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Like mom used to say: You're not their maid

September 19, 2010
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Remember how your mother used to enter your bedroom, the kitchen, living room - wherever you made yourself comfortable - look around, make some comment about how you should clean up after yourself, and say, "I''m not your maid" ?

Remember how she would say you could help make her life easier if you just cooperated with her and cleaned up so she could clean better? I do.

This scenario is all too common for cleaning personnel.

How can cleaning contractors and in-house personnel get their building occupants to make their lives easier?

Would proposing a list of activities to clients , i.e. straightening up their work areas, not leaving food on or around their desks, in the breakroom, etc., do the trick?

Some cleaners feel they are not only cleaning tenants areas, but also picking up after them.

Help them help you
Visitors to the CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online Bulletin Board agree the answer is cooperative cleaning, and that communication is the key to a symbiotic relationship between cleaning personnel and building occupants.

Informing your building contacts that, for example, your procedure when dusting an office is to feather dust all reachable areas without disturbing paperwork and items on desks and shelving, may prompt them to clear their areas of personal items.

One visitor to the Bulletin Board said that to reach all building occupants, his cleaning operation has found it works well to notify the building manager and let that individual put out a memo to all tenants regarding custodial practices. As with the above example, if tenants understand cleaners are not supposed to move anything, they are willing to help out.

Cleaning pros posting to the Bulletin Board suggest the following additional ways to tackle the I''m not your maid syndrome.

Judy Bell, Environmental Services manager, Newport Community Hospital District No.1, Northeast Washington State:
Communication is key. I have asked nicely that the other departments pick up if they see something. We designed posters and posted them on our safety board advising building occupants that if you make a mess or see a mess, you need to clean it up .

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn''t, especially with new employees. I think there needs to be a respect for all people.

Timothy Nash, owner, Nash Building Maintenance, St. Leonard, MD:
Explain to the customer dusting procedures; they move the small, personal stuff and clean up their desks, and we will dust/clean them. We do this once every other week or once a month.

Of a 15,000-square-foot floor, maybe two or three people actually do it. But, they don''t complain anymore about the dusting.

This goes for just about everywhere and everything. You keep this or that straight, and we will maintain the area.

If they don t want to keep their kitchen counter areas or coffee cups out of the sink, then what we can do is very limited. But with communication, you don''t get the complaints or at least not as much.

I do think as budgets seem to get smaller and smaller for cleaning today, that cooperative cleaning is going to be more common than it is now.

Bruce Slaminski, director of Housekeeping, PineCrest Nursing Home, Merrill, WI:
In our breakrooms, we have designated places to dispose of empty soda cans/drink bottles. We also provide dish soap, so building occupants can clean their dishes when they are done eating.

The only places in the building tenants may eat food are the conference rooms and break rooms where food may also be stored.

Shane Deubell, project manager, Maintenance & Management Associates, Inc., Amherst, NY:
Provide central recycling bins where employees dump their own recycling, and cleaners dump the bins when they''re full. I wish I could convince someone to do trash also, but not yet.

Dustin Bell, president, Facility Fitness, Inc, Sacramento, CA:
Tenants should meet the people who clean their offices or work areas at least see them from time to time; they may be too embarrassed to make such a mess, and may start cleaning up better.

In residential cleaning, what do most people do the day before the housekeeper comes to their homes? Clean! That''s because they know the housekeeper.

The idea for many accounts and in-house operations is that building occupants who know they will never be face to face with the cleaner are not concerned with what the cleaner has to do just that he or she does it, and that the area looks clean.

Added incentive
One cleaner makes it worth employees whiles to go the extra mile when building occupants don''t.

Kent Miller, CHESP, director of Environmental Services/Laundry, Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids, IA:
I have created a "Pickup Club", free and available to all staff. We ask staff that if they see something, to pick it up and toss it out.

When one of my supervisors sees a cleaner do this, he or she will give the individual a GEMM Card a special employee recognition program in which cleaners collect monthly to be eligible for prizes. It has been a huge hit.

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