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Focus on cleaning set to continue throughout the year ahead

25 February 2021

Responses to the question on how service providers can continue to build on the gains made in 2020 and increased demand to tackle Coronavirus issues.

With the UK continuing to experience the impacts of Covid-19, one of the sectors seeing increased demand has been that of cleaning and hygiene, leading to questions on how this can be maintained in the future.

FSI marketing manager Sally Wotton, says that In the wake of the ongoing global situation, FM is now officially classed as an essential service and with that comes the continued realisation of just how much effort is required.

“Service providers can use technology, perhaps previously considered as too excessive, to provide a vital service to the buildings’ workforce,” she continues.

“Their need is basic but fundamental right now: to be kept safe and secure in their working environment. They want to know that the building is clean, running smoothly, and is ‘up to code’.”

Software tools can be provided to the vital cleaning staff, whose safety is of equal importance to all staff members, and give them safe working routes to minimise contact with others.

Contactless checkpoints for cleaning staff can also be created and as a cleaner carries out their duties, they can ‘check in’ within a range of specified locations and immediately receive their tasks for action, aside from the all-important minimisation of unnecessary physical contact.

“It will be a continued and ongoing requirement of service providers to play their key part in keeping buildings running smoothly and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff, cleaners and contractors. They should rely on technology more than ever to support the workplace and workforce,” says Ms Wotton.

Satino by WEPA UK & Ireland sales manager Alasdair Sharp says: “Those of us in the cleaning industry know the vital role that hygiene plays in safeguarding people’s day-to-day lives. However, in the wake of the pandemic, service providers have a special responsibility to ensure that hygiene measures are of the highest standard.”

The best way to do this is by offering a suite of product solutions that make hygiene practices easy to implement while complementing businesses of all types, he continues.

This goes beyond the basics of hand sanitiser and should factor in changes such as replacing hot air dryers with paper hand towels – which have proven to be more effective at preventing the spread of germs – and offering automatic, touch-free soap dispensers.

“With consumers more environmentally-savvy than ever, it is also important to offer hygiene solutions that can be tied into sustainability programmes. Consumables like paper towels and toilet rolls that have been manufactured using recycled paper products present more appeal.

“Inclusivity is also key; manufacturers and service providers should consider the suitability of their products for use in varying environments or by different cultures. For example, the most effective variants of hand sanitiser have a high alcohol content, making them prohibited in school settings or out of bounds for certain cultures.

“The past year has been challenging; however, this enhanced focus on cleaning and hygiene presents a huge opportunity for UK-based manufacturers to step up and meet demand for all-round hygiene solutions,” Mr Sharp concludes.

The third national lockdown has again heightened the focus on hygiene and the critical importance of visible protective measures, says Kimberly-Clark Professional head of marketing, UK & Ireland Caroline Stanley.

“Hygiene measures taken by different businesses are not consistent, shown in a recent survey by Harris Interactive. Three quarters of people in the UK do not feel safe going back to the workplace, while 86% said they would avoid a location if they didn’t think it was Covid-secure,” she continues.

“Only businesses which win the confidence of their employees and customers will thrive.”

Cleaning and hygiene factors were among the most important, with 62% saying that seeing cleaning in action is important and 58% wanting cleaning and disinfecting procedures communicated clearly.

Washrooms are an important reflection of hygiene, but four out of five people expressed dissatisfaction with the condition of them.

“We recommend frequent hand washing with a gentle soap for at least 20 seconds, followed by drying with a single-use paper towel, as the primary way to reduce the spread of germs. Frequent surface wiping is also critical, as viruses can be spread via ‘hotspot’ surfaces, for door handles or stair rails. We advocate the WHO 2-step cleaning and disinfection process to sufficiently remove and kill germs.

“Finally, communication and visibility are key to ensuring all staff, employees and customers adopt and sustain new hygiene practices and support new hygiene behaviours for the long term,” says Ms Stanley.

P-Wave sales and marketing manager Mark Wintle says: “Consumer perception of cleanliness and hygiene has had a major impact around confidence when considering returning to work. The washroom toilets are often the first or last place to be visited at any venue and represent one of the most important opportunities to give customers a positive experience.”

Consumers need to see – and smell – that the washroom is immaculately clean, but poor plumbing or maintenance, or an inadequate cleaning regime can lead to unfortunate odours.

In urinals it is the actual minute-by-minute usage that can cause the biggest problem, as randomly splashed urine causes a headache for cleaners, while spreading bacteria and viruses, he continues.

FMs need to ensure they install effective screens to prevent splash while adding a pleasant fragrance to enhance the washroom experience.

“In washrooms and throughout premises, door furniture is among the ‘most-touched’ of all hot-spots, and is one of the fastest ways for infections and viruses to spread. A typical handle in a public toilet is home to up to 40,000 germs per square inch, and standard handles are among the largest carrier of healthcare associated infections.

“FMs need to look at replacing them with long-lasting antimicrobial and anti-bacterial solutions, which are effective against bacteria and viruses and continue to protect in between standard cleaning intervals,” says Mr Wintle.

Brita Vivreau head of key accounts Rebecca Fairfield says health and hygiene has been the number one priority for workplaces over the last year.

Dominic Ponniah

With the UK enduring its third lockdown and many employees again working from home, it goes without saying that it will be key to provide a safe and hygienic workplace that staff feel confident returning to when safe to do so.

After months of home comforts, Ms Fairfield’s company research indicates that around a third of professionals may need extra encouragement and reassurance before they feel comfortable in the office environment.

“One way FMs are getting workplaces prepared is by focusing on spaces, especially shared amenities such as water dispensers and tea and coffee points. Not only do these areas need to meet social distancing rules, but also heightened hygiene regulations to ensure healthy and safe hydration, something that’s vital when it comes to employees’ wellbeing,” she continues.

“These spaces are likely to be more important than ever – our research showed that socialising with workers is the biggest thing professionals have missed from the office. FMs can improve hygiene facilities within the workplace by considering the latest innovations for their workplace,” she concludes.

The final word on this topic is provided by Cleanology chief executive officer Dominic Ponniah, who states that cleaning was hard hit during the initial phase of lockdown:

“Workplaces closed and many contractual obligations were abandoned in the name of ‘exceptional circumstances’.”

As lockdown eased, demand on cleaning firms increased but, at the same time, customers were wary of making long-term plans, he continues.

“Into our third lockdown now, we can see that caution was well-founded. For the cleaning industry, the crisis has brought mixed blessings.”

With businesses opening and then having to close again shortly after, it has been very difficult for clients to plan ahead.

People will not agree to long-term contracts, and they also want the flexibility to turn cleaning on and off like a tap, but that is simply not compliant with employment law.

Clients are now requesting cleaning four days per week, with whole companies working from home at least one day per week.

Meanwhile, office space is being reconfigured, with fewer desks and more space around them. In addition to basic cleaning, firms are being asked to provide advice for clients on what ‘sneeze screens’ might be needed, on the physical reconfiguration of the workplace, and on floor and wall signage to help staff and visitors maintain social distancing.

“The cleaning firms that will succeed under the new regime will be the most flexible; those which provide exceptional service and adjust systems to meet new requirements.

The circumstances are challenging, but one of the unexpected benefits of Covid is the building of collaborative partnerships that bring us together,” says Mr Ponniah.

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