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Perception of Cleaning Workers

Houston, We Have an Image Problem

Having spent most of our professional careers working with custodians, we have seen the symptoms for years. Disrespect, feelings of invisibility, low morale—cleaning workers hold one of the most critical positions in maintaining public health and safety, but because they’re paid and treated like dispensable workers, most don’t understand the value of their work.

Many of these feelings were magnified by the pandemic, and now with the current labor market and worker shortages everywhere, cleaning departments everywhere are having a hard time filling vacant positions.

In many ways, we could see it coming. Low wages, high risk for injury, long hours, little recognition—add the factor of playing Russian roulette with a case of COVID and many people tapped out. 

While many industries are feeling the pinch, hospitality is taking a direct hit—particularly because many cleaning workers were laid off at the start of the pandemic. “Where are the housekeepers?” asks one USA Today headline. Due to labor shortages and apparent changes in consumer preferences, daily housekeeping will now be offered at many non-luxury hotels as an add-on service. 

Citing the labor issues, Mehmet Erdem, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ college of hospitality says:

“There’s a huge shortage. … We are seeing people say that this is a transient job, it’s not a career path, I’m opting in for something else. I think it will be very normal to (not have) daily housekeeping, but you have to opt-in, you have to request it, or you ask for extra linen or towels.”

Meanwhile, in Singapore…

Last June, we came across a fascinating article about how industry leaders in Singapore are launching an effort to attract younger cleaning workers to the industry. As many younger workers opted for gig jobs, such as those offered through ride-share and food delivery services, cleaning departments suffered from staffing shortages. 

“There’s a huge shortage. … We are seeing people say that this is a transient job, it’s not a career path, I’m opting in for something else. I think it will be very normal to (not have) daily housekeeping, but you have to opt-in, you have to request it, or you ask for extra linen or towels.”

Mehmet Erdem, Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Hospitality

When asked if he would ever consider a career in the cleaning industry, a 23-year-old nursing student told the reporter, “The stereotype is that if you’re a cleaner, you have no future.”

In addition to raising wages, Environmental Management Association of Singapore (EMAS) President Tony Chooi says that changing the perception of cleaning work while mapping out career paths for cleaning workers must also be a focus: 

A list of professional skills you can acquire in the professional cleaning industry.

“There are two sides to most jobs and while cleaning is not the most glamorous of industries, its nature and scope has changed through the years with exciting developments in, for example, robotics and technology,” he said.

A “Sunrise Industry”

While automation may solve some of the cleaning industry’s labor woes, the increased demand for cleaning services will only continue to grow. That’s why Chooi refers to it as a “sunrise industry”—opportunities are on the horizon if you can help workers understand that cleaning is more than a “transient job” and offer them a solid career path for advancement.

Whatever your age, background or experience level, people who stick with custodial work and do a good job can gain several skillsets that can be applied across any professional environment. Sure, while entry-level cleaning workers will likely be responsible for handling cleaning duties, supervisory positions may require knowledge of things like budgeting, purchasing, vendor negotiations and more. 

The jobs aren’t solely limited to custodial work either. For in-house cleaning workers (people who are hired by a private company to handle cleaning duties, such as a housekeeper employed by Hilton) who like knowing that they play an important role in protecting the public health but enjoy sales and negotiating, they might consider working for a distributor who sells cleaning products. Many of these businesses also hire trainers to teach cleaning workers how to properly use their products. 

At ManageMen, we often find some of our best consultants are people who have been responsible for a custodial operation. Now they help us go out into the field and work with other custodial departments to help them follow best practices. 

Leading the Change

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of Janitors and cleaners is projected to grow by 4 percent from 2019 to 2029—a projection made before the pandemic. If we expect to fill these positions, we need to do a better job of attracting younger people to our industry.

As we mentioned in this post, most custodial leaders don’t have the ability to raise wages and benefits, but here are a few things they can do to attract and retain workers: 

Try following the KEEP acronym:

Keep employees at the forefront. Take the time to talk to your staff members and get to know them. Listen to them and learn the names of people in their families. Ask them questions and show you’re interested in them as a person, not just as work.

Explain the importance of what they do. Help them understand the importance of their role. Make sure they know that cleaning isn’t just about helping a building look nice, but it’s about keeping people in that building stay healthy and safe too.

Empower them with training and advancement opportunities. Cleaning workers are one of the best customer service tools in your building. Empower them with training so they understand how to interact with others in the building and strategies to do their jobs better so they can be promoted and grow within their career. 

Preach their importance to other people in the building. In a hospital, that might be doctors and nurses, in a school, that could be students and teachers. The key is that other people in the facility have a greater appreciation for how cleaning workers help them. 

Studies routinely show that more engaged workers are higher performing. Showing workers that you truly value them will help KEEP them on your team in a competitive job market. 

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

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.

title for blog post

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: Jeff Hawkins, Provo City School District

Approximately 70-75 percent of the custodial team at Provo City School District is comprised of students, so when schools closed in the spring, that left Jeff Hawkins and his team with a massive staffing shortage. With all hands on deck, staff from other departments pitched in to learn the (OS1) System and clean schools.

With so much of the current conversation focused around disinfection, Jeff talks about how the (OS1) System has prepared them for executing cleaning during a pandemic situation, so his team has the training, tools and program to keep students, teachers and staff safe.

Protecting Custodial Workers: What Every New Cleaning Worker Needs to Know

Long before COVID-19 infected patient zero, a large percentage of the 3.25 million cleaning workers in the U.S. received little job training. In some circles, the assumption is that most people know how to clean, so the absence of training might not seem like a big deal. Individuals in these groups treat it as an inherent skillset that people are either born with or learn at an early age. 

But the thing is, not everyone just “knows” how to clean. As a recent survey showed, the majority of Americans aren’t disinfecting properly. And the processes you would use to clean a building are different than how you would clean your home or apartment.

There are many issues with the lack of occupational training in the cleaning industry, but a primary issues is the increased risk and exposure to workers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that cleaning workers suffer the second highest rates of job-related injuries of any occupation—injuries heavy lifting, overexertion, chemical exposure and slips and falls are most common.

Reducing Risks to Cleaning Workers Now and After the Pandemic

When it comes to COVID-19, cleaning and disinfection is essential in stopping the spread of the disease. Aside from person-to-person spread, COVID-19 spreads when a person comes into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. So when businesses slowly begin to open again over the next few months, all eyes will be on cleaning workers. Regular, systematic cleaning and disinfection will be key to controlling the spread of the virus and limiting the additional waves of the pandemic. 

For these individuals to clean—and to not pollute the surfaces and buildings they are meant to protect—they need training. They also need training to protect themselves. 

During this period, we can expect to see a swell of new cleaning service providers. Many people who have been displaced from current jobs in the hospitality or foodservice industries may find themselves working in a position where they’re being asked to clean in a commercial environment for the first time. 

We’ve seen way too many headlines highlighting cleaning workers who are concerned because they don’t understand the routes of transmission or how they could become infected. Too many people who are asked to use new disinfectants and don’t have training to do so. Too many people who aren’t equipped with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their hands and faces from exposure. 

We need to reverse this trend and make sure ALL cleaning workers have the knowledge and training they need to clean safely and protect themselves.

If you’re new to cleaning, we’ve pulled together a checklist of things you should know before you start working.

This is not meant to replace any existing training programs, but rather serve as a supplement. Our hope is to help provide a resource for those individuals who may not receive any training from their employers. If that’s you, we’re here for you. Please feel free to reach out with any questions about what you can do to protect yourself during this time.

(OS1) Trainer Profile: Josh Sego

(OS1) Trainers are a critical piece to creating and implementing a successful (OS1) System. Beyond training their teams, they are also committed to their own continuing education. Trainers are required to complete Train the Trainer class and must pass an exam with a score of 80 percent or higher to earn their designation as a (OS1) Trainer Certificate Holder.

We’ll profile several of our skilled trainers over the coming year with the hopes that by sharing their insights and best practices, everyone learns and improves their training skills.

Joshua Sego is the Simon Institute’s 2019 Trainer of the Year.

Joshua Sego is awarded the 2019 Trainer of the Year award by Simon Institute.

Name: Joshua Sego

Title: Training and Staffing Coordinator

Facility: Michigan State University

What do you enjoy about what you do?  I enjoy helping others be successful.

Is there anything that you think a lot of custodial trainers miss when educating workers? 

Letting people know the “why” of things.  I feel that when people know why they need to follow a process, or do something a specific way, people are more likely to follow that process, than if they are just doing what they are told.

What is one thing you’ve found to be most effective when training your team? 

Real world examples.  MSU is a big enough operation that we can give examples of how we have screwed things up and how doing things the way we train people avoids making those mistakes again. 

Do you have any tips for getting to know your audience? 

Being willing to share part of yourself I think helps people and lets them feel comfortable sharing part of themselves.  Not some list of accomplishments but little things. My family and passions end up in a lot of my training material as examples and stories. This, in turn, makes me more of a person and helps others to relax and share as well.  In the end, I get more participation out of a group this way.

Any tips or resources you’d recommend other trainers use to improve their craft?  

Ask questions.  I will make a statement and ask, “What does that mean?”  Then I wait until someone answers.  As you continue to do this, it encourages more of your audience to engage—or at least pay attention in case they are asked a question.

Any memorable/funny stories you’d like to share?

When I first became a trainer, I trained filter maintenance on the vacuums. I would let people know that on the microfilter the white lining was the actual filter so if it gets ripped, they needed to replace the filter.  The brown covering around it was there to protect the lining. After 6 months of training this, one of my trainees pointed out to me the microfilter was green, not brown.  I am color blind and could not see the difference.  Shortly thereafter, I also found out that the lid on the vacuum was purple, not blue.   

Anything else? 

It is easy to think the worst in people.  Our approach to people at MSU is, what do we need to do to help this person so they can be successful.  Often, as we begin interacting with people especially in a retraining situation, they are defensive and sometimes verbally combative. Once they realize that we are really there to help them, their attitude changes.  It is these moments that make our job so fulfilling.  

Engaging Younger Workers: How the Provo City School District Trains High School Custodial Workers

Jeff Hawkins is the Director of Custodial Services with Provo City School District, which includes 18 schools — three high schools, two middle schools and 13 elementary. To clean the 2.5 million square feet in each of these buildings, the district employee 175 custodians. The majority of these custodians—or “sweepers” as they’re called locally—are high school students. 

Yes, high school students. 

Like most cleaning operations, turnover is also a major issue with this demographic. Jeff says that of the 175 custodial workers on his team, more than half stay for less than a year. 

Many stay for just three to six months. 

High turnover can be really costly for a business. But so can employee training. That said, many successful businesses, like McDonald’s, have been built using employees that leave in less than a year. Training is key to that success.

Several high school students who work as custodial workers in the Provo City School District received recognition for their effort and contributions during the recent Simon Institute Symposium.

To maximize the amount of time students work for the department, Jeff works hard to target training to their interests. Basically, he finds creative ways to make custodial training more FUN. 

“At the beginning of each school year, we kick things off with an event to get all of our staff excited for the job,” he says. “We create a party-like atmosphere that appeals to kids.”

That’s the key, says Hawkins.

There’s music. Pizza. Soda pop. Raffles. Games. Gift cards. We’d imagine that it feels more like spring break and less like work for most in attendance.

Hawkins has found a way to make work fun for the students. He also holds similar events throughout the year to keep them engaged. The result has been extremely positive, helping increase retention and building morale with workers.

Training Younger Workers: Jeff’s 5 R’s of Training Millennial Workers

Effective training is a key component of the (OS1) System. It’s why we make sure all (OS1) Trainers have passed rigorous testing to ensure their knowledge and capabilities. It’s why we provide workers with job cards to keep their responsibilities top of mind. It’s why we advocate for training that reaches all different learning types, like visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

With the demand for cleaning services on the rise and continued growth projected for cleaning workers, more organizations will need to focus their sites on training programs in the future.

Hawkins suggest that custodial professionals develop training programs around recognized motivators for younger generations.

These motivators might include achievement, recognition, emphasizing the value of the work, advancement and growth. 

Something that would demotivate a younger worker might be heavy supervision.

As we look ahead, Hawkins offers the “5 R’s” of training younger employees, specifically, millennials:

  1. Research-based methods. Lectures are so yesterday! Group work and collaboration not only helps reinforce workers’ understanding and knowledge, it allows them to share with others. This approach is more appealing to Millennial mindsets. See how Jeff’s team collaborates with teachers on Earth Day below.
  2. Relevance: Use tools and technology that is relevant to what they are using, including mobile phone or tablet-based training tutorials.
  3. Rationale: Help workers understand why their work is so important. Provide studies and statistics that validate the impact of cleaning.
  4. Relax: Keep events warm and inviting. Make it inclusive for all ages and demographics.
  5. Rapport: Provide recognition and attention to workers. This not only builds relationships, but can also help them feel valued, which can reduce turnover. 

Elementary students are encouraged to touch and try on cleaning equipment during custodian-led Earth Day instruction.

Beyond the Party: Collaboration and Education

Each year, PSD teachers host Earth Day activities to highlight the importance of sustainability and protecting natural resources. To encourage collaboration, Jeff challenges head custodians to help teachers share the message of how (OS1) supports sustainability by limiting the amount of packaging, inventory and waste in a typical cleaning program.

Custodians participate in the Earth Day classroom activities, talking to children and encouraging them to touch and try on equipment used throughout the custodial operation. They share how chemicals are pre-portioned to prevent waste, Green Seal Certified to protect the environment, vacuums filter the air for cleaner breathing, the benefits of using microfiber flat mops, etc. This collaboration captivates students and custodial workers alike, allowing them to teach and learn in a different way.

Thank you for an incredible Symposium!

Wow, we’re fresh off a wonderful few days with all of our friends from the Simon Institute and feeling overwhelmed (in a good way) from all the great information, news and resources shared! 

The theme of this year’s Symposium focused on “treating janitors as first-class citizens.” We talked a whole lot about strategies to make custodial work safer, more evenly distributed and how we can continue to improve the training we provide. This includes training younger workers in a way that keeps them engaged—not as difficult as you’d think! 

A few of the highlights included a special introduction from Annmarie Wilson-Futrell, Director of Building Service for Valparaiso University. She shared some of her journey to learning about the (OS1) System and her excitement for what it will bring her team. Welcome!

Panelists discuss safety strategies in their businesses in a discussion moderated by Flint Belk of the Workers Compensation Fund.

A special thanks to all the presenters, including Dan Weltin, Editor-in-Chief at Trade Press Media Group, who shared new data available in their Cleaning Costs and Frequencies Report  which was given to all attendees. 

Thank you to everyone who also participated in our first Health & Safety Panel, which provided some interesting insight on safety strategies our users and supporters have in place to help improve safety for custodial teams and workers.

The data and knowledge shared is what makes Symposium so unique to any other industry event. Symposium attendees and presenters are truly the leaders in the custodial services industry!

Data provided by Dan Weltin, Editor-in-Chief at Trade Press Media Group.

On that note, several very important guests received awards during the (OS1) Awards Banquet and Ceremony. This included five high school students who work as janitors in the evening at the nearby Provo City School District. These students received Outstanding Cleaning Worker Awards, along with individuals from Los Angeles Habilitation House (LAHH), Sandia National Labs and the University of Michigan.

Thank you to our emcee for this year’s events, Alan Wagemester, VP of Operations at GMI Integrated Facility Solutions. In addition to introducing all of the presenters, Alan provided a touching tribute to ManageMen’s late founder, John Walker, ahead of a beautiful slideshow presentation.

Click here to see the Gallery of all the 2019 Symposium Award Winners.

Congratulations to the 2019 Outstanding Cleaning Workers!

Outstanding Cleaning Workers

Anthony Taylor, Los Angeles Habilitation House

Ryan Beal, Provo City Schools

Jonathan Boswell, Provo City Schools

Shelbi Campbell, Provo City Schools

Natalie Robinson, Provo City Schools

Oaklie Wilson, Provo City Schools

Sara Carillo, Sandia National Labs

Maryanne Cook, University of Michigan

Randi McQueen, University of Michigan

David Oldenberg, University of Michigan

Award Winners 2019

Sandia National Laboratories – 15 Consecutive Years of Audits Above 90% – Milestone

Valparaiso University – Rookie of the Year

The University of Texas at Austin – Sarah M and Charles E Seay Building – Best Audit

Sandia National Laboratories – Safety

Provo City School District – Best Training Program

Sandia National Laboratories – Best Cleaning Team

The University of Texas at Austin – Workloading

Joshua Sego, Michigan State University – Trainer of the Year

The University of Texas at Austin – Best Cleaning Program

(OS1) Green Certified Program of Merit

Los Angeles Habilitation House – U.S. Coast Guard LA/LB

The University of Texas at Austin – E. William Doty Fine Arts Building

(OS1) Green Certified Program of Excellence

Provo City School District – Amelia Earhart Elementary

Sandia National Laboratories

The University of Texas at Austin – Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Building

We’ll be announcing the dates and location for next year’s Symposium soon! You won’t want to miss it! 

Is There Such a Thing as “Too Clean”?

A report released earlier this week by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), a London-based independent, multi-disciplinary charity dedicated to the improvement of the public’s health and wellbeing, affirmed that the there is no such thing as being “too clean.” According to an article in the Telegraph, the report came after organizers of a prominent festival encouraged attendees to conduct “strip washes” rather than take full showers in order to reduce the environmental impact of the festival. 

So, is there such a thing as being “too clean”? A lot of this goes back to the British epidemiologist David Strachan, who, in the late 1980s, developed what was called the “Hygiene Hypothesis.” His hypothesis suggested that exposure to infections during childhood would amplify defenses against allergies as the child grew older. In short, the dirtier the environment growing up, the better chance the child stood later in life to ward off allergies. 

It’s easy to see why there’s some pushback—the business of “clean” is a booming industry. The most recent data available forecasts that the household cleaning products generates more than $61 billion each year. We’re continually being sold on hand sanitizers and all-in-one products that promise to “kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria.” 

While some see that as more of a marketing strategy than reality, readers of this blog know that cleaning — and hygiene — are critical to controlling the spread of dirt, bacteria and infectious diseases.

Professor Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that much confusion exists as to the difference between cleaning and hygiene—cleaning your hands after touching a dog or pet is different than cleaning out the pet’s living areas.

“Whereas cleaning means removing dirt and microbes, hygiene means cleaning in the places and times that matter—in the right way—to break the chain of infection whilst preparing food, using the toilet, etc.”

Professor Sally Bloomfield, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

So is there such a thing as “too clean?” The answer is no—the reality is quite the opposite. The absence of thorough and proper cleaning can have catastrophic results under the right conditions.

According to the World Health Organization, infectious diseases kill more than 17 million people a year. And the Texas Biomedical Research Institute reports that 30 new diseases have emerged in the last 20 years. 

So not only is the act of cleaning important, but HOW we clean and disinfect is equally as important in helping improve health outcomes for both cleaning workers and building occupants. There are different levels of cleanliness, and it when it comes to protecting people who live, work and visit buildings, one cannot be “too clean.” 

We’ll dig more into the importance of microbiology training for cleaning workers in our next post, but for now, here are the 27 of the Most Common Diseases Related to Cleaning:

Amebiasis

Botulism

Campylobacter

Chickenpox

Cholera

Cryptosporidiosis

Diphtheria

E.Coli

Hantavirus

Hepatitis

HIV/AIDS

Influenza

Legionellosis

Malaria

Measles

Meningitis

Meningococcal

Pertussis

Plague

Polio

Tuberculosis

Rotavirus

Rubella

Salmonellosis

Staph/MRSA

Streptocucucua

Typhoid Fever

Want to learn more about training workers on microbiology fundamentals? Check out our comprehensive reference guide “Microbiology for Cleaning Workers Simplified” by John Walker and Jeffery Campbell, Ph.D. 

Further Reading: If you’re interested in how cleaning has shaped modern culture, you might want to check out “Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness” by Suellen Hoy.