Cleanliness and sanitation have always had a place in the facilities management toolbox. But with the dangers presented by COVID-19, cleanliness has never been more important. How have property managers coped during this unique crisis?
DCS Global, a custodial services and consultation firm based in Toronto, surveyed approximately 200 property managers in mid-October about how the pandemic has impacted their cleaning protocols. Specifically, they asked about cleaning costs, the plans they have in place and communicating those steps to property tenants and visitors.
For the most part, the survey respondents reported that despite the challenges that COVID-19 has levied, most property managers have dialed in a program to keep occupants safe.
“Our survey clearly shows the majority of property managers are staying on top of cleaning issues during the pandemic,” said Randy Burke, president and CEO of DCS. “Approximately three-quarters of respondents have detailed, written pandemic cleaning plans in place, and almost all are communicating their cleaning efforts to employees, tenants and visitors.”
The best way to attack the spread of this novel coronavirus is to have a detailed, written plan for cleaning a property. The DCS survey found that three-quarters of responding property managers have such a plan in place currently. This creates clear expectations between property managers and a cleaning crew—whether internal or third party—about how to effectively and efficiently clean the property.
When asked if the pandemic was occupying a significant amount of the workday, two-thirds of property managers reported that COVID-related countermeasures are a time sink, though the situation is controllable. Property managers aren’t spending as many extended hours dealing with the pandemic as they were this spring, suggesting that the previous six months have given them a better understanding of the virus and what had been a full-blown crisis is now much more manageable.
More than half of respondents reported that lower occupancy due to stay-at-home orders has led to a reduction in cleaning costs by 25 percent or more. DCS believes that—despite increased touchpoint cleaning and sanitization, and the need for greater cleaning staff visibility—most property managers can decrease their building cleaning costs by up to 40 percent at current occupancy rates.
Optimism was low for cleaning-related costs to stay depressed once occupancy levels begin to rise. More than 70 percent of property managers expect these costs to rebound to pre-pandemic levels when foot traffic increases and nearly 30 percent believe that these increases will be significant (10 percent higher or more).
“My biggest concerns from the responses,” said Burke, “are the relative lack of hygiene testing and the potential for significant cleaning cost increases next year.”
One survey question elicited concerning responses as three-quarters of property managers said that they do not test the quality of touchpoint cleaning. DCS recommends that independent verification and auditing of potential pathogens is the best way to ensure not only the effectiveness of cleaning protocols, but also as a proof point for stakeholder messaging.
At 99 percent virtually every respondent said that they are effectively communicating with employees, tenants, and visitors about the steps they are taking to make their building cleaner. This can be almost as important as the sanitization itself—a building occupant won’t feel safe unless they can trust that their property management team is doing everything they can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.