The Prime Minister announces COVID-19 lockdown and there was a calm before the storm…if only! Text messages and emails were flooding in all evening.
The next day, Debbie Flack (Regional Manager of 25 years at aZtec Commercial Cleaning) received 86 phone calls all with near immediate actionable tasks, not to mention the endless emails. She shut herself away in a room and used her years’ worth of high pressure management experience to navigate an onslaught of requirements from her clients and staff.
In the ‘normal’ world, companies often wonder why cleaning management is so important when it comes to commercial cleaning and there is a tendency to avoid the cost. Of course, there are companies who know full well the value of commercial cleaning management, having struggled to recruit new cleaning staff, train cleaning staff and cover absent commercial cleaning staff, let alone ensure standards are up to scratch. COVID-19 just threw a challenge for commercial cleaning managers to prove themselves.
Almost overnight, the world as Debbie knew it changed. An entire chain of 24 showrooms closed with immediate effect. Every cleaner had to be informed before their shift started. Cue over 50 questions of “what happens now?”, “will I still be able to pay my rent?”, “do I still have a job?”, “what about my other cleaning site?”. Fortunately for Debbie, aZtec have a management structure in place and Debbie leaned heavily on her four area supervisors. With one supervisor shielding due to pregnancy, logistics changed for the rest. With the introduction of Furlough, Debbie ended up with one fully working supervisor, Diana, who worked tirelessly with Debbie to ensure their clients and cleaning staff were looked after to the best of their ability.
Closures were only the start of the challenges which Debbie and her commercial cleaning team rose to. With many clients still open in some capacity, one major client closed one of their two branches in Milton Keynes, but increased the cleaning at the other. What used to be evening office cleaning only, was now early morning cleaning, daytime “office hours” cleaning and an altered evening cleaning time. This was due to the site changing how their own office staff worked. With two shifts using the same building, aZtec’s cleaning staff had to ensure they were on and off site at particular times, without any switchover between cleaning shifts in case of transmission. The client used to have 4.5 hours of cleaning per day. This was increased by an additional 10 hours per day, and it was needed immediately. It was in no way easy, but Debbie and her team achieved it. Her commercial cleaners changed their protocols, wore masks where requested and did everything that was asked of them. Without these hardworking cleaners aZtec’s clients would not have been able to provide an environment deemed suitably safe for their staff to continue working in.
With site closures and the announcement of the furlough scheme, cleaning staff and cleaning supervisors were furloughed. Those who remained working at one of their usual sites were offered new roles at alternative sites where possible, but for some their hours were decreased drastically whilst solutions were found.
Debbie looks after around 30 client cleaning contracts, only one of which includes the 24 showrooms. Cleaning training on every site was changed, products altered and eventually some sites reopened. Reopening was another challenge. Dates were changed on a daily basis. Debbie would receive reopening lists from her clients with multiple sites, only to receive an altered one the next day. Showrooms maintained a cleaning schedule within their garages but overnight, customers were allowed to walk through the showroom to collect their cars. Furloughed positions were suddenly partly required, but the furlough scheme was yet to allow part furlough. Creative thinking and quick response was needed to solve yet another COVID-19 cleaning curveball. Not forgetting daily stints of cleaning to cover sites where there were no cleaning staff available.
The furlough scheme was extremely important during this period. How would a service such as office cleaning manage to re-establish overnight without it? aZtec Commercial Cleaning didn’t charge their clients during site closures and stopped the service with immediate effect upon every request. During this time, they still fully serviced their other clients on reduced staffing. If aZtec ever wanted proof of why it’s model of around 300 cleaners across 230 clients within a small geographical area of 30 miles radius of Milton Keynes works, this was it. As a company aZtec was big enough to cope with the pressure and small enough to ensure that the staff cared, supported each other and got the job done to the desired standard of the clients. Would national cleaning companies, often adopted by large businesses, have managed with the same efficiency? More importantly than the size or location of the company, it is the culture within aZtec which got them through. The Coronavirus pandemic period was managed by an experienced team, all of whom supported each other and take the satisfaction of their clients personally.
aZtec would like to thank each and every one of their staff who worked during this COVID-19 lockdown period. It is likely to have changed commercial cleaning forever. Cleaning can be a thankless task, but hopefully this recent awareness of cleanliness will go a long way to improve the appreciation given to those who ensure a safe and clean environment for others.
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