A Call for Humanizing Frontline Cleaners

Value people performing jobs society needs most

February 27, 2020

Imagine the condition a public facility would be left in if there were no frontline workers to clean and maintain the building. Fortunately, this is not a scenario most people in the United States must deal with as custodians and building managers work daily to keep buildings clean, safe, and comfortable. But for all the work they do, custodians and other cleaning professionals are often invisible to the public. When people do notice these workers, they sometimes look down on them, devaluing their importance to society.

Zach Mercurio, PhD, who has been conducting research exploring how custodians make meaning in their work, is calling for society to notice frontline cleaners and appreciate the work they do to make everyone’s life better, Thrive Global reports. Mercurio believes one of society’s greatest problems is the tendency to devalue, degrade, and dehumanize the people in the jobs we need the most.

Mercurio’s study has found that degrading acts from the public contribute to workers’ feelings of meaningless, characterized by hopelessness, despair, and a loss of dignity. His research has also found that positive reactions from the public, such as simply thanking custodians for cleaning a restroom, can lead to front workers perceiving their jobs as positive, purposeful, and significant. These feelings contribute to workers’ sense of meaningfulness and lead to increased work engagement, higher overall satisfaction, and well-being outside of work.

You can play a part in humanizing frontline workers, such as custodians, by promoting the cleaning industry during National Cleaning Week coming up next month.

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