Post-lockdown cleaning trends

10 August 2021

Lockdown in the UK has finally come to an end, but with the Delta variant still in circulation, hygiene-conscious businesses are evaluating their cleaning practices as they prepare to welcome back their workforce. Gareth Cowmeadow shares the emerging trends that are shaping the contract cleaning sector post-lockdown. 

THE CLEANING and hygiene sector has played a major role in safeguarding the population against COVID-19 over the past 18months. Through robust hygiene practices and effective cleaning systems, the industry has helped reduce the spread and keep people and places as safe as possible. 

Faced with a constantly changing situation, cleaning teams up and down the country have had to work under more pressure and restrictions than ever before. At numerous points of the pandemic, we have had to rethink our processes and carve out new ways of working to overcome the challenges presented to us.  But now, as restrictions ease, we are seeing new cleaning trends emerge that have the potential to shape a new future for the sector. 

Early pandemic challenges 

From very early on in the pandemic, it was clear that cleaning and hygiene was vital for managing infections. Hailed as one of the first lines of defence against the virus, the demand for professional cleaning services boomed. 

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

Deep cleans and fogging were particularly popular, with business owners keen to remove any traces of pathogens and boost hygiene levels. For those sectors that remained open for workers and the public, heightened cleaning regimes were also adopted. Daily cleans were extended and touchpoint sanitisation went from daily to hourly in some environments. 

Despite the challenging circumstances, and a national lockdown to contend with, we had to upskill and train our colleagues to ensure they could deliver these new services quickly and safely. Thanks to their commitment and agility, we were able to rapidly respond to changing needs in the contract cleaning market, supporting our clients with enhanced cleaning solutions. 

Easing out of lockdown
Restrictions across the country have now eased and many businesses are trying to return to some level of normality. The government advice on working from home has shifted, with a recommendation that companies should ‘ramp up’ a return to the office over the coming months. But this has led to an ongoing debate amongst many firms, who want to balance the benefits of shared working spaces with the reservations of workers over safety concerns.  

With an estimated 60%* of UK employees nervous about returning to the office until the vaccination roll-out is complete, businesses need to do all they can to reassure workers that their premises are safe and COVID-secure. 

Robust cleaning has been cited as one of the key actions that business owners must put in place before reopening their doors. In fact, the government has set out a series of hygiene steps** that must be followed, both before and after welcoming colleagues back to their desks. 

However, with new variants and outbreaks to contend with over the past year, it has become very clear that there is no silver bullet for COVID-19. We have come to understand that we will be living alongside the virus for some time to come. This means that our cleaning practices need to provide a long-term solution. We need to move away from ‘panic cleaning’ and invest in innovations and strategies that will provide sustained protection. 

Changing attitudes 
Today, as we edge closer to our pre-pandemic way of life, attitudes towards cleaning are changing. That is not to say that people are not taking it as seriously as they did before – no one can dispute the positive impact that the sector has had on infection control over the past 18 months. But people are stepping back from the relentless sanitisation and looking for longer-term solutions. 

As we have learnt more about COVID-19, it has become clear that harsh chemicals aren’t necessarily the answer. Soap and water have the power to kill the virus. But the virus is extremely contagious, making it hard to conquer. Armed with this knowledge, we have been able to tailor our approach and recommend strategies that offer effective and enduring protection from pathogens. 

Of course, regular cleaning and touchpoint sanitisation will remain key in the fight against COVID-19, but adding additional measures to the process can bolster protection and reduce the opportunity for pathogens to spread. 

Over the past few months we have seen a significant increase in demand for surface protectors and microbe shields. These products offer active protection against bacteria and pathogens by leaving behind a mono-molecular layer that permanently bonds to the surface, forming a protective barrier. They can be sprayed onto a surface after cleaning and can provide long-lasting protection for weeks. 

Many of our customers are also embracing technology to help them improve cleanliness levels. We have seen a great increase in people investing in Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) testing. ATP is the energy molecule found in all living things, making it the ideal indicator when trying determine if a surface is clean or not. Using this method, small testing sticks are used to take a sample from a surface before and after it has been cleaned. It is then placed into a small handheld device and a reading is given within seconds, demonstrating the effectiveness of the sanitisation cleaning.

In response to COVID-19, last year we launched our own SAFER ATP testing regime, which monitors hygiene levels to ensure that the job has been done to the highest standards. This process includes:

  • Swab of key touch points, risk areas and high traffic areas
  • Analysis of swab results using ATP technology
  • Formulation of tailored plan, methodology and cleaning regime based on the results
  • Execute the plan, with focused cleaning of areas showing higher biological residues
  • Repeat monitoring and adjustments for continuous improvements and to identify high risk areas.

Using this method, small testing sticks are used to take a sample from a surface after it has been cleaned. They are then placed into a small handheld device, where they are analysed,  and a reading is given within seconds, demonstrating the effectiveness of the cleaning.

Using data analysis software, our cleaners are able to monitor hygiene levels, track test results, identify problem areas, automatically generate reports, and formulate plans. 

The data and science-led insight that SAFER delivers ensures that daily cleaning and hygiene routines are enhanced according to need. Cleaning teams are able to identify bacteria ‘hot spots’ and build in additional measures to their processes. 

This testing process not only enables operatives to constantly improve their cleaning methods, but it also provides the client with reassurance that their premises have been serviced to the highest levels possible. In turn, this enables them to instil confidence amongst the returning workforce that the environment is COVID-secure. 

Keeping cleanliness front of mind has never been more important, and many businesses are also investing in the right PPE and hygiene products to encourage staff to maintain their standards. From equipping colleagues with antibacterial wipes that they can use throughout the day to disinfect phones, keyboards and desk spaces, to personal hand sanitiser to keep on top of hand hygiene, there is a real drive to reduce risk and keep everyone safe when at work. 

Moving forwards
Lockdown restrictions may have been relaxed in recent months but cleaning and hygiene are set to remain in the spotlight for many months to come. With the ‘stay at home’ mandate now dropped, any cleaning practices that are adopted for the post-lockdown world must be robust enough to stop pathogens in their tracks, but also be sustainable and provide protection long-term. 

Gareth Cowmeadow is key account director at Kingdom Cleaning.

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