The future of cleaning

Charlotte Parr explores how the perception of cleaning has shifted throughout the pandemic, how it will continue evolving, and the new ways being used to manage cleaning and hygiene (including workplace hygiene programmes).

The global pandemic has caused irreversible changes across every industry. Perhaps one of the most obvious is the shift in mindset regarding cleaning and hygiene. What was once a ‘behind the scenes’ role, only really noticed when it wasn’t done well, has been brought to the forefront of everyone’s minds.

The stark reality is that women are more likely to have quit or lost their jobs since the pandemic started, and we have to think of the huge loss in experience and talent within all businesses this caused. There has never been a better moment for everyone to ask themselves what can be done to even this out.

Historically there is undoubtedly a link between the low value that has traditionally been placed on ‘unskilled’ and ‘low-skilled’ roles and the fact that many of these jobs go unpaid in our own households. Women have long borne the majority of unpaid labour which, despite being vital to our economy, continues to go uncounted in statistics such as GDP. The global pandemic has started to change this, as the lines blur between work and home, and unpaid labour demands increase.

Bringing the importance of such work to the fore – both in commercial and domestic settings – will play an essential role in changing mindsets.

How has cleaning’s perception changed?

First impressions of places have always been important. Studies suggest that people form a first impression in only seven seconds. Clean, well-presented spaces can define the relationship an organisation forms with a client, right from the first meeting.

This will be even more critical after the pandemic as we have, by necessity, become hyperaware of the cleanliness of our surroundings. Visitors to a building will pick up details that once seemed inconsequential. An open paper on a coffee table may mean that someone was sat in that area only moments ago. Has the area been sanitised since?

Cleaning will no longer be a ‘behind the scenes’ provision, both by necessity as regular cleaning throughout the day is implemented, and because it will reassure building users to see cleaning taking place throughout the day.

What does this mean for cleaning?

Cleaning practices themselves are changing in response to demand. While once building managers may have had little interest in the minutiae of surface disinfection or cleaning schedules, these processes can now mean the difference between business-as-usual and closing a building due to infection rates.

There has been a lot of talk about processes such as deep cleaning, but in reality, this term is vague. Managers will want more detail to be reassured that cleaning procedures are as effective as possible and no corners are cut. The


products and equipment used in the cleaning process may come under scrutiny but so will the skills and training of the cleaning providers themselves. Perhaps a better understanding of the adaptive, methodological approach carried out by staff will help to dispel the concept that this role is ‘low-skilled’.

Cleaning providers will also need to adapt their provision. Social distancing and risk mitigation protocols will vary as time goes on and with them, building occupancy and space use. High-risk touchpoints will need to be identified and cleaned regularly, and shared workspaces in agile working environments will need sterilising between use. All of this will require a nimble workforce. Cleaning providers will need to work closely with clients to tailor solutions accordingly.

This will be a welcome opportunity to share and demonstrate the expertise of our industry. One of the most important things that providers should be doing now is increasing the transparency of their operations. Being prepared means that they will not have to expend time and resources on additional communication while adapting to the changes this year will bring.

What might this change look like?

For Churchill, this means building on our current cleaning provision to create a transparent and holistic approach. PRISM, our workplace hygiene and safety programme, is designed to provide cleaning solutions for the future through the integration of science, technology and people.

PRISM sits among Churchill’s wider matrix of virus mitigation tools and hygiene services. It enables workplace, property and facilities managers to understand the bacterial and viral content of their environment in order to implement tailored infection prevention solutions.

Whatever a company’s return to work plan looks like, a workplace hygiene programme will be a necessity. COVID will still be around when workplaces fully reopen – we’re already being told that wearing masks and frequent hand- washing will be required next winter – so all workplaces must be kept hygienically clean.

Cleaning and hygiene teams have always had the expertise. The pandemic has allowed them to demonstrate that to clients and take their services to the next level. The combination of science and technology is absolutely critical to truly ensure that the very best hygiene standards can be met.

Science is of course a key part of any programme. TVC (Total Viable Count) swabbing gives an auditable bacteria count that helps teams understand how bacteria and viruses are transmitted within their working environment, and how to bend and flex the cleaning solution to create hygienically clean workspaces.

Mo:dus, our technology platform, underpins the entire programme, intuitively supporting our highly skilled

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