A clean environment is essential to the safety and wellbeing of residents and patients, and the importance of cleaning is universally respected. However, Jan-Hein Hemke, Managing Director of Facilicom UK, questions whether the work of cleaning operatives is also universally respected.
It goes without saying that care homes and healthcare settings should be kept clean and hygienic at all times. After all, a clean environment is critical in ensuring residents’ and patients’ health, wellbeing and safety; a fact universally accepted - and respected.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the staff who are actually doing this important work. For many years, cleaning operatives have been held in low regard, and often undervalued by the people they clean for, as well as the wider public. This is due to a misconception that ‘anyone can pick up a mop and clean,’ just because they clean their own homes. The fact is, cleaning your own home and cleaning as a profession are very different. The latter involves extensive training to meet standards, and health and safety requirements, especially when working in settings where there are vulnerable people present.
Cleaning operatives play a crucial role in keeping care homes and healthcare facilities healthy places, preventing the spread of infection, and stopping or containing virus outbreaks, such as NoroVirus. This is obviously good news for patients and residents, but also for visitors and staff alike. It benefits the bottom line too - it has been estimated that 137 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2016. A healthier workforce will therefore result in fewer days lost to sickness, meaning less disruption to patient care.
Not only that, but a care home or healthcare facility is often judged on it its cleanliness and hygiene, and first impressions count! Prospective residents, and their families, are unlikely to choose, or recommend an unclean establishment. This is true for all sorts of settings, from schools to restaurants and leisure facilities, where cleaning services contribute substantially to their performance and commercial success. Indeed, without cleaning operatives, many businesses would fail.
Training is essential to achieve best practice – this not only ensures that health and safety standards are being met, but the client can also expect an excellent, high quality cleaning service. At Facilicom, we also train all of our colleagues in ‘Hostmanship’, or, in other words, ‘the art of making people feel welcome’. You may question why cleaning operatives would need these skills to do their particular job, however, it is a way that our colleagues can add value to their services.
First and foremost, it allows them to take on roles that are broader than their immediate cleaning tasks, although of course, this is still at the top of their ‘to-do’ list. In the UK healthcare industry, there is a national shortage of nurses. Their time is pressured and they, quite rightly, focus their attention on their urgent medical tasks, rather than the more social aspect of care that patients also need.
By investing in Hostmanship training, our colleagues are able to help free up the nurses’ or healthcare professionals’ time by taking on some of their non-medical jobs, such as refilling water jugs, making a cup of tea, or simply taking ten minutes to chat with a patient or elderly resident in a care home.
Many studies and past research have shown that there is a positive link between social interaction and the healing process. Taking the time to talk to patients and residents can have a dramatic effect on their mood, boosting both mental and physical health. This is particularly important in care homes, where many of the residents are elderly, and, despite being surrounded by people, feel lonely. Hostmanship is critical to this. It helps our colleagues to see the ‘bigger picture’ and introduces a friendly and caring approach to their work. It also instils people skills, giving operatives the confidence to communicate and engage with colleagues, patients, residents and their families.
Allowing Hostmanship-trained cleaning operatives additional paid time to offer company and social stimulation to patients and residents makes complete business sense. Not only do they help free up nurses’ time, allowing them to concentrate on their most important tasks, but they are also easier to recruit, and more cost-effective in terms of the salary they command. We do, however, believe that our colleagues should be rewarded fairly for the work they do.
Our people are our prime asset and that is why we are Living Wage Recognised Service Providers. We are passionate about ensuring our people receive a fair pay that reflects the real cost of living. There can be a concern that paying the higher wage will be damaging to the bottom line, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, productivity and staff retention can increase offsetting any extra costs.
Finally, ensuring our colleagues are remunerated fairly, and are recognised for the important work they do benefits everybody: their job satisfaction is higher, as are their levels of motivation and retention, resulting in more experienced staff, with better developed skills. Ultimately, cleaning standards rise and infection control is improved.
Without cleaners, society as we know it would grind to a halt and their absence would be acutely felt in the healthcare environment. Cleaning operatives provide an essential service, and through their Hostmanship training, can offer so much more value, to boost health outcomes in care homes and healthcare settings.
Source: Tomorrow's Care, p36-37 – edition August/September