The COVID effect

For many companies, the announcement of the lockdown changed their business beyond recognition overnight. Gareth Thomas, Managing Director of SWC (part of Incentive FM Group), reflects on what has happened in the window cleaning sector.

Our business is split into two main areas: high street retailers including restaurants, and secondly commercial office buildings. So, when the lockdown was announced, around 50% of our client base – the retailer part – closed down as businesses stopped window cleaning services with immediate effect.

The commercial office sector followed suit a couple of weeks later when they were able to organise home working. During this period, we actually undertook some additional cleaning work as companies were keen to reassure essential workers by providing deep cleans and additional sanitisation.

However, as a business, we decided that we couldn’t justify our services as being essential in the main and that it was more important to safeguard our staff. So, we made the decision to furlough all of our window cleaning teams, leaving only a few members of staff to deal with all essential work and emergency call outs. These individuals volunteered, but we made sure they had the right skillsets and lived in the best locations to keep travel to an absolute minimum and provide a full complement of services to our customer base.

Some of our clients are of course deemed essential and have stayed open, such as supermarkets and pharmacies and, wherever possible, we have tried to offer other additional essential services whilst on site to help keep the number of workers visiting each location to a minimum. We have now integrated other services such as watering of hanging baskets, green walls and planters, litter picking and waste bin emptying to save any other teams visiting.

New ways of working

Like many businesses, we’ve had to adapt to new ways of thinking and the way we run our business on a day-to- day basis. We are now having daily video calls to review operations and the objective is to be prepared and utilise

our time wisely. We have been looking at ways of supporting our staff throughout.

Regarding working practices changing, the team are all social distancing whilst on site, they are keeping the teams in the same pairs, and some of them even live together which is great. They have been provided with Virustatic Snoods, gloves and hand santiser for day-to-day low-level window cleaning. When working from Cradles/MEWPs, or anywhere where they are less than two metres apart, the team are also provided with N95 facemasks and eye protection on top of the kit mentioned above.

As well as using this time to review all policies and procedures across the business, we have made sure we do not forget about our operatives who are stuck at home. We’re making sure we are engaging with the staff on a weekly basis during a welfare call each Tuesday morning, where both directors of the company have taken the time to speak to all the team members and keep the teams up to date with any government guidelines and the ongoing process to make sure that they remain feeling part of the team. These calls are to make sure that all staff are ok and that they are supported through this difficult time as well.

Making lockdown count

We are also using this isolation time to put together online training packages to help continue SWC’s excellent training and development of all operatives. We have carried out web-based training such as safety harness theory training webinars, Drivetech driver awareness training and ladder safety training.

Additionally, all senior managers are undertaking an excel refresher course and mental health awareness training as well as specific COVID-19 related training programmes to help support the fight against this virus. 76 | WINDOW CLEANING AND WORKING AT HEIGHT

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