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The future of cleaning & hygiene

27 April 2021

Cleaning Matters has conducted a survey on the future of cleaning & hygiene in the UK. We surveyed our readership of business owners, facilities managers, and spoke to leading associations, business and industry experts. The following report provides an in-depth analysis of the results.

The future of cleaning & hygiene

Cleaning Matters has conducted a survey on the future of cleaning & hygiene in the UK. We surveyed our readership of business owners, facilities managers, and spoke to leading associations, business and industry experts.
The following report provides an in-depth analysis of the results.

THROUGHOUT 2020 and 2021, commercial facilities have been doing everything they can to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In adherence to shelter-in-place orders, end-use businesses have closed their doors and cleaning contractors have emerged as part of society’s frontline defence against the threat of the virus. Often operating with reduced capacity, these teams have ensured workplace environments are deep cleaned, and that every surface, handle and floor properly disinfected. 

While this presented its own challenges, the potential for contamination by members of the public was significantly limited due to stay home orders, meaning that initially, the frequency and scale of commercial deep cleaning was largely controlled. At the height of the outbreak, daily contract cleaning was reserved for more at-risk areas such as healthcare facilities and essential retailers, with cleaning crews operating within an already established framework of standards and government issued guidelines. 

However, as we enter this new stage of recovery and the foodservice and hospitality industries, together with non-essential retailers, office buildings and some industrial facilities begin to re-open to the public, the every-day practices of commercial cleaning contractors will come under increased pressure and scrutiny. 

Up until now, the commercial cleaning industry was largely fragmented, unregulated and unprepared to deal with surges in demand. The outbreak has forced fundamental changes in the way commercial facilities approach their cleaning processes, and contractors are now required to prove the quality and efficiency of their output while keeping up with increased demand. More stringent checks will be carried out to ensure that contractors are capable of doing the job, while contractors themselves will need to invest in their people and their processes in order to meet requirements. 

Cleaning Matters has conducted a survey of its readers, and key industry experts in a bid to reveal the cleaning and hygiene challenges we have faced - and to determine the best way forward.

The respondents to the survey worked in a broad array of sectors, including: food & beverage; hospitality; training; occupational health/healthcare; hygiene products and waste management. Job functions ranged from owners, directors and managers to safety, health, environmental, quality and product managers.

The vast majority - 73% cited overworked staff and staff shortages as the top cleaning challenge in housekeeping to maintain the required hygiene standards. Along with a high turnover of staff (43%) and lack of education and training (39%) this highlights the need to ensure that cleaning staff are better represented in terms of pay and respect. Indeed the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) is pushing for cleaning operatives to be given Key Worker status. It also aims to help raise the profile of the cleaning and hygiene industry and explore the vital role of the cleaning and hygiene sector in helping the UK recover from the pandemic and into the future.

This will be achieved by restoring public confidence; business readiness; health and wellbeing; and looking beyond the pandemic. According to Jim Melvin, deputy chair of the British Cleaning Council, Cleaning & Support Services Association (CSSA) director and group CEO, Exclusive Contract Services, it has never been more important for businesses to reassure their workforce and visitors:  “We believe that cleaning and hygiene needs to be prioritised and highly-visible, and delivered by professional staff in a sustainable way in our work and public spaces order to restore confidence," he said. 

“But this is not just about what we do during the pandemic. We think this presents an outstanding and much-needed opportunity to change the UK’s culture for good in order that health and wellbeing are always at the top of the agenda and there is recognition of the important role of the cleaning and hygiene sector in achieving that.”

Training and development

In terms of contingency plans being put in place to reassure clients and staff, 84% of respondents said that training will be a priority, with 36% implementing twice weekly lateral flow tests for all staff - also available, on request, for guests.

End-users’ expectations of cleanliness and hygiene are higher than ever, and will remain so for quite some time, certainly throughout 2021. Joanne Gilliard, CEO of Jangro told Cleaning Matters that ensuring professional cleaning staff receive high quality and relevant training will be essential this year to help uphold these standards.

"Training is critical to help keep the workforce safe whilst it continues to work with COVID-19 in general circulation," she asserted.

"At a time when consumers are much more selective about where they spend their time and money – basing their decisions on hygiene levels – training can make all the difference.  A well-trained employee will achieve a high quality clean every time, enhancing a business’ image and making it a more attractive place to visit. 
Jangro’s award-winning e-learning platform, the Learning Management Solution (LMS), offers a flexible and contact-less approach to training, particularly pertinent whilst social distancing is still required. Highly accessible, it is optimised for all devices, covering a wide range of topics, and was recently accredited by the CPD Certification Service.

"Since cleaning operatives are risking their own health to keep public spaces clean, hygienic and COVID-secure, ensuring they continue to have access to high quality training is the least we can do for them in 2021."

Cleaning protocols

According to Mike Attig, EMEA director at ISSA, by communicating effectively, facilities managers and cleaning service providers can meet reopening targets and protect the community from COVID-19.

Today, cleaning and disinfecting professionals are working in a whole new environment. As commercial, institutional and publicly trafficked buildings reopen, and travel begins to return, following pandemic-related closures, a new age of cleaning requirements is set  to directly impact the roles, responsibilities and expectations of facilities managers and building service contractors (BSCs) alike.

In the next phase of the COVID-19 recovery, industry stakeholders will need to take the necessary steps and precautions to ensure that they consistently adhere to strict regulations and guidelines. But following protocols is only the first step. There will also be a serious requirement to address the legitimate concerns of employees, occupants, customers and contractors. With so much at stake, effective communication and collaboration between all parties becomes absolutely critical.

"While cleaning and disinfecting services are essential for public health at this time, it is equally important to ease the level of potential confusion in the market," said Attig.

"Now more than ever, facilities managers and building service contractors must form close, mutually beneficial partnerships to support each other through these unprecedented circumstances, while protecting their respective employees as well as the wider community."

During the business stabilisation and recovery stages of a pandemic, adjustments must be made to ensure that responsible cleaning and disinfecting protocols can help protect the returning workers, customers and guests. As building service contractors prepare to help facilities reopen, customers and their stakeholders will be looking for guidance and reassurance on reducing the risk of contracting the virus in their buildings.

An astonishing 99% of respondents to the Cleaning Matters survey said they are implementing:

  • Personal protective equipment
  • Cloths, wipes and sanitisers
  • Anti-microbial cleaning products designed to inhibit bacterial growth
  • Hand washing products including hand soaps and creams
  • Dispensers for storing wipes, hand soap and/or hand towels.

In addition, 63% will use 63% technology that minimises hand touch - for example electronic soap dispensing systems or foot-operated bins - while a further 60% will use colour-coded cleaning products to reduce the risk of cross contamination through segregation.

Roles, responsibilities and expectations

Reopened buildings are going to be under intense public scrutiny, and for good reason. Employees, occupants and customers will expect organisations to have taken additional cleaning measures that provide increased protection. Facilities managers will rely on the expertise and support of contract cleaning service providers – not only in terms of robust and visible cleaning activity, but in successfully communicating messages about the preventative actions being taken.

According to Attig, each facility has its own specific needs. To effectively achieve COVID-19 cleaning compliance, occupant protection and reduced liability, cleaning service providers need to work with their facility management customers to:

  • Revisit the original standards and scope of work for the facility, then ask the customer to redefine their goals and desired outcomes
  • Ensure the right employees have been trained in specific infection prevention knowledge, virus deactivation, and personal protective equipment and measures
  • Make customers aware of why cleaning is important
  • Perform a risk assessment for the location – as part of the risk assessment, determine what levels of cleaning will be required for normal, heightened-awareness and infected-surface decontamination scenarios, as  well as the protocols, equipment and training for  each level
  • Determine which areas or zones require increased frequencies of cleaning and disinfecting to minimise the increased risk of cross-contamination
  • Identify which method and products are best suited for the levels of cleaning and ensure they are appropriate for the surfaces involved
  • Ensure the recommended chemical or technique is registered with the national authority for the use being suggested, and ensure cleaning workers are using the items in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. Misuse can create a liability risk
  • Communicate the implications these task requirements have on scope of work
  • Make the customer aware of the reality of any limitations (e.g., one-time application, re-contamination) and discuss the role the customer can play in limiting (re)contamination (e.g., hand hygiene) and frequency of cleaning and disinfection
  • Discuss the plan of action in detail with  the customer
  • Provide a written COVID-19 cleaning and disinfection information sheet on specific services
  • Offer proof of appropriate training
  • Provide written guidance from a third- party cleaning industry authority, such  as ISSA or the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), that references the proposed tasks.

Attic believes that tackling these steps together will ensure a more successful and protected reopening as well as strengthen the bond between service providers and facility decision maker.

Disinfection: Navigating the ‘new normal’  
Throughout 2020 and 2021commercial facilities have been doing everything they can to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In adherence to shelter-in-place orders, end-use businesses have closed their doors and cleaning contractors have emerged as part of society’s frontline defence against the threat of the virus. Often operating with reduced capacity, these teams have ensured workplace environments are deep cleaned, and that every surface, handle and floor properly disinfected. 

While this presented its own challenges, the potential for contamination by members of the public was significantly limited due to stay home orders, meaning that initially, the frequency and scale of commercial deep cleaning was largely controlled. At the height of the outbreak, daily contract cleaning was reserved for more at-risk areas such as healthcare facilities and essential retailers, with cleaning crews operating within an already established framework of standards and government issued guidelines. 

However, as we enter this new stage of recovery and the foodservice and hospitality industries, together with non-essential retailers, office buildings and some industrial facilities begin to re-open to the public, the every-day practices of commercial cleaning contractors will come under increased pressure and scrutiny. 
Up until now, the commercial cleaning industry was largely fragmented, unregulated and unprepared to deal with surges in demand. The outbreak has forced fundamental changes in the way commercial facilities approach their cleaning processes, and contractors are now required to prove the quality and efficiency of their output while keeping up with increased demand. More stringent checks will be carried out to ensure that contractors are capable of doing the job, while contractors themselves will need to invest in their people and their processes in order to meet requirements. 

As the commercial cleaning industry looks to respond to the impact of coronavirus with new disinfection solutions, they will need to update their existing equipment lines in order to meet new industry standards. In addition to this, cleaning companies will also have to work within constrained budgets, as cost saving measures resulting from the economic fallout of the pandemic are likely to be passed on to third-party contractors. Equipment upgrades, coupled with changes to existing processes and the need to retrain staff, mean that contract cleaners must now deliver greater outputs with fewer resources. 

David Webber, director, strategy & marketing, specialty flow control at Xylem believes contract cleaning companies will now need to review their existing suppliers to ensure they have access to the most up-to-date equipment at an affordable price-point. In turn, suppliers will need to ensure they are providing equipment that can deliver disinfection solutions that meet rising industry standards while keeping their costs competitive.

"Extensive reconfiguration of existing production lines with components that are compatible with stronger chemical agents will be required in order to ensure that disinfection systems can adequately support a wider variety of applications," he said.

"Throughout this process, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will play a critical role in the sale and supply of commercial cleaning equipment. OEM solution providers represent the link between component manufacturers and the equipment suppliers that deliver the final product to the end-user. The global floor cleaning equipment market, alone, is set to reach $9.56 billion dollars by 2025. If OEMs, and their customers, are to adequately stake their claim, they will need to source components capable of supporting new disinfection standards from trusted manufacturers."

Selecting the right component for the Job
As commercial contractors navigate this new and emerging market, many OEM suppliers will likely be entering a territory they are largely unfamiliar with. Professional disinfecting involves the application of hospital-grade disinfectant that kills bacteria and inactivates viruses, and guidelines outline that to claim disinfection, there needs to be a 99.9% reduction of the infecting agent on all surfaces in less than ten minutes. Webber warned that this standard of disinfection will play a critical role when selecting the right components for the end-user system. 

"Most commercial cleaners will now be required to spray stronger chemical agents with pumping systems that they have never used before," he said. "Many standard daily-use cleaning systems are incompatible with hospital-grade disinfection chemicals, and prolonged spraying of incompatible agents can often lead to system degradation – something commercial cleaners will need to avoid when navigating an increasingly competitive market. Through sourcing the right pump with the right components, commercial cleaners can optimize performance and avoid costly system failures.

"OEMs will also need to determine what spray pattern the end-user requires, depending on the surface to be disinfected. Before disinfection became a basic requirement, cleaning contractors would have typically used weaker chemical solutions sprayed at a lower pressure and flow rates, and spraying techniques would have been limited to specific target areas. Now, virtually all surfaces in a commercial setting need to be sprayed with stronger chemical solutions, and cleaning systems will need to be optimised to deliver different pressure and flow rates to work efficiently across a variety of applications.

"Going forward, trust will be critical in the OEM-supplier relationship."

Infection concerns

As businesses prepare to reopen their doors following the latest national lockdown measures, research reveals that many companies across the country are facing millions more in lost revenues due to customer fears around infection risk. The survey into 2000 members of the public reveals that almost two thirds (65.1%) of Brits will boycott restaurants, bars, pubs or hotels with a poor reputation for hygiene and infection control, indicating that this impact is likely to be felt most strongly in hospitality.

The findings by JLA also revealed that more than one in three (34%) people would both never use offending businesses again, and also tell as many people as possible to avoid these businesses too, through channels such as word-of-mouth and social media, further increasing reputational damage. It reports that winning customer trust will be key for businesses looking to retain and grow their customer base over the coming months, with 87.6% of Brits now deeming it important that a business has a good reputation for hygiene and infection control. Furthermore, 58.1% of these proclaim a positive standing for hygiene “extremely important.” This indicates that hygiene ratings – traditionally a significant indicator of quality for many businesses – have also become more important than ever before in the eyes of the public.

A further 33.6% admitted that they are less likely to use a business with a poor reputation for infection control, with only 6.3% of the population stating that hygiene and infection control ratings are still not an issue for them. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was revealed that the events of 2020 have prompted a nationwide change in attitudes towards hygiene and infection control overall, with 77% of the public holding greater concerns in this area than a year previously – attributing this change directly to COVID-19. Notably, four in five customers (80.5%) also report that tangible proof of businesses prioritising hygiene and customer safety, such as an industry accreditation mark denoting infectioncontrol excellence, would be reassuring.

When asked: "What do you think are the top solutions to ensuring an effective hygiene management system?" the Cleaning Matters survey respondents listed:

  1. Motivated staff
  2. Selecting the correct cleaning chemicals and materials
  3. Staff education and training
  4. Implementing new technology
  5. Effective management and supervision
  6. Visual aids such as posters and signs
  7. Good premises layout (e.g. sanitisers in key areas)
  8. Conducting regular daily, monthly and quarterly assessments to track progress and identify opportunities for improvement
  9. Staying informed about the latest in safety issues and regulations.

Ben Gujral, CEO at JLA, noted: “The events of the past year have laid bare the potential consequences for companies that do not demonstrate the highest standards in infection control, as well as the growth opportunities for organisations that do invest what is needed now to reassure worried customers. 

“Expectations of the businesses customers will trust their money – and their health – with are virtually unrecognisable from even a year ago and, as our findings demonstrate, consumers will be quick to condemn any business that does not meet their heightened standards when it comes to infection control.

“At a time where businesses across a range of industries need the continued loyalty of their customers more than ever before, it is crucial that they use the coming weeks to action all possible infection control measures to put their minds at ease. Those that take the time to do this now will reap the benefits once doors are able to reopen properly, offering potentially millions in boosted revenues, as well as the loyalty of customers both old and new, for years to come.” 

Sustainability, recycling and waste management

Huge changes are taking place at home and in the workplace as we take extra care and introduce measures to help contain coronavirus. The importance of cleanliness and hygiene and careful use of resources is particularly essential. 

Despite the challenges of lockdown, many industries and organisations continued to provide vital goods and services. The list of key workers included, but was not limited to, frontline health workers and care staff, providers of food and necessary goods, the waste management sector, and those providing medical and personal protective equipment.

In response to the question: "How is your organisation addressing sustainability, and what measures are you taking?" Cleaning Matters respondents highlighted the importance of:

  • Recycling and using environmental safe products
  • Where possible, always trying to choose eco-friendly products
  • Recyclable supplies
  • Promoting self-risk assessment and informed choices for wellbeing.

This year was expected to herald significant change on the environmental front, not least in terms of recycling and waste management in the UK. However, the Environment Bill, setting standards for improving air quality, protecting the environment and, increasing recycling, was put on hold, as the focus shifted to combatting coronavirus. 

Cromwell Polythene managing director, James Lee, believes to see the recovery, reuse and recycling of every type of packaging it is vital that we work together to find solutions to protect our environment, combat climate change, keeping products in use for as long as possible, and preventing leakage of valuable resources from the circular economy. However, he observed that while there needs to be action taken on waste, this does not mean we need to do battle against plastic. As the British Plastics Federation emphasises “Plastic has done nothing wrong, it’s the way we mismanage plastics.”

"In our desire to do the right thing, the challenge for organisations and individuals is not to eschew plastics in favour of less resource efficient alternatives, but to choose responsibly sourced materials with the lowest carbon footprint," he said.

Sustainability and protective benefits of plastics 

Responsibly produced plastic can have a high recycled content (up to 100%) and can be reprocessed many times, not only saving virgin material but associated energy as well. Plastic offers many sustainable solutions to help mitigate the effects of a changing climate, for example, significantly reducing food waste. Within the cleaning industry, it enables the safe containment of cleaning products, eliminating environmental leaching of cleaning chemicals and residue from bottles, for instance. 

The industry’s use of plastic waste sacks and bags is the simplest and most cost-effective way to encourage the safe and hygienic separation and collection of materials for re-use and recycling. 

Plastic waste sacks are also playing a significant role in helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within households. Public Health England ‘guidance for households with possible coronavirus’ included advice for cleaning and disposal of waste. It stated that personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths can be stored securely within disposable rubbish bags. These bags should be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste. WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact has outlined an ambitious set of targets to create a circular economy for plastics. The aim is to eliminate all avoidable plastic packaging waste and make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable, recycled, or compostable, by 2025.

Switching from plastic to alternative materials, such as paper, glass or cardboard, is often suggested to be ‘greener’. However, this can lead to other sustainability issues, such as higher energy and water use, increased C02 emissions in production and transport (due to the extra weight of material), or an increase in food waste.

Effective segregation 

Recycling and re-use of materials starts with effective segregation of the different waste streams on site, such as paper, glass, plastic, and food waste, to avoid contamination. Unfortunately, items can often end up in the incorrect bin. The value of paper, for example, is significantly reduced if it is contaminated with wet wastes such as food, and may even render it unrecyclable.

Practical steps that cleaning teams can take include ensuring there are enough recycling bins, that they are of a suitable size, clearly labelled and that the waste is frequently collected. From posters on walls with recycling information, to colour-coded bins and staff awareness-raising campaigns, there are endless opportunities to remind people about the benefits of recycling. 

Used properly, Lee believes plastic will continue to offer a convenient and cost-effective solution to many of modern day life’s issues, especially in the cleaning industry. "The real debate shouldn’t be about making a choice between plastics and sustainability," he said, "but how we can use all resources more efficiently and help combat climate change. The carbon cost of all products must be taken into consideration across the whole life cycle assessment - if this was a consideration now, lightweight plastic packaging would not be ditched in favour of heavier, less energy-efficient materials."

A positive outlook for 2021

In the difficult circumstances we face at the moment, it would be easy to be negative about the future of the cleaning and hygiene industry, but in the short, medium and long term, chairman of the British Cleaning Council, Paul Thrupp believes that the outlook is very positive.  

"While we had many challenges within the industry during the pandemic, overall, we have been pulling out the stops to meet rising demand," he said.

"The pandemic has put cleaning and hygiene right at the top of the agenda and reminded everyone of the importance of our sector’s work in protecting people’s health and safety, and whilst it is a shame that it took Coronavirus to highlight our great work, it will, I believe, leave a lasting impression on everyone’s mind.
"People now expect and want to invest in highly visible cleaning and hygiene practices and quality standards and I believe that view and mind-set is here for good.
"Going forward I see increased and sustained investment in cleaning and hygiene services, which will create job opportunities along with the adoption of advanced technological solutions which will help cleaning and hygiene operatives deliver higher standards."

Similarly, James White, MD, Denis Rawlins, thinks the future of the cleaning industry looks very positive with much potential, however it depends on maintaining momentum.

White said: "While the pandemic has been a hugely challenging time for our world, there has been a silver lining for the cleaning industry. Finally, citizens and governments understand the value of our sector, our people and how we contribute to our environment; above all, how we keep it hygienically safe when the threat of coronavirus looms over us. 

"Now that we have had public recognition, we should build upon it. It is time for the cleaning profession to re-fashion itself into a desirable career choice with clear paths of development, progression through continuous training, smart investment and reward structures. I also think that there’s immense value in embracing technology, the importance of data gathering, and perhaps most essential, delivering cleaning services and methods that are scientifically researched and proven. Only in these ways, I feel, will we continue to improve our service and professional brand, especially when we are likely to be faced with future devastating biological threats, as already predicted."

White concluded: "We have the potential to be a highly respected profession, but we must raise the bar ourselves."

Adapting in a pandemic

Jan-Hein Hemke, managing director of Facilicom UK & Ireland observed that COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of having systems in place to protect people and places. As a result, he thinks organisations will give much more emphasis to making premises safer, from the point of entry onwards.

"The cleaning sector has played a huge role in safeguarding the population and ensuring the spread of the virus is restricted, by implementing robust hygiene practices and effective cleaning systems," Hemke said. "As a result, a spotlight has shone on our industry like never before.

"Cleaning teams have had to adapt quickly in response to COVID-19, often stepping away from their usual role to deliver new services. For instance, we extended our range of infection control support tools, offering fogging, thermal screening cameras, and ‘Return to Work care packages’ amongst other services. 

"Recognising the importance of protecting workplaces, we recently launched SAFER with Facilicom, an Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) surface testing regime. This offers clients a comprehensive package of post-clean surface testing,  reassuring staff returning to their workplace. Starting with an extensive hygiene audit and providing tangible results data, it gives extra validation that key touchpoints and high traffic areas have been effectively sanitised. Certainly, whilst COVID-19 is around, workplace safety will stay top of the agenda."

Changing perceptions
The pandemic has changed perceptions of cleaning and hygiene. As the world emerges, businesses will want to deliver – and be seen to deliver – the highest levels of cleaning, hygiene, and infection prevention to reassure and protect their customers, guests, and employees. To do this, Lynne Snoding, sector marketing manager, BSC, Diversey, UK & Ireland, believes they need new ways to incorporate disinfection and innovations into their everyday tasks to deliver enhanced outcomes that exceed expectations.

"Disinfection will remain critical and it is important to use products that are effective against pathogens of concern," said Snoding. "Manufacturers should be able to demonstrate their products meet the EN14476 virucidal standard and are therefore effective for disinfecting surfaces and hands against enveloped viruses like SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

"Novel formulations such as Diversey’s Oxivir range and technologies such Moonbeam3 Disinfection Technology, which uses UV-C, enable new ways to disinfect surfaces. These and other innovations support greater choice and flexibility to specify the best combination to replace and complement existing processes.

"Cleaning teams will need to do more with less and operate sustainably to meet customer expectations while controlling costs and reducing waste. Switching from the short-term solutions that met immediate needs during the pandemic to professional systems that offer deeper long-term benefits will be part of this process."

Washroom hygiene investment

Award winning washrooms need more than an investment in facilities that are functional and aesthetically current - they need to be well maintained and most importantly spotless – perfect, unstained, immaculate. Cleaning and maintenance must be the most important activities if the washroom provider wants to provide the best facilities for their customers and staff.

"Cleaning is never more important than during an epidemic," said Mike Bone, managing director, Loo of the Year Awards. "However, consistently maintaining high standards of washroom cleaning will act as a deterrent in addition to presenting the facilities as hygienic and attractive. 

"The Washroom Cleaner of the Year Awards form part of the annual Loo of the Year Awards but relate specifically to the cleaning staff that looks after facilities, rather than washrooms themselves – an unbiased independent assessment.

"While Loo of the Year Awards provide adequate recognition for entrant’s washrooms, it is the cleaners who look after each facility, be they individual full-time cleaners, in-house cleaning teams or external cleaning contractors, who also deserve recognition. 

"Cleaning is judged at the same time as the Loo of the Year Awards inspection and any cleaning staff seen at the time of the unannounced visit are deemed to represent the whole cleaning team. There are a Washroom Cleaner of the Year Awards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland, and a National Winner for each country."

Securing the future of employees
In 2020, business landscape has been transformed, almost beyond recognition. The continued and necessary repositioning of the cleaning industry in 2021 will, said John Shonfeld, master, Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners, require some tough and creative choices to secure the future of its 1,600,000 employees. 

"COVID-19 has given us a unique opportunity to demonstrate the vital role of the cleaning industry to society as a whole, said Shonfield.

"Cleaning and hygiene are at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus. Surface, deep cleaning and advising companies on the introduction of protocols is now the norm for us. This will no doubt continue well into 2021. I believe that the marketing and delivery of cleaning services will change as we have adapted to our customers’ requirements. The importance of cleaning should be marketed as a professional service to ensure standards are achieved and maintained  - especially to  reduce risk during the current pandemic.

"We may see more of our industry professional standards complemented by using certified protocols and techniques with appropriate methodologies and chemicals. We don’t need to lose sight of environmentally safe practice, and use ecologically sound chemicals. 

"We as an industry must seize this time to become more politically and professionally astute to lift the profile of the cleaning industry."

Home and remote working

According to Paul Zuidema, managing director EMEA at Ergotron, home and remote working – at least in part – are definitely here to stay. A recent survey reported three quarters of staff currently working from home think it’s likely their employer will continue to let them do so post-COVID. However, as Zuidema noted, another report also revealed that the majority of knowledge workers questioned (72%) would prefer a mix of remote and office work, a hybrid approach.

“With the impact of COVID-19 and the experience of the changes that 2020 brought, numerous stakeholders try to predict what the (ideal) balance should or will be in home and office working but frankly, there is no perfect answer," he said.

"Working from the familiarity of our own home makes us feel good but, on the other hand, our natural human need to socialise is coming under pressure. What we can keep as a lesson among others is to focus on the present time and secure our physical and mental health. At the end of the day, it is being proven that work can happen everywhere – we only need to support the most productive version of it.

“Next year the focus for employers and employees should turn to ensuring a safe, comfortable and productive environment. This means investing in equipment and furniture that fits ergonomically with the technologies that we all use everyday and are fit for purpose to be used in the home environment. Employers can then be confident in the knowledge that even while their workers are alternating between office- and home-working, they have access to ergonomically designed workspaces that benefit both physical and mental health and that enable employees to work where work happens.

"Technically almost everything is possible these days; the big evolutions will have to take place both in an emotional context and the evolving company culture.”

Planning and communication

Since the start of the pandemic, planning and communication have been central and fundamental pillars of the national and global response. Although we are going through a time of huge adjustment and disruption, some things will always stay the same, including the need for clear communications. Ceris Burns, managing director of PR and communications agency, Ceris Burns International said this is essential to good leadership and to drive behaviour change.

"Now more than ever, it’s vital that organisations within the cleaning industry maintain visibility in their target markets," Burns asserted. "With the world increasingly moving online, the sector should also give more emphasis to connecting with audiences through digital marketing.

"COVID-19 has reframed the way we communicate, with organisations everywhere adopting a more empathetic, personal tone in both their internal and external communications. It has also emphasised the significance of the cleaning profession in responding to health crises, helping to stop the spread of infection through robust cleaning and hygiene practices.

"For a long time, the cleaning profession has been undervalued by many outside the field. Now that the sector is gaining wider public recognition and respect, it’s important that we build on these changed perceptions. Through communications, we must continue to emphasise the industry’s professionalism and critical role in safeguarding society."

 (Please list in order of importance with 1 being the most important)
1 Overworked staff / staff shortages 73%
2 Lack of cleaning and hygiene equipment 
3 High turnover of staff
4 Poor management
5 Lack of education and training
6 No investment in innovative products
7 Unsuitable equipment
8 Unsuitable premises layout
9 Staff language barriers
10 No employee reward or recognition
11 No signs or posters to promote good practices

Who carries out the cleaning and hygiene tasks at your work premises?
Dedicated in-house cleaner/s 57.14%
Other in-house staff as part of their extra duties 14.29%  
Outsourced to contract cleaning firm 14.29%
Outsourced to FM service provider 14.29%

What are your concerns with your sector post-lockdown?
Visitor safety
Visitors will not be confident enough to start staying with us again
Staff training
Primarily ongoing indifference to digital hygiene
Ability to meet demand

What contingency plans do you have in place to reassure clients and staff?
Training plus tags and strips to assure items are cleaned 
Twice weekly lateral flow tests for all staff (also available on request for guests). Enhanced daily hygiene model and clean between guests. Clear hygiene guidance for staff. NHS app check in facility. 
In house raising awareness

What product and service innovations are you already using in your workplace to try and raise hygiene and cleaning standards? (Please tick as many as apply).

Colour-coded cleaning products to reduce the risk of cross contamination through segregation 14.29%
Personal protective equipment (PPE i.e. protective clothing and accessories such as gloves or eyewear) 14.29%
Cloths, wipes and sanitisers 14.29%
The Internet of Things e.g. using connected technology in real-time such as apps, sensors, telematics or augmented reality to aid training and maintenance 28.57%
Online e-learning 28.57%
Anti-microbial cleaning products designed to inhibit bacterial growth 
Steam cleaning 
Hand washing products including hand soaps and creams 
Dispensers for storing wipes, hand soap and/or hand towels
Technology that minimises hand touch e.g. electronic soap dispensing system or foot-operated bins
Wall-mounted or portable chemical dosing and dilution control equipment 
Chemical-free cleaning products e.g. microfibre and aqueous ozone
UV-C (short-wavelength ultraviolet radiation) technology e.g. for grease elimination and to reduce cooking odours
Robots and automation e.g. autonomous scrubber dryers

In your opinion, what new technologies will have the biggest impact on improving cleaning and hygiene?
CE approved sanitisation 
Online e-learning for staff 
e-learning accessible to ALL 

What other challenges do you regularly face?
Staff turnover 
Keeping-up the required hygiene standards in a period property 
the arrogance or ignorance and carrying-on regardless of self-harming 

Do you check your premises regularly for pests?
Yes 100%

Do you have a pest control system in place?
Yes - 57.14%
No - 42.86%

Do you have separate sinks for dish washing and hand washing?
Yes - 85.71%
No - 14.29%

Do you regularly clean behind equipment?
Yes 100%

Do you have clean and tidy storage areas?
Yes 100%

Do you clean and maintain equipment regularly?
Yes 100%

What does your business do to promote good cleaning and hygiene practices? Tick as many as are relevant.
Implement new technology 14.29%
Invest in staff education and training 28.57%
Recognise and motivate staff 14.29%
Effective management and supervision 14.29%
Visual aids such as posters and signs 14.29%
Good premises layout (e.g. soap dispensers in key areas) ??%

What do you think are the top three solutions to ensuring an effective hygiene management system? (Please list in order of importance with 1 being the most important)
1 Motivated staff
2 Selecting the correct cleaning chemicals and materials
3 Staff education and training
Implementing new technology
Effective management and supervision
Visual aids such as posters and signs
Good premises layout (e.g. sanitisers in key areas)
Conducting regular daily, monthly and quarterly assessments to track progress and identify opportunities for improvement
Staying informed about the latest in safety issues and regulations

Do you think there should be legislation that requires ALL cleaning operatives to pass a basic hygiene standard if they work in hospitality premises?

Yes 85.71%
No 14.29%





With the official roadmap out of the third UK lockdown now in place, businesses are starting to look ahead as to how they can return their workplaces to their former operational capacity. SOCOTEC is committed to ensuring that clients’ facilities are safe, compliant and fully functional in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, having developed its ‘Business Ready’ recovery programme to cut through the noise and provide organisations with a series of support packages and the peace of mind that their staff can safely return to the workplace.


THE IMPACTS of COVID-19 have been felt in businesses across the UK and, despite an obvious need for increased cleaning practices, cleaning companies are no exception with only 76% of businesses in the sector currently trading, according to ONS data.

Perfect Clean, a Scottish cleaning company, has analysed the latest ONS data to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the cleaning industry.

The administrative and support service industry, which accounts for cleaning, has been one of the worst affected industries, second only to accommodation and food services. 

In the week leading up to Christmas alone, 6% of businesses in the sector permanently ceased trading, which is more than double the national average. Additionally, 53% of businesses in the sector saw turnover decrease compared to pre-COVID levels.

With businesses following government advice to ‘work from home if you can effectively do so’ in England, many businesses have been left empty, reducing the demand for office cleaning services. Savill’s found a dramatic 50% decrease in office space uptake in The City of London alone.

While the country battles through another lockdown, there are still reasons to be hopeful. The government aims to vaccinate 15 million people in the UK by mid-February and a third vaccine has now been approved for use in the UK. As more people become vaccinated, it is likely we will see workplaces opening up for business as usual once more. And as workplaces attempt to re-open in line with COVID-secure guidelines, there will likely be an increase in demand for cleaning services at workplaces, on transport, as well as in homes. 

Savill’s has also reported an uptick in office premise demand in London and the South East, signalling that some businesses are intending to return to traditional office spaces this year. With this return, there is likely to be an increased demand for commercial cleaning services once again.

Enter 2021 with the right data

As the cleaning industry heads out of 2020 and into the stabilisation phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dianna Steinbach, vice president of International Services, ISSA, observed that it is a good time to reflect upon where cleaning businesses stand in the eyes of the cleaning customer.

"We have seen a growing awareness of how cleaning can reduce risk, something industry professionals have been hoping for over many years," she said.

"This has led some facilities to invest more in cleaning services or technology. At the same time, lockdowns and business disruption has led to reduced revenue for many businesses, and commercial offices continue to face low occupancy rates as many employees remain working from home. In fact, cities such as London have developed efforts to try to entice people to return downtown after so much time away."

Steinbach warned that the unfortunate side affect of the pandemic is that many customers are making tough choices regarding how to spend their smaller budgets, and some of them are pushing back to lower cleaning costs. "At a time like this," she stated, "it is critical that you are able to articulate the true value of cleaning as an investment in their business bottom line and the confident return of employees and customers to kick-start much-needed business momentum.

"Communicating the best business case for investing in proper cleaning right now requires you to connect the dots between your services or solution and their organisation’s top pain points. The power of your case comes from the right data to catch their attention and explain how you help solve their current issues."

ISSA has gathered data from around the world to make this task easier to accomplish, and offers a calculator to help you create a specific business case for your customers based on industry research.

Steinbach continued: "You may want to begin with reference to the current heightened concerns people have, surrounding cleanliness. Seventy-two per cent of people are concerned about germs left on surfaces shared by colleagues, according to research by GP Pro. So companies will need to communicate how they are cleaning to protect their employees.

"Next, businesses need their workers to be as productive as possible. Therefore, you can share statistics on cleaning’s impact on worker productivity.  First, improved cleaning and basic han hygiene measures can reduce viruses on a surface by more than 85 per cent, according to a study in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 2019. Combine that with the fact that sick workers lead to higher absenteeism costs and lower productivity and it is worth reducing that risk of cross contamination. 

"Plus, the total cost of absenteeism in the US, Australia and the UK combined still is only 10% of what businesses pay due to employees who come to work sick, according to the Global Challenge Virgin Pulse. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenteeism has even higher costs and consequences. If entire sections of an office or shifts in a workplace need to quarantine due to one sick co-worker, productivity is impacted."

According to Steinbach, the investment your customer needs to make to maintain responsible levels of cleanliness at a time when their most important stakeholders need to gain greater confidence in returning to activity, will be a fraction of the costs that reduced levels could generate. She noted: "The bottom line is that proper cleaning is an investment in getting business back on track and you know how to create the right program to meet their needs as cost-effectively as possible… that just may mean at a price a bit more than they first thought they could get away with.

"One ISSA member who used this approach and the ISSA Value of Clean Calculator actually convinced a bank to not just evaluate their cleaning needs, but to increase the amount of cleaning they requested in their tender. This is the power of the right data in the right business case. This data and other Value of Clean tools are complimentary for all companies that join ISSA or renew membership for 2021. To learn more, contact emea@issa.com.   

Preventative cleaning: Reopening in a post pandemic world

In the early stages of the global pandemic, information about the virus and how to combat the spread was unclear and changing by the day. This inconsistent information left many of us struggling to understand how best to enhance health and safety protocols. We have now come to know that COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols or through direct contact. Surfaces and belongings can be easily contaminated by the virus, and the risk of spread is significantly increased when people are in close proximity to each other. 

Social distancing and keeping indoor spaces well ventilated are all key examples of ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus. But it’s also important to consider increasing the frequency of cleaning to reduce the presence of the virus.

In addition to healthcare facilities, environments where group activities are carried out, such as offices, factories, gyms or schools, will need to deploy these preventative cleaning practices to limit the risk of transmission. What’s more, it has never been more critical to restore people’s confidence in revisiting these places that need to resume operations, emphasising the importance of high-quality cleaning programmes. 

Best practice cleaning procedures

According to Jean-Henri Beukes, CEO of Ecocleen, disinfection, sanitisation and sterilisation are three processes expected to be a critical part of our "new normal."

"These measures go one step further than simply frequent hand washing, wiping surfaces and using antibacterial hand gel," said Beukes.

"Preventive cleaning processes need to ensure these environments are not only cleaned at the beginning and end of each day, but throughout the day as well. The frequency of cleaning will often depend on the number of people using the space or visiting the environment. It’s also recommended to reduce clutter and remove difficult to clean items. Not only will this ensure cleaning is much easier, but it also lessens the amount of surfaces that could transmit COVID-19."

Beukes warns that attention should also be paid to high-traffic areas, including surfaces or items that are touched frequently, such as door handles, light switches, lift buttons and bathrooms. However, this will vary depending on the specific conditions of each environment, as they will have different needs and applicable legislation to abide by. For example, frequently touched items will differ significantly between an office environment and a gym. In a working environment, cleaners will place a focus on desk surfaces, electronic devices and remote controls, whereas gym equipment and changing rooms will be the focal point in a leisure facility.

Cleaning up after COVID exposure

In environments that were previously occupied by someone potentially infected with COVID-19, these cleaning best practices will be supplemented with further preventative measures.

Beukes observed: "Areas where a symptomatic person has briefly visited, such as corridors, should be cleaned thoroughly as normal. However, in areas where they have spent substantial time or frequently touched, need to be cleaned and disinfected meticulously, such as bathrooms, door handles, telephones or light switches. 

"It’s also important to safely remove personal waste from individuals with symptoms of coronavirus and waste from cleaning materials used to disinfect areas where they have been. This waste should be stored and not disposed of in communal waste areas until negative test results have been confirmed, or alternatively the waste can be stored for at least 72 hours. Furthermore, cleaners working in these areas should wear minimum PPE, in addition to disposable gloves and an apron. It’s also vital for them to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after all PPE has been removed."

Educating staff on preventative cleaning

As we move to our new normal, Beukes believes it’s critical for staff working in these environments to receive sufficient training and further education, to help them understand how to properly clean public areas, as well as equipment thoroughly. "From gym managers and teachers to office employees and healthcare professionals, they should all be taught new procedures to ensure they recognise the importance of cleanliness in the fight against COVID-19," he asserted.

"What’s more, they should take part in training to make sure that they are fulfilling the responsibility of their role and that they are up for the task. It’s critical that they completely understand infection control procedures and follow the guidelines to ensure they are providing a safe environment for themselves and visitors to each environment. This training will also contribute to their general wellbeing, which is just as important to safeguard in these circumstances.

"Due to the pandemic, external cleaning services have generated COVID-19 specific cleaning training. This means that all cleaners will undergo training to meet the certain cleaning requirements whilst battling the virus. Staff will also conduct a risk assessment and then sign off the training on a document."

Quality of cleaning products

Beukes added that the next step is to review the quality of products used for preventive cleaning. "We should all be considering using biological products rather than chemicals, as they promote a safer environment, as well as reduce the risk of long-term illness. Eco-friendly cleaning products are on the rise, providing a number of alternatives that compete with regular cleaning products that contain harsh chemicals. Not only do they reduce environmental damage, but they also protect the health of people in these environments. 

"Natural cleaning products also improve air quality, making it a more hygienic and comfortable environment for everyone. This is especially beneficial during the winter months, when windows and doors may not be open as often. These types of cleaning products are also proven to be completely safe for cleaners, as they don’t contain toxins, chemicals or corrosive substances that could be harmful to their health. This is particularly important during this time, as cleaners will have longer or more frequent exposure to cleaning agents when implementing the COVID-19 preventative cleaning measures."

Deploying a commercial cleaning service

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a time of uncertainty and every industry has been left grappling with best practices to keep environments safe. As a result, the demand for high quality cleaning service providers has understandably increased over the past 12 months. Beukes believes that deploying contract cleaners gives peace of mind, as employers and staff can be confident that the environment is safe and organised. He added: "It also means that no one will have the burden of having to ensure the environment is kept clean, reducing the potential stress of having to assign preventative cleaning tasks throughout the day. 

"Professional cleaners are experts in their field and hiring a reputable commercial cleaning service means that the highest standards of cleanliness will be achieved. These cleaners will have received extensive training to understand COVID-19 health and safety measures, as well as experience in preventing the spread of the virus in each environment. What’s more, they will be equipped with proper tools necessary to carry out cleaning tasks to the very highest standard."

Every environment has its own cleaning requirements and, according to Beukes, when hiring a professional cleaning service, a bespoke cleaning programme can be created. "Working closely with the client, they will build tailored cleaning measures to suit their specific needs," he noted. "For example, scheduling the cleaning contractors as and when they are needed throughout the day, and focussing cleaning efforts on high traffic areas. These bespoke services also mean that the plan can devised within any budget, creating value for money for every client."

Looking to our new normal

Reopening in a post pandemic world requires careful planning and attention from everyone. In environments where group activities are carried out, preventative cleaning measures will need to be deployed to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus and limit transmission. This includes cleaning environments at the beginning, throughout and at the end of each day, as well as paying special attention to high traffic zones or areas that are frequently touched during the day. Ultimately, Beukes reinforced the need for a regimented cleaning protocol which will help maintain a clean environment and provide reassurance, when cleaners are seen frequently wiping down high traffic zones. 

He concluded: "In addition to safeguarding staff, it’s important to invest in training to make sure the people that are fulfilling the responsibility are up for the task. It’s critical that they completely understand infection control procedures and follow the guidelines to ensure a safe environment for all. The quality of products used for preventive cleaning should also be considered. It’s recommended to use biological products rather than chemicals, as they promote a safer environment and improve air quality. What’s more, commercial cleaning services are on hand to take care of preventative cleaning practices, ensuring peace of mind and creating bespoke cleaning programmes to suit individual needs. 

"Everyone has a role to play in making sure environments are safe and remain open. As a result, transparency is critical in the new normal, with health and safety efforts communicated to help minimise the risk of coronavirus. What’s more, it has never been more vital to restore people’s confidence in revisiting these places, emphasising the importance of high-quality cleaning programmes in the longer term."