Are you responsible for clean?

29 May 2013

The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) considers the impact of clean facilities and the outsourcing/in-house debate

The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) considers the impact of clean facilities and the outsourcing/in-house debate

The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) is the professional body for facilities management (FM) in the UK, and many of its 13,000 plus members have responsibility for cleaning within their remit. So what is the importance of effective cleaning in facilities? The standard of cleaning in commercial premises can speak volumes about the occupier and their service values. Clean, well-maintained buildings signal to both employees and customers that the occupier is efficient and innovative. The quality of the working environment is the first impression that is given to customers, suppliers and employees. It is the physical representation of brand values.

Corporate performance is increasingly dependent upon the attitudes of employees. How people think about themselves and their working environment has a direct impact on their attitudes towards customers and their willingness to properly service their needs. Ensuring workspaces are clean, tidy and smart reinforces employee wellbeing.

Although difficult to prove, a smart workspace increases employee productivity. Clean surroundings extend outside of the workplace. According to recent research, 44% of students believe they would achieve better qualifications if their campus and halls of residence were cleaner and more organised. The poll, by Resource GB, identified a link between campus cleanliness and students' perception of their own potential academic achievement.

In-house versus outsourcing

Currently, in the UK, approximately 50% of cleaning services are outsourced. In-house service provision currently predominates in the accommodation, education and government-office sectors. The direct employment of staff in these sectors is largely based on tradition and a fear of losing direct control and paying more. This arrangement can suit individual circumstances, where direct employees have been found to provide reliable services over a long period. However there can be benefits to clients in outsourcing the responsibility and risk for all cleaning-related operations to an outside contractor.

Benefits of an FM outsourcing include:
Specialist cleaning knowledge at management and employee level
Back-up in the event of sickness and holidays
Economy of scale in purchasing materials and consumables
Special equipment for access, pressure washing, carpet cleaning, etc.
Transfer of the risks associated with directly employing cleaning staff Continuous industry benchmarking and compliance assured
Efficiencies should provide reduced overall cost
Potential access to innovation.

Benefits for an FM for in-house provision:
A perception of reduced security risk
Greater direct management control
Easier ability to change cleaning requirements.

Whether choosing in-house or outsourcing, FMs should create a detailed specification of their requirements in order to truly understand what is needed and possible solutions.

If this is an outsourcing option, then FMs need to understand the importance of the time and effort invested in getting the right cleaning solution in place. It really is worth the management time and effort to get it right. Value for money, not lowest cost, should be the objective; that is getting the right service quality with low risk at an appropriate cost.

Office cleaning is the ultimate Cinderella service and often causes facilities managers the most problems. Some occupiers can become stuck in a circle of selecting a cleaning contractor on the basis of lowest cost only to replace them some six to12 months later and then repeat the same process all over again.

BIFM has a Good Practice Guide to Procuring and Running Cleaning Contracts. Learn more at