By Syed Usman, Soft Services Manager – Saudi Arabia, Cushman & Wakefield
Pandemic! The very word is self-explanatory - an epidemic disease that has spread worldwide. And we all felt it - went through the entire year experiencing a new way of living with extreme measures, precaution, care, and hygiene - most of which we should have anyway been following and taking care of! As a Soft FM Manager, the pandemic taught me a whole new way of thinking outside the box. It made me rethink every step I normally would take with ease in my regular cleaning operations. Now these were done differently with extreme precaution.
The first and foremost challenge was to convince and make my ground crew feel safe and protected from any potential hazard and harm. This included making sure their accommodation was being segregated from the rest of the staff living in the camp and further segregating the cleaning crew, tea boys and MEP technicians or anyone else who was sharing the accommodation. Moreover, it was extremely important that everything was segregated and sterilizing their accommodation.
The second task in line with business continuity and the stakeholders was to ensure that the crew followed the WHO and local health regulatory instructions with zero tolerance on hand sanitizers, face masks, gloves and maintaining distance. It also included suspension or cancellation of all-purpose and generic chemicals to include specific chemicals that kill germs to 99.99% while also preventing potentially infectious germs. It was also important that we ensured that business continued to be done with our staff working round the clock. We had two projects running together - one, a 36-floor tower which has approximately 1,700 staff members; two, an operations building 3-story buildings that has 2000 staff members that was running 24x7,. We kept the workflow strong as I wanted to communicate to my team that, ‘we are in this together’.
Some of the stakeholders of the project and the client wanted our services to be intact and on time. However, this was at a huge risk to our cleaning crew whose biggest challenge was to execute hygiene and cleaning services while avoiding contamination of the COVID-19 virus. As the manager, it was my job to be at the centre of it all leading the teams’ on the ground operations by overseeing tasks, ensuring health and safety and by arranging for and giving them the latest updates on the developments and precautions of the pandemic.
The third challenge was to resume hospitality and catering services in such a high-risk environment. This was because we were dependent on third party service providers. Health and safety regulations had to be in place, and we had to be extremely vigilant of who the crew were, getting their covid-19 tests done making sure that all crew members are negative and from where they purchase their materials and equipments from, whether they were trained to understand the seriousness of the situation and followed local and WHO regulations.
Over the past year we’ve learnt several lessons. Some of these include learning to say no where required, following and taking health and safety measures seriously and executing the same with zero tolerance on PPE. We also had to learn to be self-equipped for emergency cases like the use and execution of sterilization on pandemic affected areas, following hygiene standards at all times without compromise. We also learned to maintain our = stock for at least half of the year incase of an unexpected high demand, which also taught us to use every available resource, tools, chemicals and consumables at its optimum use.
The future of cleaning and hygiene
Where there is no cleaning there is no hygiene and vice versa. Cleaning is an art and a science that requires specific know-how to deliver the right results to the right client in the right amount of time and at the right asset. If you have the passion for service, for cleaning and hygiene, you will always be able to serve the industry.
Having said that - we all know that it would have taken years for cleaning and hygiene to reach where it is today. So, while the COVID-19 pandemic has been the worst disaster the world over, it has taken our industry places. No-one ever thought that every touch point would have nanoseptic continuously self-cleaning adhesive tapes, no-touch safe stay keys, UV light stations for sterilization and disinfection, and so many advanced technologies! And they are definitely here to stay!
The numerous tools, equipment, machines and technologies that sprouted up during the pandemic created a boom like no other in the recent past. In fact that day is not far off where we would have chemical-free and water less technologies. Cleaning machines and tools will be self-cleaning after use, self-evaporative chemicals will be applied on the affected area and left to evaporate. Machines will be camera enabled, cleaning crew are already on smart watches which show the predefined areas to look after, etc. CAFM will become even more advanced. It will generate reminders to smart phones, smart watches on PPMs, reactive and corrective tickets remaining, time remaining, tasks completed, tasks remaining, tools, chemicals, machines and man hours required, etc.
To conclude, the future of cleaning and hygiene will be of utmost priority and will be made the central ethos of every local municipality. Its value has increased in the last one year and this is just the beginning!
About the Author:
Syed Usman is the Soft Services Manager - Saudi Arabia for Cushman & Wakefield. He handles The Al Rajhi Bank HeadQuarters and Operations Centre in Riyadh.