Best-practice cleaning protocols for all FM stakeholders

by Sophie Berrill
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Cleaning protocols

There have been mounting pressures on facilities managers, suppliers and contractors around hygiene in the wake of the pandemic. How can FMs balance profitability and business sustainability when it comes to cleaning protocols and procedures? This was the central question addressed by a panel at the ISSA Cleaning and Hygiene Expo last Thursday.

Nicholas Burt, CEO of the Facility Management Association of Australia (FMA) joined JLL senior director Janene Hansford, and Lou La Delfa, CEO of commercial cleaning services provider Mermaid Property Services, on a panel called ‘Achieving the win for all stakeholders’ at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Here are the key takeaways from their discussion.

The shifting concerns of building owners

Building owners now have different priorities when it comes to cleanliness, La Delfa told the panel’s audience.

“Prior to the pandemic, a client would certainly come to us and say: ‘How dusty is my building?’” he said.  

“After the pandemic, the main question that we get asked is: ‘How safe is my building for my occupants and my tenants to come into?’” 

While safety is still front-of-mind for owners, La Delfa said the pandemic-level high-touchpoint cleaning is dialling back. But sanitisers continue to be deployed around buildings as more of a “security blanket” than anything else.

Changing user expectations

“Right across the board” of different facilities, Burt has similarly observed much higher expectations of indoor environments than before among users. And where the ‘dirty work’ of cleaners was once out of sight and after hours, he is seeing a new trend emerge.  

“Some of our members have expressed that they’re now bringing cleaning staff in so that people can actually see them during the day during different periods to make sure that people are really aware that the cleaning is happening,” he said.

The ebb and flow of building occupancy has also impacted these cleaning schedules.

“You may not clean the floor in the same fashion because on Mondays it’s quiet, but you might do detailed cleaning on Monday,” added Hansford. 

“It’d be unusual to… use the same manner that you did pre-COVID in the world that we’re living in today, certainly in an office environment.”

Evaluating your cleaning protocols

When asked about the benchmarks she uses to evaluate the effectiveness of a cleaning program, Hansford said she could answer this in “two ways”. The first was the way people think these evaluations should be done and the second was what really happens.

“If I was going out to procure cleaning services, then I might want to look at whether an organisation uses [the Cleaning Industry Management] standard or has a framework that has set them up to be able to perform the job that we are looking for them to do,” she explained.

“But at the end of the day, when you’re an occupant or you’re in facilities management and you are measuring against something, cleaning as we all know is subjective. What I think is clean versus what Will Bloggs thinks is clean is going to be very different.”

Facilities managers should therefore set cleaning benchmarks with their stakeholders, according to Hansford. It’s important for all parties to understand and agree on these benchmarks, and then set reviewing tools such as scoring matrices around them.

A clear and targeted approach 

This kind of direct communication is something that has served La Delfa throughout his years in the cleaning industry.

“I’ve been involved in contracts where we get penalised for not cleaning the escape stairs. Is that really a high-profile area? No, it’s not, so it gets done as a periodical,” he shared with the panel. 

La Delfa emphasised the importance of stakeholders establishing and focussing on the high-profile areas that show off assets. These include foyers, lifts and washrooms for the public or zones that are more important to tenants, like coffee stations and cafeterias. 

“It’s important that you establish those because otherwise you tend to be running around in circles trying to fix everyone’s problems or everyone’s opinion of what, as Janine said, is clean and what is not clean,” he said. 

Burt agreed that an important part of benchmarking is the ability of stakeholders – including clients, contracted service providers or in-house teams – to work closely together.

“You always hear those horror stories where somebody leaves a two-cent coin in the corner of the office and then all of a sudden they want the contractor beaten up because the coin was there for three days straight,” he joked. 

“Is it in the scope to pick up coins or to vacuum right into the corner? Is it really imperative that that is, to Lou’s point, something which occurs, and is it really worth penalising over? Why not focus on the things which are really important?” 

The importance of auditing

From the FMA’s perspective, independent auditing is a good practice to “pull that subjectivity out”. Whether FMs are conducting in-house or independent audits, Burt stressed the need to share results among stakeholders to improve future cleaning procedures.

“No good auditing if you’re not going to share the results with the contractor and say: ‘Here are the parts where it’s going really well, and here are the parts where it’s not going so well,’” he said.

“How do we work together to bring the service to the standard which is expected and the standard which is set in the scope?”

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