop me a line at ben at managemen.com—I’d love to tell you more about it.


P.S. Follow me on Twitter at @BenWalkerClean

If We Want Cleaner Buildings, We Need to Start Respecting Cleaning Workers

As of Jan. 30, it’s been exactly one year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency. At that point, we didn’t know much about the virus. No one had any idea how drastically their lives would change less than two months later.

From the start, the CDC has maintained that coronavirus can spread by respiratory droplets which can be inhaled, deposited on surfaces and objects and transferred by touch, or through airborne particles or aerosol transmission. While research has shown that transmission through hard surfaces isn’t as likely as previously thought, the potential for contamination has pushed many cleaning workers to the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.

On March 18, a Bloomberg article asked “What about the Workers Cleaning Up Coronavirus?” Journalists shared Lilliana’s story, a day porter for a BSC who who was concerned about the lack of PPE and potential exposure to the virus. 

A BBC article asked, “Coronavirus: Are hospital cleaners forgotten heroes in this crisis?”

Journalist Marianna Brady writes, “Cleanliness and hygiene has never seemed of greater concern than it is now. So should the people making sure hospitals are free of germs be getting more of a voice?”

Yet as many worked in potentially risky situations to keep buildings, others lost their jobs. From housekeepers in hotels, resorts and schools to cleaners like Lilliana who cleaned commercial office buildings, when people stayed home, many cleaners lost. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Hawaii, where a report by the American Hotel and Lodging Association revealed that Hawaiian hotels would remain below 50 percent occupancy through 2021. 

Cleaner Buildings Starts with Respect

We’ve talked about showing appreciation for cleaning workers and elevating their visibility and profile throughout business operations, long before the pandemic hit. It’s the primary focus of our business—we believe all custodial workers should be treated like first-class citizens. This means providing training, living wages, opportunities for advancement, and most of all, decency and respect, for the people who clean our buildings. 

Sadly, despite all that custodians have given during the pandemic, we haven’t seen where that’s equated into more opportunity and respect. 

In a recent editorial for The Colorado Sun, Fátima Alhexia Boylen, founder and president of Boylen Cleaning Services in Denver, described a situation at a local grocery where employees were taunting a man who swept the grocery aisles. 

“Disrespect and invisibility is not something anyone should have to get used to. But sadly, for cleaning workers, it’s everywhere,” she writes.

Boylen’s experiences in the poor treatment of cleaning workers were reaffirmed by a recent study of environmental service workers (ESWs) in hospitals published in the American Journal of Infection Control. Lack of training and other barriers, including “low status” and lack of communication were listed as primary reasons why workers felt they provided little value to the organizations where they worked.

Study authors note that this lack of structure and poor treatment of ESWs can lead to the risk of infection. 

“To sustain improvements in disinfection practices, education/training sessions need to be continuous,” the study states. “The long-term commitment of an organization is also essential for continuous improvement in disinfection outcomes. While knowledge transfer is critical for behavior change, education/training also needs to focus on the skills and perceptions of ESWs.”

Jane Walker, a cleaner at a major pharmaceutical company, recently spoke to a journalist about the low morale of the cleaning team since the start of the pandemic. 

“The lowest of the low. I’ve never seen team morale like this. People call out [sick] all the time and their excuses are for the team, not management. But the whole team just doesn’t wanna be there. It’s funny man, we all say, “You don’t have to be here.”

A Better Clean for Us All

The pandemic will impact several facets of office life, with a demand for cleaner environments high on improvements. 

Mike DiBlasi, a managing director for CBRE in Tampa told a local reporter, “From better ventilation to greener cleaning procedures, everything’s on the table. A lot of the bigger landlords have already started implementing ways to provide a more sanitary and cleaner environment.”

But if we want cleaner workplaces, we need to start doing something about the way cleaning workers are treated. This starts with all of us.  

As research Zach Mercurio so eloquently shares in his editorial, “It’s Time to Stop Dehumanizing Frontline Workers”:

People in stigmatized jobs are part of your routine, their invisibility a byproduct of both their indispensability and good work doing the things most of us have the luxury of forgetting about, the work that enables us to live.

They comprise the workforces of the companies we love. They ensure safe roads to drive on, ship our Amazon packages, clean our doctor’s offices, ready our hotel rooms, decontaminate our drinking water, and dispose of our trash.

As individuals, organizations, and society, we should thank them, but above all, we should respect and revere them and their important occupations.

Join us for “DIY Workloading,” our next online mini-course class, next week!

“How long should it take a cleaning worker to vacuum the floors in a 1,000 square foot room?”

“How many custodians do I need to clean a new building?”

“How can I balance the workload to make sure that everyone has an equitable set of tasks?”

These are just a few of the common questions custodial managers have as they configure (or reconfigure) workloads within their buildings.

If you’re looking for tools that will help you develop meaningful data to workload to teams, you won’t want to miss our next Online Mini-Course, “Introduction to DIY Workloading” on Jan. 28, 2021, at 11 a.m. MST. 

This course is for supervisors and managers in cleaning organizations and is designed to provide a simplified, basic understanding of Workloading as it relates to Team Cleaning. After completing the course, you will be able to determine how long it will take you to perform a cleaning activity, including steps, variables and task times. If you follow a team cleaning format or are exploring how a team cleaning system might benefit your operation, this is the course for you. 

During this hour-long training course, you will learn:

  • How cleaning tasks and times can form the foundation of your custodial program.
  • How times and frequencies are developed.
  • How Team Cleaning standardizes the workload.

The tuition for this mini-course is $45.00. This includes 45 minutes of instruction by Ben Walker and 15 minutes Q&A period. All participants will receive an E-book version of 99 Workloading Times a DIY Workloading Times Guide by John Walker ($21.95 value). 

About the Speaker: 

Ben Walker is the Chief Strategy Officer for ManageMen. In addition to his consulting work, Walker compiled the data for 612 Cleaning Times and Tasks. Ben Walker performs progress and baseline audits for large cleaning operations. He has experience auditing the cleaning program for hundreds of buildings nationwide.

He specializes in the (OS1) cleaning process, safety, green, source reduction, public relations, training, and cleaning education. ManageMen’s clients include Sandia National Labs, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University, Kansas State University, Valparaiso University, Provo City School District, Michigan State University, The University of Michigan, Los Angeles Habilitation House (LAHH), US Postal Service, and GMI Building Services.

Is it really “Hygiene Theater”?

A few months ago, someone shared an article in The Atlantic magazine that discussed the extensive amount of cleaning and disinfection happening around the world, calling it “hygiene theater.” The author’s basic gripe is that too much of the focus of our COVID-19  prevention is on disinfection when it should be on aerosols or droplets that linger in the air.

“COVID-19 has reawakened America’s spirit of misdirected anxiety, inspiring businesses and families to obsess over risk-reduction rituals that make us feel safer but don’t actually do much to reduce risk—even as more dangerous activities are still allowed. This is hygiene theater.” 

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Over the past eight months, cleaning organizations have been unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight. Some, like (OS1) organizations, were prepared for attention and realities brought to us by the pandemic. Others were completely caught off guard. And others looked to capitalize on the opportunity. Some of it, as we discussed, was “hygiene theater.” Much of it was not. 

When you use a systematic approach to cleaning, how you clean doesn’t change whether you’re in a pandemic or not.

This was followed up with an article in Wired magazine, titled “It’s Time to Talk About Covid-19 and Surfaces Again.” Similar to The Atlantic article, this author expresses concern over the fixation over surface disinfection and fomites, saying that such efforts may give people a false sense of comfort when they really should be focusing on issues such as ventilation.

Current science tells us that there’s still SOME risk to the transmission of COVID-19 through hard surfaces. But disinfection is the only element of a comprehensive cleaning program and should be only one layer to your COVID-19 prevention strategy. 

Dusting, vacuuming, trash removal—these are all critical functions that cleaning departments perform that can further aid in controlling the spread of coronavirus. We don’t yet know how coronavirus might attach to a dust particulate that someone can then inhale and become infected. We don’t have science that speaks to dusting or vacuuming frequencies.

As Dr. Michael Berry once said, cleaning is the removal of unwanted matter. We need to continue cleaning in a comprehensive, systematic way to ensure the removal of all unwanted matter—including viruses such as the coronavirus and flu. 

That’s not theater, that’s cleaning.

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Our Top 10 Most Read Blog Posts of 2020

2020: A year that will go down in the history books. That couldn’t be more true for custodial professionals who suddenly were thrust onto the public stage as a pandemic took hold throughout the world. The same goes for most of us in the cleaning industry—while manufacturers battled unprecedented demands on the supply chain, others scrambled to prepare training and new certifications. Us? Well, we were prepared. Our users were prepared.

Our founder, John Walker, had anticipated the potential for something like this to happen, going so far as to prepare a pandemic playbook. A lot of people called us, wanting to know how to better create systems around their cleaning programs. A lot of people combed our website looking for information.

If this list is any indication, we can rest assured that people will appreciate the value of cleaning—and the people who do the work of cleaning—long after 2020 is over.

10. Cleaning Classrooms Safely – Teacher’s Checklist 

How can teachers make sure surfaces in their classrooms stay clean during  the pandemic?  We put together a checklist to help.

See the post and infographic here: https://managemen.com/cleaning-classrooms-safely-a-teachers-checklist-with-infographic/

9. Top 10 Frustrations of Custodial Professionals

The people who make it in this industry are problem solvers. Every day, they put together a new puzzle — figuring out which piece needs to go where to complete the puzzle of a clean building. It’s not an easy job, so to help others know they aren’t alone, we developed a list of the most commonly overheard challenges of custodial professionals.

Read the full list of complaints here: https://managemen.com/the-top-10-frustrations-of-custodial-professionals/

8. Coronavirus Communication: How to Tell Building Occupants We’ve Got This

To assist (OS1) teams with communicating their plans to key stakeholders and building occupants within their facilities, we developed a sample communication to help them understand that all of the necessary systems were in place for pandemic preparedness.

Read that post here: https://managemen.com/coronavirus-communication-how-to-tell-building-occupants-weve-got-this/

7. Why Cleaning Matters

It doesn’t matter where or what you clean, this is not an easy business. We’ve pulled together a list of four extremely important reasons why cleaning matters, along with a printable to remind yourself and your team just how important your work is.

Read that post here: https://managemen.com/why-cleaning-matters/

6. Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to a Cleaning Operation

We can benefit from looking at a cleaning operation from the framework of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. There are certain fundamental needs within a custodial operation that must be met in order for the program to be effective and meet certain higher-level goals. Too often, our conversation about cleaning is just through a specific lens rather than looking at the operation as a whole.

Read more about how you can apply the Hierarchy of Needs to your cleaning operation here: https://managemen.com/applying-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-to-a-cleaning-operation/

5. How the White Wings Cleaned Up NYC

Lacking any formalized sanitation and refuse system, New York City was drowning in garbage and filth in the late 1800s. Its current mayor, William Strong, called for Colonel George Waring to return and assume the position of sanitation engineer. The job of tackling the city’s overwhelming sanitation issues would be no easy feat, and Waring approached the job as he would approach combat on the battlefield. 

Read more about how George Waring and the White Wings cleaned up New York City here: https://managemen.com/from-the-history-books-how-the-white-wings-cleaned-up-new-york-city/

4. The Case Against Spraying Disinfectant Everywhere: Raise your hand if you’ve seen a picture of a heavily suited worker spraying what’s assumed to be disinfectant on sidewalks and streets in the past four months.

For cleaning professionals, this image might be somewhat alarming. Mostly because it demonstrates what we already know—that the majority of people throughout the world have a limited understanding of the science of cleaning. 

Read more: https://managemen.com/the-case-against-spraying-disinfectant-everywhere/

3. Please Take a Minute to Thank a Cleaner: While we rest, cleaners are lifting heavy trash bags and mop buckets, pushing vacuums and pulling overstocked carts. But this effort doesn’t come without a price. Due to the labor-intensive nature of their work, janitors have one of the highest rates of job-related injuries. Injuries from slips and falls or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that cause extreme pain in areas such as their backs (46 percent of all custodial-related MSDs), shoulders (15 percent of custodial-related MSDs), necks and legs. 

Read more: https://managemen.com/please-take-a-minute-to-thank-a-cleaner/

2. Think Janitor is a Dirty Word? No, and Here’s Why: If you trace the etymology of the word “janitor,” it doesn’t take much research to find that the term is tied to deity. “Janus” from which “janitor” is derived, was a Roman god of beginnings and ends; metaphorically he represented doors and passages. In images, he’s often depicted with two faces that allow him to look to the future and the past. 

Read why Janitor isn’t a dirty word here: https://managemen.com/think-janitor-is-a-dirty-word-no-and-heres-why/

1. Why Dirty Schools are a Big Problemand What We Can Do to Clean Them Up

The top post of this year looks at some of the most common issues that stem from dirty schools—things like poor performance and reduced morale. But it’s not just the issues—we dig into strategies that could help fix the problem of dirty schools. Spoiler alert: It starts with management.

Read the post here: https://managemen.com/why-dirty-schools-are-a-big-problem-and-what-we-can-do-to-clean-them-up/

Cleaning Conversations: Josh Sego, Michigan State University

When the pandemic started, everyone started cleaning but it became increasingly difficult to recruit and train cleaning workers. Josh Sego is an (OS1) Trainer and the 2019 (OS1) Trainer of the Year. He shares some of the updates he’s making to their training program along with advice for other custodial managers who are trying to evolve their training platforms in this new environment.