Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
August 2013 Raising Standards
time clocks

Choose The Right Time For Cleaning

How qualified operations can tailor their offerings to better meet customer needs.

August 14, 2013

Many people within the cleaning industry know that I am a longtime proponent for daytime cleaning.

In fact, many of our buildings that I deal with as the facilities specialist for State Farm Insurance are cleaned during the day.

However, daytime cleaning is neither the be-all, end-all for State Farm; nor should it be for any organization or business.

Instead I like to focus on the notion of “right time” cleaning.

Scheduling cleaning tasks and labor load at the right time for the building and its occupants results in cleaner buildings, optimized cleaning performance and healthier building occupants.

To do this, I needed two things:

  1. The knowledge of the exact needs of each building at all times of the day.
  2. An organized building service contractor (BSC) with the management framework to meet the needs of the buildings; especially those with fluctuating needs.

From Night To Day

When I started with State Farm in 1994, the buildings were cleaned at night.

There was an extremely high turnover rate among cleaning workers — anywhere from 400 percent to 600 percent a year — and a lack of worker supervision.

This led to various issues, including security risks, theft and poor cleaning performance.

I asked myself, “What can make this better?”

Prior to joining State Farm, I had worked in both healthcare and hospitality facilities management where buildings were mostly cleaned during the day.

I knew there were certain benefits to daytime cleaning such as better worker supervision and security and a different pool of workers.

So State Farm switched to daytime cleaning and immediately the theft calls disappeared.

The turnover rate in the building with the worst turnover dropped to zero.

I also thought we could save some money and we did — about 10 percent.

We saved money by eliminating day porters and moving to more productive methods of cleaning because we had a shorter window of time to clean.

We got a riding sweeper which saved about six hours of labor a day.

Having the lights off at night saved 8 percent in lighting costs.

In just one building we saved $340,000 a year in lighting costs; in others, anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000.

From Day To Right

Daytime cleaning is perfect for many of State Farm’s buildings, which are open on average from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

But State Farm also has some facilities that are 24/7 call centers and data centers.

These buildings are heavily trafficked with employees about 16 to 18 hours a day and their cleaning requirements are much different than the other type of facility.

Daytime cleaning still works fine for some cleaning tasks because daytime hours in our hubs are mostly used for employee training.

However, the biggest load of people in the building is during second and third shift, which means there is a need to stock and clean certain areas such as break rooms and restrooms.

We’re not saving a lot in energy costs by doing daytime cleaning either because the buildings are already occupied at night with employees.

It is buildings like these that got me to look at right time cleaning.

What I’ve found is that it makes more sense to work on things like carpet during the day, and if needed, cleaning workers can use low decibel vacuums at night.

From noon to midnight the shredders and printing and inserting equipment gets heavy use so we clean those at night.

The same goes for restrooms and break rooms.

In one facility, we have 85 women working in an area with only four restroom stalls, so we hired a night maid and a night porter to keep the restrooms stocked and clean.

What works best for State Farm is to schedule cleaning according to the operation of the business in each building.

In some cases, we might decide that nighttime cleaning is best for some buildings.

Right Contractor

Right time cleaning does not work without the right building service contractor (or in-house cleaning organization).

In other words, the cleaning operation has to not only know on a deep level the customer operation but its own operation.

This is one of the reasons State Farm requires its contractors be certified under ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) or CIMS-Green Building (CIMS-GB).

CIMS certified contractors are professional, follow a quality management plan and are organized under the standard’s five management principles.

CIMS makes cleaning organizations nimble enough to adapt to varying building needs at any time and that is what is needed for a right time cleaning approach.

For example, we have a facility that is a 24/7 call center as well as a catastrophe center.

The employee population can fluctuate by as much as 800 people depending on whether or not there is a need for catastrophe center staff.

For this building, we need a flexible contractor that can scale back and ramp up cleaning when needed.

Even though I had five contractors bid on the work for this building, I knew all five could handle it because they are all CIMS certified and in-tune with their own operations to schedule for the norm and adjust for our needs.

Right time cleaning is about delivering the service as needed and expected with the utmost quality — as reflected in the first two principles of CIMS — Quality Systems and Service Delivery.

Cleaning organizations must have a plan of how they’re going to deliver the service and get the results requested by the customer.

They have to have their act together to get the right results at the right time, and CIMS certified organizations represent that.


Steve Spencer is a facilities specialist/subject matter expert in State Farm’s Facilities Management Department responsible for all State Farm facilities. His areas of expertise are finish specifications, interior maintenance and cleaning specifications.