A working individual spends about over a third of his/her day at the workplace. With most offices having air-conditioning as the only source of air and ventilation, several products releasing VOCs in the air, and the increasing necessity to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity, it has become even more important for us to be vigilant about the cleanliness and hygiene of any workplace/office. Not only does the health of employees suffer if the above requirement is not met, but the sick days also cost the company in the long run. According to ISSA, 7.7 sick days per employee per year results in a cost of $225.8 billion per year. This also has repercussions on the productivity/ output of the company. Cleaning and maintaining workplace hygiene, as a result, not only brings down the probability of catching a cold by 80 per cent but also brings down absenteeism by 46 per cent.
Clean Middle East speaks with stakeholders of the workplace cleaning and hygiene regime to understand the current trends and practices.
Importance of cleaning & hygiene and risk areas
“Cleanliness in a workplace is fundamental and essential for day-today efficient operations in any business as it leads to higher productivity. Business aside, it is the backbone of a healthy lifestyle. People spend most of their time in two places - at their workplace and in their bed. It is crucial that both of these places are as clean as possible,” says Tamara Hribar, General Manager, Hyla Electrical Equipment Trading LLC.
Cleaning Director, Al Fajer Facilities Management, agrees and adds, “Corporate offices are a reflection of any company – they reflect the standards, the impression of the visitors and even the health and wellbeing of the staff that works in these companies. At Al Fajer FM, we place our best staff at corporate offices for that very reason.” Stephen Beesley, COO of Integrated Facility Services, Transguard, finds that, “A clean workplace is also a safe environment that helps reduce or nullify slips, trips and falls.” Regular cleaning and decontamination at the workplace removes chemical or dust buildups along with mould, pollutants and pathogens. Proper cleaning reduces the level of allergens.
It is important to choose cleaning chemicals that are safe and will not trigger any allergic reaction, says Vishal Nair, Service & Application Engineer – Middle East, BUZIL-WERK Wagner. He elaborates, “Viral fever/cough & cold spread very fast amongst staff that share office space. Providing an instant hand sanitizer reduces the germs and an improved air filtration reduces the infection rates by circulating clean air. A clean workplace shows that you care about your employees and take a serious involvement in the safety of your workers.”
It is extremely importance for companies carrying out workplace maintenance to take into consideration certain aspects. For instance, at Al Fajer FM, as Chehade states, the number of employees working in the office and the amount of furniture are major considerations. Beesley adds to this,
“We carefully assess the type of surface covering, which will determine the type of equipment and cleaning agent to use. We also have to check the size of area to be cleaned, which will determine whether machinery or staff is best suited for the task. Finally, we check the building occupancy and footfall, which determines high traffic areas that require a higher frequency of attention.”
Cleaning an office is a world apart from say cleaning a hospital, mall or even hotel. Chehade says that the main difference is evident in the the cleaning time – which is usually after work hours in order to not disturb employees. Beesley agrees and adds that the office space has very little area open to cleaning. As a result most companies prefer to work at night. Nair states, “Office maintenance should be divided in 2 phases - daily cleaning (during operating hours) & deep cleaning (during non-operating hours).” Offices generally have loose dust or minor stains during operating hours in the common areas like corridors, desks, screens, etc. The same can be removed by any neutral cleaner containing solvents without skin-resorptive substances.
The cleaner should easily remove pen/pencil marks and dry quickly as well. He says that the same applies to washroom maintenance during working hours. The washroom cleaner must be able to clean every surface using a neutral, solvent-free base that reduces bacterial count. Nair adds that deep cleaning can be done for specific areas during non-operating hours with special chemicals to overcome the challenges beyond the capacity of daily cleaning – and this includes upholstery cleaning.
When it comes to customer choices, the focus is increasingly on sustainability, safety and the right application of chemicals. Nair says, “We get a lot of enquiries for ecolabel or green chemicals. And, we offer a wide range of ecolabel products for daily cleaning, degreasing, coating or a stripping product.” Buzil has developed hyper concentrates with the dilution capability of 20 ml in 10 liters; they clean in a single step and become extremely economical. The hyper concentrates can provide up to 500 liters of cleaning solution from 1 liter of product thereby reducing the plastic consumption of empty cans by 50 per cent, and storage space and transportation costs thereby reducing the carbon foot print.
When it comes to equipment, Hribar suggests the use of Hyla Multipurpose Cleaning System. The system includes cleaning and purifying the air, deep cleaning, regular vacuuming and wet cleaning of hard floors and shampooing of carpets and upholstery. The Hyla system only uses water filtration and makes it possible to tell exactly when surfaces are completely clean as the water will remain clean.
Beesley says, “We use a range of nano chemicals, which are eco-friendly and actively continue to work after application thus creating better productivity as there’s a reduced requirement for routine cleaning. We also use a range of smart equipment such as ultra-microfibre systems, robotics and auto dosed machinery, which help reduce the consumption of chemicals and provide a sustainable product solution.”
Moving on from main working areas like desks, monitors, etc., a lot of focus is also given to specialized cleaning. For instance, Al Fajer offers AC diffuser cleaning and carpet cleaning using special shampoo machines and a chemical solution rich in enzymes, in order to break the chemical components of the spots on the carpet. The washroom requires a far more detailed regime. Beesley says, “Often in this region, there is a requirement for dedicated washroom attendants, this solution, of course, provides constant cleaning whilst on site. Alternative regimes include scheduling cleaning at dedicated times to ensure minimum standards are achieved during the day, followed by deep cleaning in the evening.” A checklist system is encouraged, and usage frequency is studied according to the visitor behaviour and patterns.
Safety is another major factor in workplaces. Signage would typically include assemble points, first aid, evacuation routes, exits, hazardous icons, and warning signs - all of which are paramount in the workplace. Systems include a health and safety management system, reporting of near misses, logging and capturing of all incidents and accidents. Transguard has also implemented a system to hold and maintain site specific risk assessments, MSDS and COSHH information allowing staff to have this information to hand any time it’s required. Besides this, Al Fajer conducts frequent audits to ensure that the janitorial trolleys are free of food and the chemical bottles are labeled. Colour coding is used in their operations and employees are educated via ergonomic sessions to avoid injury or accidents.
Overall, a lot of thought, vigilance and best practices go into maintaining an office space – right from occupation consideration, right down to specialized materials.