Time to come clean

Some businesses appreciate that cleaning and hygiene are crucial to their mere survival, for instance in the sector of health and care, food stuffs or catering which are subject to extremely strict rules regarding health and safety, infection control etc. and regularly controlled by the relevant authorities.
For other businesses, cleaning is a necessary evil, something more of an after-thought, sometimes arranged through personal connections without any request for qualifications or competency. In short, cleaning is often part of those “forgotten” non-core expenses that could actually offer significant potential savings – at a greater quality of service. Whilst meeting regulations, the standard of cleaning in premises speaks volumes about the company’s values and the level of respect it shows customers and staff. Clean offices or workshops provide a safe and pleasant working environment and promote a corporate image of efficiency.
 
Identifying cleaning needs

In order to get the best value for their money and to best negotiate their cleaning contract, businesses need to know exactly what their cleaning needs are by auditing premises and identifying priority areas i.e. first knowing the surface, material and specific cleaning provisions of:

  • Floors (tiles, carpet, concrete as well as skirting boards...)
  • Surfaces (desks, shelves, tables, counters ...)
  • Furniture (metal, wood, plastic...) and upholstery
  • Windows and glass panes
  • Bathrooms and toilets
  • Kitchen
  • Storage rooms
  • Warehouses
  • Reception, meeting areas, hallways, elevators...
  • Outside areas such as parking, recreational spaces

Once this is established, requests and priorities can be set.
 
Writing down specifications

This means detailing what needs doing, how, and at what frequency. Places such as reception, kitchen, restrooms will obviously need more frequent cleaning than storage or archive rooms. Make sure the level of cleaning requested is clearly detailed, e.g. bins “emptied and disinfected with bleach weekly”, and prioritise tasks. If small maintenance jobs needs to be done by the cleaner, for instance keeping paper towel stocked, soap dispensers full, removing the rubbish, airing the offices etc., this needs to be written down.
Compliance with regulations specific to the company’s sector is essential for the business and needs to be conveyed and fully understood by the cleaner. The written description of surfaces and specifications will be the basis for a quote.
 
Material and equipment

There are questions to discuss before hand with the cleaner or cleaning company: who will provide equipment and cleaning material (generally external companies provide everything); does the business have specific requirements as to the materials/products to use (e.g. green products for a green company or to prevent some employees’ allergy)?
Who will replace the cloths and products, maintain the cleaning equipment? At what frequency?
 
Saving time, saving money

One of the easiest ways to save on cleaning costs is to reduce the time the cleaner(s) will spend on the premises; this does not necessarily mean reducing the cleaner’s working hours, but rather to make sure their time is devoted to cleaning; this requires involving staff with simple house rules such as “clear desk” policy i.e. leave an empty desktop every evening that will be easier and quicker to clean.  Ask employees to declutter their offices (including furniture tops and floors), to sort and recycle waste and to take charge of daily chores such as washing their mugs and putting cutlery away, replacing kitchen or loo rolls, etc. This will enable the cleaning to flow smoothly and more efficiently – realising better value for money.
 
In-house or outsourced?
Now comes the time to decide whether the company wants one or more dedicated employees or to hire external professional cleaning provider(s). This will depend on a variety of criteria, the first one being the number and location of places to clean.
In-house employees will be easier to check and control, but the training, breadth of experience and proper certifications may somewhat be lacking. Also will they be able to fulfil bigger cleaning duties such as window cleaning? Will the company’s insurance cover the health and safety risks?
With an external cleaning company, businesses will not need worrying about insurances, training or certifications. However they will need to be especially detailed with their specifications and investigate the ability of the provider(s) to meet all cleaning requests and take into account other requirements e.g. environmental.
If the company deals with a specific industry sector (health, food, chemicals, public service...) or has several locations, the preparatory stages of identifying the needs and catalogue specifications and priorities in compliance with the relevant regulations must appear an overwhelming task. Delegating to external consultants may be the best answer to find the ideal bespoke cleaning solution without losing time and money in the process.

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