Facilities departments for a wide range of companies are seeing an unprecedented influx of funding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – and a tremendous uptick in demands for service.
For T-Mobile US Inc., that funding has included $50 million dedicated to extra cleaning and protective equipment investments. Walmart Inc. and three other big retail chains have put more than $3 billion into COVID-19 related measures, including intensified cleaning. Major companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-19-related costs, and some expect costs will continue to rise.
And that’s just corporations. The George Washington University’s CFO has said the school plans to spend nearly $25 million during next fiscal year to prevent the spread of coronavirus once students return to campus. Approximately $1 million of this is earmarked for enhanced cleaning.
It’s a dramatic change for many maintenance and custodial departments, which have traditionally been seen as a cost center rather than a profit center. However, in today’s world, it’s becoming clear that investing in clean is directly attached to an organization or institution’s bottom line. Now is the time for CFOs to get on board with investments that support cost-effective enhanced cleaning.
4 Steps for Rethinking Custodial Services
Custodial services are all about keeping your facility running in tip top shape and when done right, these services are meant to be virtually invisible. Unfortunately, this often means the critical importance of quality work is unnoticed and unappreciated.
It’s time for that to change. In the COVID-aftermath, cleanliness will be directly tied to profit.
To make the right custodial service investments, consider discussing the following four questions with cleaning staff prior to deciding on a potential investment:
Is this investment necessary to protect staff and building occupants?This includes personal protective equipment as well as disinfectants listed on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2, and the equipment to apply those solutions.
Now is also the time to consider the many ways that buildings impact their occupants. Data indicates that cleaner environments can boost cognitive function by 61%, increasing employee productivity. Investments in clean pay off in attracting tenants and improving workforce productivity as well.
Does this investment improve staff efficiency?Greater efficiency means greater cost savings. Consider this: a University of Minnesota study found that it takes one person up to two hours to mop a 5,000-square-foot floor. By transferring that process to an autonomous carpet sweeper, that same labor-intensive task took 15 to 30 minutes. During that time, the staff person was able to check dry mopping off as done while performing additional cleaning.
What’s more, a report from global consultants McKinsey & Co. found evidence from the last economic crisis that investments in productivity pay. Companies that invested in productivity improvements more frequently than their competitors created a stronger capacity for growth during recovery. By investing one to two years earlier in productivity, these leaders were able to reduce operating costs by three times more than competitors.
Could this investment reduce staff turnover?Conservative estimates indicate that the cost of replacing a single employee can range between one-half to two times the employee's annual salary. In industries such as cleaning services, where employee turnover might average near 200 percent, turnover becomes a massive, yet easily preventable, expense. Supporting cleaning staff with tools that reduce muscle strain and monotony could reap significant savings.
Does this investment increase traffic through my facility?Clean facilities are increasingly becoming a differentiator in a tighter marketplace. For example, a survey from travel company Skyscanner found travelers intending to book vacation accommodations in the wake of the pandemic consider hygiene to be more important than price or location.
The Risks of Not Investing in Smart Cleaning Tech
While many organizations may be tightening their purse strings in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession fears, some technology investments remain critical and cannot be put off for a later time. Smart cleaning technology is one of them.
There are risks to not investing in above-and-beyond cleaning solutions now.
Consider, for example, a survey from the Massachusetts chapter of the American College of Physicians, which indicated that 42% of specialty practices and 23% of primary care physicians may close their offices due to financial struggles. The reason? "People are nervous to go back to their doctor because they're nervous to go out," explains Dr. David A. Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Or consider the American Hotel and Lodging Association survey that reveals more than 50 percent of hotels are in danger of foreclosure. This, despite the fact that a growing number of hotels have reopened their doors and 2.1 million hospitality jobs were added in June.
Physician practices, hotels, and other industries may be providing enhanced cleaning and disinfection to protect their clientele so they’ll need to offer visible proof of those actions to gain that clientele’s trust.
Visible solutions can include signage, but on-the-go technologies operating quietly in the background can help put your building occupants at ease. Just make sure they operate without the risk of infection inherently carried by a staff presence.
As the McKinsey report points out, crises tend to be opportune times to drive transformation. They authors advise, “This is a time to shelve incremental thinking and seek out transformational plans that could boost revenues or reduce costs—not by 5 to 10 percent but by 30 to 40 percent.”
These types of solutions don’t have to break the bank. Autonomous cleaning solutions like Whiz, the commercial robot vacuum from Softbank Robotics, developed in partnership with Brain OS and ICE Robotics, are available with a subscription model, allowing you to cost-effectively pilot the solution in your properties.