While businesses across the country—and around the world—are taking measures to ensure their employees have the necessary resources to conduct business remotely, other companies are finding their business to be ramping up, particularly those who are a crucial part of keeping communities safe and healthy during this time. Cleaning companies fall squarely into this category, with many of the aforementioned now-temporarily-remote businesses calling in cleaning crews to deep clean and disinfect their office spaces while they’re vacant.
While businesses are eager to have their spaces cleaned amid the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, it’s clear that this is a double-edged sword for cleaning companies. On the one hand, the sudden surge in demand has a positive impact on business; ZipRecruiter is projecting a 75% increase in demand for cleaning services this month, compared to the same time last year. On the other hand, handling this magnitude of sudden interest can be difficult and even a bit overwhelming in a climate ripe with panic and prevention.
So, how can your cleaning business best prepare to navigate the coronavirus situation safely, quickly, and effectively?
1. Put People First
This likely goes without saying, but ensuring that your employees are properly trained and equipped to handle this sudden demand for cleaning is crucial. Take the time to ensure that your staff is thoroughly informed regarding the virus, how it’s transmitted, how it’s prevented, and how to approach cleaning potentially contaminated areas.
Your cleaning crews are most likely already accustomed to wearing the appropriate gloves and masks while cleaning, but now is a key time to revisit measures like these and ensure that all of your protocols are being followed to the letter in the field.
Additionally, be sure to revisit your policies regarding sick leave and ensure that your crew members know not to report for work if they’re feeling under the weather. Self-regulating in this way can be difficult, especially if employees are erroneously under the belief that reporting for work when under the weather equates to being a good employee by “toughing it out.” If your current provisions don’t include paid sick leave for employees, now might be the time to reevaluate your policies to ensure that potentially sick employees don’t feel pressured to come to work against their better judgement.
With any illness that spreads quickly and easily, isolating individuals who have been exposed is a key element of containment. By striving to keep your employees safe and healthy—and by encouraging those who may not be to stay home—you’re doing what’s best for you, your team, and your customers.
2. Know What You’re Up Against
Cleaning a mess is always easier when you know what you’re dealing with; knowing the source of a stain, for instance, allows you to approach it properly the first time to handle the situation efficiently. In much the same way, understanding a pathogen is key to addressing it properly.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2, and researchers in a number of fields are currently working to establish a better understanding of the virus to ensure that it’s approached as safely and as efficiently as possible. As a cleaning company being hired to disinfect a variety of professional spaces, it’s important to be aware of where the virus lingers, how long it can survive, and how best to approach eliminating it.
Recent findings in an as yet unreviewed and unpublished report from Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana in affiliation with the U.S. National Institutes of Health correlate with World Health Organization’s (WHO) earlier estimate that the virus is able to survive anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Rocky Mountain Laboratories found that the virus survived 48-72 hours on hard, non-porous surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel; up to 24 hours on cardboard; up to four hours on copper (long utilized in a number of industries, including plumbing, for its natural antimicrobial properties); and up to three hours post-aerosolization, as might be commonly found when an individual coughs or sneezes. While findings weren’t yet available for soft surfaces, prior research indicates that the primary areas for concern are hard, smooth surfaces as opposed to fabrics or carpeting.
For your cleaning company, the main takeaway is that the virus can survive on tabletops, desks, railings, and other hard surfaces for a number of days. Even when entering a vacant office space while its workers are remote, it’s of the utmost importance that cleaning crews take appropriate precautions from the start, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as necessary and adhering to standard best practices when it comes to coming into contact with surfaces, touching their own faces, and other such behaviors.
It is also crucial to review the difference between cleaning and disinfecting with your team. When it comes to SARS-CoV-2, treating hard surfaces with ammonia- or alcohol-based cleaners as appropriate is the #1 way to eliminate the virus and provide your customers with a clean, disinfected environment.
3. Be Prepared to Adapt
In addition to forming a strategy for handling the virus directly, it’s also important to develop a plan for how to address the indirect impact of the situation on your cleaning business. From the way your customers are approaching the situation to the way it affects individual members of your team, you need to be ready to make adjustments on the fly when necessary. This is crucial for weathering the storm and being positioned for success when things eventually return to normal.
Allow for Flexible Scheduling
As we discussed above, the spread of coronavirus is triggering a boom in demand for professional cleaning services. Accordingly, you can expect requests to deviate significantly from the norm. While residential calls will likely be hit or miss (some people will want their homes cleaned more than ever, while others won’t want anyone entering their homes during the outbreak), you can expect increased demand from businesses, schools, and other commercial locations. Even if you typically service only residential properties, you may be receiving calls from commercial locations who aren’t able to rely on their usual cleaning service or in-house custodians at this time.
Your recurring customers might be requesting service sooner than they would typically be scheduled, more often than usual, or perhaps more in depth cleanings than they typically do. This is great for cleaning companies from a business standpoint, of course, but only if you’re able to adjust to the shift in demand and delivery on quality service.
Optimize Routing to Plan Efficiently
Ensuring that your routes are laid out using route optimization software can help you to fit more cleanings into your schedule with the same manpower, allowing you to handle this influx of requests without missing a beat. Route optimization software also makes it easy for you to integrate incoming appointments into your schedule smoothly, fitting them in seamlessly and keeping your parameters—such as driving distance, employee capabilities, and necessary materials—in mind.
As you make adjustments and fit incoming leads into your schedule, the right software also allows you to keep your customers informed with automated messages for appointment confirmation, expected arrival times, and more. Now more than ever, keeping lines of communication open while limiting direct interaction is an absolute must.
The ability to pivot is also a lifesaver if members of your staff unexpectedly need to take sick leave during these uncertain times. Rather than needing to tear your schedule apart and rebuild it from scratch if someone calls out, route optimization software can reassign and reschedule appointments as necessary to provide you with the best possible outcome that works with your available staff and scheduling parameters. The result is a scenario that’s ideal for your customers, your staff, and your business.