“Delta is currently the predominant strain of the virus in the United States. It causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms SARS-CoV-2.The Delta variant is highly contagious, nearly twice as contagious as previous variants.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Just as it seemed that things were returning to some semblance of normal for businesses, the Delta variant of COVID-19 began to move through the U.S. People had been moving about, going out more, and many had stopped wearing masks. Businesses that had a significant percentage of their workforce working remotely/from home were planning for their workforce to return to the office just after Labor Day.
However, the Delta variant has changed all this, and its presence will alter how businesses ultimately bring back their workforce, and the accommodations that their employees will require. Employees were already concerned about returning to the office. A Conference Board survey found that only 17% of employees feel very comfortable returning to the office. Prior to the outbreak of the Delta variant, “safety” was the employees’ number one concern in returning to the office. Now those concerns will be heightened.
This concern is compounded by the gap between management’s beliefs in the company’s ability to identify any employees with COVID, and the employees trust in that ability. A Price-Waterhouse survey found that 75% of CFOs agree their company can quickly identify anyone exposed to a colleague sick with COVID-19, yet only 32% of employees strongly agree. The fact that even vaccinated people can contract the COVID-19 Delta variant and be asymptomatic exacerbates this disconnect between employees and management.
Ultimately, when businesses start bringing their employees back to the office in large numbers, successful businesses will be those that fundamentally change their approach to cleaning and janitorial services in at least two ways. First, gone will be the days that janitorial services are “invisible” to a company’s staff. Before COVID, janitorial and facilities maintenance services were performed out of sight of employees, or after regular business hours. However, post-COVID employees will expect their companies to provide cleaning and disinfecting services at a level higher than before COVID, and more importantly, employees will want to know what those cleaning levels are, and what steps the company is taking to keep them safe. To accomplish this, businesses will shift from after-hours janitorial services to a time that combines the ability for the cleaning crew to do their jobs with the opportunity for their employees to actually see the cleaning crew working. It will be this ‘visual accountability’ that will address many employee concerns. Additionally, employers will begin alerting their staff to all the steps (seen and unseen) their cleaning crews are undertaking to keep everyone safe.
The second way that successful businesses will change their approach to janitorial and facilities maintenance services primarily affects those companies that have in-house janitorial teams. Here, the companies will feel the dual impact of the current national labor shortage, and a lack of expertise relating to COVID-19 disinfecting and remediation. Because of the difficulty in hiring and retaining their own janitorial staff, many business will begin to augment their remaining staff with outside janitorial service providers, or replace their in-house staff completely. Additionally, companies will see that bringing in a trained and certified janitorial services company provides a level of confidence from their teams that management is taking seriously the health and safety of their employees.
As the country addresses the impact of the COVID-19 Delta variant, business must be ready to demonstrate that they take this new challenge seriously, just as they take seriously the health and safety of their employee and customers.
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