commercial office cleaning

Commercial office cleaning costs are still high despite low occupancy rates

Current cleaning costs are difficult to justify
Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A review of office cleaning costs in commercial office facilities suggests that these expenses have not come down significantly despite low occupancy rates.

“I have talked to several senior property managers about their cleaning plans and COVID-19 scenarios for 2021,” said Randy Burke, CEO of DCS Global. “Frankly, I am surprised by the current high prices people are paying for cleaning in buildings that are substantially empty. More worrisome are forecasts of substantial increases in cleaning costs, on top of these base numbers, going forward.”

The property managers DCS is working with to evaluate costs note a number of reasons for these pandemic premiums:

• uncertainty around the next wave of COVID-19 and re-occupancy timing
• additional touchpoint cleaning and sanitization
• new equipment, technology and processes to deal with the pandemic
• a commitment by property management to contract cleaners to assure resources are available when needed

DCS believes the current level of cleaning costs is difficult to justify. This is borne out by a number of recent building inspections by DCS, where significantly empty buildings were spotless, with barely a speck of dust. These buildings had a full complement of cleaning staff, with cleaners spending significant time cleaning untouched, unoccupied, already-clean surfaces.

With commercial occupancy rates still (typically) below 30 per cent, reduced amenities and cordoned off building areas, the cleanable area and soiling levels in commercial buildings have been substantially reduced. This suggests base building labour and any additional day staff are not being effectively utilized.

With data-driven cleaning, COVID specific KPIs, and traffic-driven work loading models, DCS believes current costs can be reduced significantly, without compromising quality, all the while building a flexible go-forward plan with current contract cleaning service providers, which reflects the uncertain environment.

There are ways to optimize cleaning costs while effectively cleaning to mitigate the risk of catching the virus through surface contact:

• develop a comprehensive baseline of cleaning protocols, specifications, and frequencies
• define real cleaning and sanitization needs through a realistic risk assessment of the current traffic flows and occupancy of individual buildings
• look at the benefits and viability of various service and contract options including daytime cleaning, centralized trash, robotics, cost plus and fixed price contracts etc.
• design a workflow and labour load to match the building utilization. Build in flexibility for changing pandemic phases needs
• renegotiate current contract and/or consider testing the market if unhappy with existing service levels or can’t come to an agreement on new pricing

Look for practical, science-based and verified processes. Consider using third-party experts who can cut through the fog of information and develop and execute a process and a plan that will work. In the pandemic environment it is essential to audit sanitization levels (ATP and/or Pathfinder testing) for due diligence and positive messaging to building users.

Considering that cleaning is approximately 15 per cent of CAM costs (common area maintenance), ROI can be calculated in a few months not years. On a recent BOMA pandemic cleaning committee call, the consensus is that commercial cleaning costs are poised to rise significantly in 2021. Now is the time for property managers to reset their base costs based on a realistic assessment of their cleaning requirements.


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