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Cleaners: The importance of the newly visible COVID-19 frontline

21 October 2020

THE COMMERCIAL cleaning industry is largely impersonal. Businesses see cleaners as a resource rather than a person, a number rather than name.

Over the course of many years, cleaning teams have become an invisible labour force working unsociable hours at the bottom end of the pay scale, with little to no benefits or job security. But given that one in 10 of all UK workers work in cleaning and facilities management, it’s an alarming stance to take. 

However, in light of COVID-19, demand for cleaning services has surged. Instead of being invisible, this workforce is now positioned as a first line of defence against a hidden threat and is climbing the ranks as one of the most valuable team assets. But while they are no longer be taken for granted, attitudes towards cleaners still need to improve. 

Clean, safe and hygienic environments are integral to wellbeing in the workplace, making those who deliver the service vital to the overall productivity and efficiency of those they work alongside. However, sadly, cleaners are rarely even paid the living wage with businesses worried that doing so would impact their commercial viability. They’re seen as an overhead rather than an individual with a life outside of work. That said, while pounds and pence might be important, job satisfaction, engagement with an employer, equal opportunities and credit where it’s due go much further.

Businesses hiring cleaning teams should look at the approach those tendering for the work take towards their people. What do they pay their cleaners? Do they have the same employee benefits package as other employees? Their answers will reveal a lot about their company values on diversity, flexible working and retention - all things that are directly related to the quality of service delivered on your premise. 

Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge the skillset amongst the cleaning workforce. They are essential to ensuring a building runs efficiently, is safe, clean and professional-looking at all times. It’s a huge amount of responsibility, taken very seriously. However, these teams always have more to offer and should be empowered to learn more skills, making themselves more than ‘just a cleaner’. 

We’ve invested into our 250 strong team to make them multiskilled; our cleaners have electronics training. As well as being more productive, they are more reactive and can problem solve outside of their traditional remit. Businesses are often scared of upskilling their people in fear they will leave for better opportunities; our view is that the more competent and multi-skilled a person becomes, the more we can pay them, the more opportunities will be provided to them and the more engaged they will be with us as an employer.

Cleaners are a vital cog in the business wheel and should be put in the spotlight for what they bring to our every day lives. Engaging with your team members creates one team and a greater sense of connections and trust for all. Employers who take them for granted will be caught out; those who value them, don’t race to the bottom on price for their service and who make them a truly visible asset will reap huge benefits.