The world has healed from a raging pandemic and as we have seen, the commercial cleaning industry has played a pivotal role in this process of healing. It has also seen a paradigm shift in how end users perceive cleaning. What was earlier seen as a not-so-necessary job is now of paramount importance. In this process of gaining recognition, we have also had our share of learnings. In this feature, thought leaders of the commercial cleaning industry come together to share their learnings from 2022.
Andrea Yoko, Head of Technical Support, AG Facilities Solutions
The year has witnessed the slow emergence from the pandemic and the new normal. It created the need and opportunities to allow the essential review, rebuilding, restructuring of services to meet the expectations of today’s requirements to succeed.
2022 highlighted the importance of embracing information, data-based decision making, automation, remote monitoring, that successfully integrate with the workforce and each other in a cost efficient and effective way. This is critical in today's competitive environment where service delivery is heavily scrutinized. It is paramount to have a transformational roadmap to be ready for the future and stay ahead of the technology curve.
The investment of training and development to upskill, gain professional training and qualifications to become future ready. This links with employee engagement and empowerment promoting increased productivity.
We are also evaluating integration of autonomous robotic equipment to support the teams with the repetitive, labor intensive and hazardous tasks in the workplace. They will not replace traditional workforce; they are to support and complement allowing them to carry out other duties.
Adaptability and flexibility will continue to be key differentiators as we continue the pursuit of better to enhance life, every day.
Harib Mohammed Binthani, Operations Division Director, Union Coop
Being one of the largest retail names in the UAE, Union Coop has to evolve continuously not only to retain its dominant yet unique stand in the market but to stay ahead of the changing consumer expectations as well.
The team of in-house analysts and professionals collected real-time data when it comes to cleaning schedules and the equipment utilized in creating new strategies to make work more effective and efficient. Our in-house team who are equipped with the latest equipment and machines for cleaning follows a strict cleaning schedule.
The housekeeping teams are well-trained in machine operations, which also include the usage of cleaning chemicals and safety precautions at regular time intervals. The cleaning programs implemented in the branches are in a way that sufficient resources are provided in terms of manpower, cleaning tools and equipment as well as enough supply of personal protective equipment. The signage depicting good hygiene practices is available in all the branches to remind the employees about hygiene culture.
It should also be noted that during the pandemic, the high-touch areas like handles of shopping trollies, display chillers and freezers, lift buttons etc. were given high priority and were sanitized every 2-4 hrs. intervals. The high-traffic areas showroom, toilets, receiving area etc. were disinfected every 12 hrs. intervals.
John Manohar, Cluster Director of Housekeeping , J5 HOTELS
The road to 2022 taught me two very important pointers in my professional and personal life: Humility and never taking anything for granted. We learned that we are all equal in health and humanity. No one is more powerful and accordingly, we should all have this in mind when dealing with each other.
I have learnt to cherish all my beloved family, friends, acquaintances and everybody else. We always take for granted that the people in our lives are always there and we get swamped with work and other life matters that we forget to glimpse and smile and thank those around us. That’s why, after 2022, I make sure that people matter.
Hygiene played an important element in everyone’s cleanliness in 2022 because of the raging pandemic. Everyone is now adhering to hygiene protocols and has become the basis for everyone to consider it as a critical phase of life in both professional and personal lives. This change in environment and behavior, has moved our traditional usage of products towards eco-friendly chemicals that are effective.
The breakout and the fear within due to COVID-19 pandemic has made us elevate the age-old standard operating protocols to a new set of standards in hygiene and cleaning in the hospitality industry. It has also become imperative that we strictly adhere to these standards in our hotels when it comes to precaution cleaning and disinfection.
This new set of standards has now become a routine way of handling the “ Cleanliness, Hygiene and Personal safety” in the housekeeping operation. By doing this, the standards have moved from a normal practice towards a very stringent procedure to be followed based on the local health and safety authorities.
Dr Lisa Ackerly, Director of Medical & Scientific Engagement, Hygiene Research & Development, Reckitt.
I think one thing we can learn from 2022 is that hygiene is not just for COVID19 – it’s the way to help to reduce the risks of many infectious diseases, from viruses, bacteria and even molds and yeasts. This year other diseases have caused problems as we start to mix more closely – monkeypox, Streptococcus A and influenza for example. Hygiene is the key to reducing the risk of many infections. Pathogens (microbes that can cause illness) are all around us, but it is within our power to help keep them from infecting us through applying simple hygiene at the right place and at the right time, and in many respects that means carrying on some of the habits we learned as children – for example washing our hands after using the bathroom.
I advocate the principles of Targeted Hygiene, which is all about taking action at the right place, at the right time and in the right way to focus on where hygiene can really make a difference. This applies to not only to hand hygiene as in the example above, but also to surface disinfection; understanding about how surfaces can become contaminated throughout the day means we can concentrate on when is the best time to clean and disinfect, rather than indiscriminately using chemicals and resources which actually may not be so effective. For example, if you just cleaned and disinfected a busy environment just once in the evening, this would not take into account all the contamination of frequently touched surfaces throughout the day, where pathogens could be passing from one person to the next via hands.
Michael Rollins, Consultant Healthcare Environment Infection Prevention
One valuable outcome of the SARS CoV2 pandemic experience is the recognition of the important role that environmental support staff provide in both patient and colleague safety. It could be argued that healthcare facilities were inadequately prepared for the pandemic including infection prevention guidance, PPE use, staff training, cleaning and disinfection practices. All lessons to be learned.
The aftermath includes restoring the environment from chemical surface damage and accumulation of chemical residues. We need to evaluate and determine the environmental impact of single use disposable wipes both in terms of efficacy and environmental sustainability.
The realisation of airborne infection risk presents a major challenge to overcome in both the practical assessment of airborne infection risk, and the ability to mitigate this risk, in the short term where deficiencies may exist.
The healthcare built environment must meet ventilation performance standards with secure environmental controls installed where airborne risk is clinically present, determined by patient profile, isolation requirement, airborne generating procedures, as well as airborne dispersion which can be a result of environmental cleaning or patient bed making, doffing PPE are examples of practical influences on airborne dispersion.
Finally, behaviour change is possibly the hardest to sustain in the long term. PPE, hand hygiene compliance, social distancing, personal hygiene practices can fade as the perceived risk recedes.
Until next time……lest we forget these lessons learned.
Mohammed Aleemuddin, Head of Training & Operations Support for Soft Services, Saudi Services Company Limited (SSCL)
Hygiene remained the most sought-after service expectation from all our clients and rightly so in the wake of our forgetful experiences through the past few years. Data showed that the pandemic had disrupted all kinds of business, from manufacturing, retail, hospitality to FM industry although to a lesser extent for the year 2022. Life expectancy in some countries has fallen, while mental health concerns have skyrocketed. And the impacts of long COVID are just being recognized, while gaps in national healthcare systems have been exposed as never before.
Following are the key learnings for the year 2022:
1- Constant awareness among all the stakeholders especially our employees:
- Implementing a workplace hygiene policy was the most effective way to ensure that all employees are aware and continuously reminded on the importance of standard hygiene practices at work. It also ensured that all of them following the same standards.
- Key message was embedded in every communication opportunity ranging from regular briefings, meetings to training sessions.
- Feedback was sought at regular intervals from our clients for further improvement of our services.
2- Handwashing was a critical factor:
- Handwashing is a one key success factor of hygiene at workplace which was communicated and implemented across all our projects through the posters at every handwashing facility. Appropriate soap and disinfectant dispensers were made available for all. 3- PPE
- The focus on using PPE was never compromised for the safety of our workforce as well our clients and guests.
4- On the job training:
- SOPs for effective cleaning were updated on regular basis and prominently included in all on the job trainings schedules for our housekeeping staff to refresh their knowledge constantly.
- Measures were in place to review the effectiveness of the training sessions on the work environment and client satisfaction.
5- Supply chain and constant review of our product range:
- Our product range for the cleaning agents, tools and equipment were constantly evaluated for their efficiency and impact on the environment. Appropriate feedback was provided to our suppliers to make the necessary adaptations.
- Product representatives were invited regularly to our project sites to upskill our employees on safe practices and demonstrating effective use.
Remya Venugopalan, Director Operations, International Modern Hospital
It has been an eventful year for us at International Modern Hospital with many challenges and learnings and ending the year with the “Excellence in Medical Waste Award” was icing on the cake. At IMH, the first priority is always about ensuring the safety of our patients, staff and visitors, and infection control is one of the key aspects in keeping our occupants safe from cross contamination and healthcare associated infections. Through these years, we have learnt that this is a continuous cycle and only possible through regular and effective cleaning & disinfection of our facilities, medical equipment and hand hygiene by healthcare professionals. Key to achieving successful cleaning and disinfection is the use of effective chemicals in appropriate concentrations and contact time on the surfaces. To achieve all this, staff training on joining and continuous in-service education is extremely important. We have also involved our patients and attendants in this journey whereby we encourage them to ask if our staff have cleaned their hands prior to touching them.
Subhojit Banerjee, Director of Housekeeping, Atlantis The Palm
2022 has been a great year to understand how the world has evolved post-COVID and how things can swiftly change from a slower pace to a very high paced environment. This year has made the hospitality industry appreciate the true worth of retaining good talent, keeping a strong backup plan for resources, and a robust hygiene plan in place.
- Retaining good talent- with the upward trend in hospitality, most companies have been on the lookout to engage experienced employees, as many were lost during the pandemic. It has hence become even more critical to retain the good talent within the company by keeping them engaged and caring for them to be able to consistently deliver high levels of service.
- Good backup plan for resources- due to the pandemic, many outsourced vendors/ suppliers depleted stocks or lowered production. Hence, when the business started picking up, a lot of the businesses were meted out with shortage of resources. A good learning from this is to ensure vendors always keep a contingency plan and ensure business continuity during peaks and troughs.
- Whilst the world has moved on from COVID times, the underlying fact still remains that Hygiene will be on top of the list for most discerning travelers as they travel around the world. The higher the levels of Hygiene in any organization, the higher the chances of guests coming back to stay.
Suman Basu, Executive Housekeeper, Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach
The year 2022 has shown us a ray of hope as we have seen the world slowly coming out of the pandemic, with countries easing travel restrictions and people starting to travel again. The hospitality industry has seen healthy growth in hotel occupancy and good average room rates, particularly in Dubai due to Expo 2020.
When government regulations were lifted, hotels were able to return to previously offered service standards and offerings. The focus on cleanliness and hygiene has not changed and rigorous cleaning and sanitation programs have remained in-placed, ensuring that hotels continue to provide a sanitized room and a safe environment for our guests.
Guests’ health and safety continues to be a top priority, although COVID-19 cases have declined significantly over the past few months. In 2022, we witnessed the beginning of the political unrest between Russia and Ukraine, another blow to the hospitality industry, resulting in sharply rising energy prices and an overall slowdown in the economy in many of Dubai’s key source markets. The strengthening of the AED against the Euro and the resulting decrease in the buying power of European travelers have put pressure on hotel prices. Combined with an increase in energy, the cost of goods sold, higher wages and salaries, hotel profit margins have come under pressure and thought hotels should critically review their operations.
To conclude, 2022 has taught us many lessons. We have learned what a fragile economy we are in, it has also taught us to be agile, capable of changing, adapting and, ultimately, making wise use of our limited resources, while offering maximum safety and service to our valued guests.
Sutharson Sathaiah, Group HSE Director, Aura Group
This is a fantastic year for Aura Group, as we have enriched Qatar’s dining offerings with the opening of new high-end and most south-after restaurants carefully selected from award-winning brands from across the globe. We have opened 36 new restaurants this year. We have implemented our world-class Food Safety standards in our restaurants so that from day one, we will go above and beyond compliance. We had to onboard more than 2000 new employees within a short span of time. We have had a clear staff engagement strategy to season and blend the new employees to our existing positive safety culture. All our operations are running successfully, with best compliance, because of our strategy and its implementation.
Another important learning this year was to have a simplified Food Safety Management system. People may not read hundreds of pages of policies and procedures. It’s always important to keep it very simple, whether it’s a process or a policy, and accessible to everyone. There are plenty of mobile applications and software solutions that can be used to govern the system and to interact with the staff. We must target a self-governance model that will take the organization from the level of compliance to excellence.
Trishna Hundal, Cluster Executive Housekeeper, Wyndham Dubai Deira | Days Hotel by Wyndham| Super 8 by Wyndham
Hospitality bounced back to normal in 2022. We saw the inflow of guests after two years.
As housekeepers, we learnt to be able to delegate and manage a wide variety of skill-sets. Having worked with less manning in the department, we understood how to methodically, strategically, and collaboratively make decisions, solve problems, and foster innovation. We reviewed everything that we were doing and were able to develop a step-by-step process from targeting the problem to developing a solution.
Besides effective communication skills, we built interpersonal skills to identify and build a purposeful team culture within the department. It helped to develop highly effective teams that are built upon consensus, effective meetings and relationships within housekeeping and throughout the rest of the hotel.
We could boost productivity and efficiency within the department and hotel with time and priority management skills. We understood what is urgent and what is important, thus being more productive and efficient, less stressed, have more energy and feel better– critical for everybody working in housekeeping. Housekeepers learnt to manage not only the product and the budgets but also their own soft-skills to greatly benefit the hotel.
In 2022, we displayed higher hygiene levels, better customer service, improved communications and team interactions, stronger relationships and increased efficiency.