That there is nothing sexy about the janitorial industry is a truth most of us accepted when we entered it and have lived with ever since. So it was surely “different” to find myself sought after by such media as CTV, CHCH and CBC radio to tape live segments on some of their most popular shows regarding the Coronavirus, or as it is now named, COVID-19. I was, of course, flattered—and proud—that they turned to me and MCL Sustainable Cleaning Solutions as experts able to speak about proper cleaning and disinfecting to protect against this COVID-19 as well as the pandemic’s impact on suppliers.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances—to say the least—this honour brought home for me the fact that, for the first time, the cleaning industry is front and center in the world’s spotlight: Media outlets around the world are showcasing the advice of cleaning experts. Phones are ringing with people seeking answers from cleaning consultants and facility managers believed to “know best” and social media is abuzz with praise for those on the front line, health care—and cleaning —workers. Meanwhile, jansan manufacturers and distributors are struggling to keep up with the orders for supplies (as noted in the video above).
For me, this raises a natural question: Is this new elevated stature of our industry sustainable once the Coronavirus is under control? I believe it is—but only if we are willing to accept the challenge and do three things: prepare, plan and promote.
Prepare for the Next Big Thing
COVID-19 caught the world by surprise and nowhere (if we are honest) was this truer than in our own industry. The big questions we must ask ourselves are no longer did we react fast enough? Did we have enough of the right supplies and use the right product and processes? While we still struggle with the current conditions, a main thing we should be asking ourselves is, what did we learn from this experience—i.e., how will we prepare for future health crisis? future will likely mean more pandemics, shorter time intervals between them and possibly simultaneous pandemics.)
This answer requires diving deeper and responding truthfully to specific questions, such as:
• Is our staff adequately protected?
• Are our workers properly trained to help protect customers and building occupants?
• Is our e-commerce a solution or hindrance during such times?
• Do we have the products we think we’ll need to face another pandemic?
• Are we properly—and assertively—recommending our customers prepare themselves, including better stocking of key pandemic supplies to avoid the shortages we continue to experience due to COVID-19?
• Are we encouraging our supply chains to develop innovations that might better combat future pandemics?
If the answers to these and similar questions is no, now is the time to do what it takes to change that, whether it means providing or participating in training, adding more staffing and/or buying different products. Now is the time to make whatever adjustments are necessary to be sure you are better prepared next time.
Don’t Be Left in Search of a Plan
Once we have assessed what worked and what didn’t and made improvements to our processes, we need to develop a real-life pandemic plan. We know facilities should all have such a plan, but how many of us—as the gatekeepers of the health and safety of these entities—have one ourselves?
This plan should include who will do what, when and how should a crisis hit while making sure these individuals are equipped to take on their specific responsibilities. This is also where you determine what backup may be needed —from an alternative energy source and additional staff to contact clients to backup delivery trucks and extended lines of credit. The plan needs to be specific and as detailed as possible; it also needs to be in writing and made available to all stakeholders. In the middle of a crisis is not the time you want to realize that only half of your workers know what they are supposed to do.
Promotion Is Not a Dirty Word
If there is any silver lining to the COVID-19 outbreak, it is that the cleaning industry’s role in keeping the world safe is finally being acknowledged by the many instead of a few. How can we maintain our position—a role we have held in the shadows for as long as anyone can remember—in this far more positive light?
The answer is exhibiting and communicating our expertise and professionalism every day through everything we do. It means having a pandemic plan prepared for the future, but it also means conducting our business with integrity, treating our workers and customers with respect, and presenting a unified front that tells the world the cleaning industry can be relied upon to safeguard the health of humans and the environment 24/7.
We know we are the industry with the strength, experience and expertise to lead the fight for clean healthy living conditions. Now is the time to show the world we have no intention of dropping our defenses once the COVID-19 epidemic ends.
It is up to us to keep the spotlight on cleaning for health—not just in times of crisis but always.