Looking back to the future

John McPherson, Managing Director of ABM UK, explains why looking back is essential to moving forward.

UK industry is about to open for business, and we’re all hopeful it will now stay that way. While we look forward to a restriction-free future, we must not forget to also look back.

The pandemic has transformed the cleaning industry at warp speed and the lessons learned must find their way into all aspects of how we do business in the future: not only because it is our duty to keep people safe, but also because it will help us to deal with future viruses which threaten to cripple our economy.

The biggest takeaways for us revolve around the importance of collaboration and confidence.


At the start of the pandemic, we recognised the magnitude of what we needed to achieve and the speed at which results were required. We were able to respond successfully because we knew that collaboration was essential.

A good example of this is our work with AGS, which owns Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton Airports. With high footfall and unavoidable touchpoints for travellers, airports needed and still need to ensure visitors feel confident and can travel safely. Working in collaboration, the team quickly reimagined the passenger journey.

New measures which were put in place only weeks into the first lockdown included: the antimicrobial treatment of passenger touchpoints, including security trays; the set-up of self-cleaning stations for trollies in baggage halls; the installation of hand sanitiser dispensers throughout the terminals; placement of clear social distancing markers; and regular use of electrostatic fogging machines, which disinfect all areas throughout the terminal offering 360° coverage and killing germs within two minutes.

In addition, the ABM UK team were trained in ‘new normal’ procedures, standard and enhanced PPE, as well as a suite of over 50 training talks specific to COVID-19 operation. These talks are an internal education platform for ABM UK team members across the country. While the programme is primarily preventative, there’s also a specialist team in place which is trained to do confirmed case clean ups.

As well as collaboration with our clients, we know that to deliver the world-class service in a rapidly changing market, collaboration on knowledge is critical. That’s why we established an Expert Advisory Council, composed of internal and external leading experts in infectious disease


and industrial hygiene to advise on changing best practice, including our proprietary EnhancedClean programme.


We have all been changed by this pandemic. To understand the shift in consumer mindset we commissioned independent research to help us create spaces which give people the reassurance they need.

Once a service that was kept behind the scenes, the research shows that the mere sight of cleaning happening in public spaces can go a long way towards creating customer confidence. Of the 1000 research participants, 61% said that seeing cleaners in public spaces made them feel that safety measures are being taken seriously and crucially, 45% agreed that the visibility of cleaning in progress would encourage them to return to a built environment, whether that’s an office space, shopping centre or airport.

Visibility is a key element in our three-step EnhancedClean approach which delivers healthy spaces with a certified disinfection process. It is designed to help clients return to their facilities safely and navigate change in a post COVID-19 world.

As the UK economy works towards recovery, we must continue to reflect on the lessons we have learned to ensure we can give our customers and the public the confidence they need to succeed and enjoy public spaces again.


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