The future of the workplace continues to be a talking point and in many ways this conversation is long overdue. The events of 2020 have accelerated change and there is an opportunity for companies, property developers and landlords to reassess the purpose and business case for a huge amount of real estate and their future requirements. We must also accept that the commercial model for supporting these newly repurposed assets will require supply side adjustments. Changes in office occupation and use require changes to support services to ensure the highest standards at the best price.
At the same time, the way we live is evolving. Large estates are increasingly becoming mixed-use as the residential component increases, whilst the rapid growth of the BTR and retirement housing sectors bring a new requirement for cleaning support. We are working with our customers to reshape our activities and share our top 5 insights for the New Normal.
1. Cleaning standards are paramount. Cleaning has never had such a high profile, nor hygiene standards been such a concern. The likelihood of the winter bringing increased cases of flu and other respiratory viruses, as well as Covid, means that this is likely to continue. Increased workplace collaboration, flexible working spaces and social interaction make thorough cleaning crucial. Building occupiers and users have a heightened awareness of hygiene and high touch point cleaning and electrostatic disinfection are likely to be needed to ensure virus-secure environments for some time.
At NJC, our family values mean that our front-line colleagues have always been ‘Not Just Cleaners’ and we believe that supporting, recognising and thanking them for their hard work and diligence is more important than ever.
2. Customer service is as important as cleaning. Workplace experience is critical for returning employees and rebuilding company culture after long periods of working from home. There is much talk about the ‘hotelification of offices’ and providing a 5-star experience requires exemplary customer service as well as high cleaning standards. A customer service philosophy, supported by training, has become as important as the technical aspects of many roles.
We are fortunate that the NJC DNA, the willingness and capability of all our colleagues to ‘go the extra mile’, has for many years been reinforced by customer service training.
3. Sustainability and Wellbeing have risen up the public agenda. Communications around the COP26 summit, protecting the future of the planet and the impact on sustainability of our everyday lives, has heightened most people’s awareness. Businesses are expected to commit to Carbon Net Zero targets, with detailed plans of how these will be achieved.
At NJC, we are committed to achieving net zero carbon by 2030 and are already implementing our action plan. In Oct 2020 we started to convert our vehicles to electric, as leases expire on the existing fleet, which saves more than 48 tonnes of carbon emissions and improves air quality. We are promoting chemical-free cleaning solutions, which have zero emissions in production/transportation, zero litres of chemicals used, zero cardboard waste generated and zero single use plastic waste. Chemical-free cleaning also supports the WELL building standard. We are also reducing our operational energy usage, moving to paper-free processes, and segregating and recycling waste.
External verification of our actions comes from achieving a Gold medal in our EcoVadis audit. The EcoVadis assessment reflects the quality of NJC’s sustainability management system with the Gold medal indicating that we are in the top 5% of companies that have been assessed.
4. Flexibility and adaptability are more important than ever. Hybrid working models are resulting in varied occupancy throughout the week and servicing must adapt to usage, maintaining hygiene and the highest standards of service, whilst ensuring cost effectiveness.
In residential environments, tailoring cleaning schedules to the times when facilities and common areas are closed, or have minimal usage, ensures the best experience for residents.
At NJC, we have taken a step back and considered the best way for us to provide services to meet the evolving requirements, delivering bespoke, self-delivered models.
We believe that for those workspaces that are service resource intensive, such as building reception areas and serviced offices, the delivery of soft services by separate teams of cleaners, business support co-ordinators, security officers and receptionists is an outdated model. Our outcome-based approach, where the overall service requirements of each workspace drives the standards and the resourcing, includes multi-skilled Workspace Champions, focused on providing the best experience for the workspace user.
Our cleaning teams are increasingly carrying out additional duties in residential property management, such as building checks in areas that they are already present.
5. Gain the maximum benefits from Technology. A plethora of cleaning technology is being introduced and we believe that the right technology in the right place can bring very significant benefits.
Cleaning robots are already bringing massive benefits to the cleaning of large indoor areas such as exhibition spaces and airports, but the technology is not yet perfected for large external areas or vertical cleaning of windows and facades.
Proof of task completion and surface cleanliness can help maintain a virus-secure environment. Sensors in any location, linked to a cloud platform, can monitor footfall and help adapt the cleaning service in washrooms, receptions or indoor public spaces. The sensor counts people movement and triggers an alert when the pre-set threshold has been reached, which alerts the operative that the area needs to be cleaned and replenished.
We are utilising data analytics for service design, delivery, benchmarking, continuous improvement and governance, to ensure the best service, and we constantly review opportunities as technology improves.
High cleaning standards, customer service, flexibility and sustainability are vital in the New Normal, and require the motivation, commitment and hard work of our cleaners, supported by appropriate technology. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to find out more.