28 January 2021

Cleaning is more than ever proactive and positive thinking

For many staff and students, the University of Groningen (RUG) is their second home. With a clean and fresh building, the university wants to continue giving its visitors that welcome and safe feeling, even in coronation time.

The RUG wants to remain an attractive university. It therefore attaches great importance to hospitality. Clean and tidy lecture theatres, workplaces and toilets also contribute to the sense of hospitality. “Attention to people and buildings is one of the bigger challenges for us in coronation time,” says Monique Heuvel, Facility Organisation employee at the RUG. “Especially now that visits are limited, we want to give our staff and students a warm and, above all, safe welcome. A building that lacks attention is anything but pleasant for visitors. All the more reason to ensure that our buildings are in tip-top order.”

Cleaning is more than ever proactive and positive thinking

Basis for a long-term partnership

The RUG has been working with EW Facility Services since September 2012. The basis of this partnership is the three pillars of EW Facility Services: hospitality, agility and reliability. In times of coronary crisis, these are proving more valuable than ever before. What's more, they form a solid basis for a long-term partnership. After last summer's European tender, the RUG opted to continue the collaboration for years to come.

Cleaners more visible

The greater focus on clean entrances, lecture halls, study halls, offices, restaurants, toilets and other areas also means that EW Facility Services will be deploying its cleaning staff differently. For example, the work rooms are now cleaned daily instead of every other day and there are also extra disinfection rounds to clean all contact points. But perhaps the most striking change is that the cleaners are now literally more visible. "Previously, everything had to be as clean as possible before our staff and students arrived. Since Corona, the cleaning staff also work during office hours and are therefore more present on the shop floor. They have been given a face and a name, and EW Facility Services provided extra Hospitality Training. As a result, the cleaners and our visitors have more contact. They chat to each other, not just socially but also, for example, ask whether our employees have tips or wishes regarding cleaning work. These kinds of small moments of attention are good for everyone. Our staff and students find it pleasant because they see that attention is paid to hygiene, so they can work and study safely at the university."

Agility strengthens cooperation

The corona crisis demands a great deal of manoeuvrability from both parties. For example, the cleaning schedule had to be regularly adjusted. After the first corona outbreak in March 2020, disinfection was carried out several times a day in addition to the normal cleaning. After some time, this could be reduced to once a day because many disinfection kiosks were installed. We also tried out a number of methods to signal which rooms were being used. "EW Facility Services is very flexible, thinks along with us and knows how to adapt perfectly to our wishes. What's more, it has strengthened our cooperation. We have started to work even more as a team, instead of as client and contractor. Together we work on structural solutions.

Thinking along proactively

In practice, the team spirit manifests itself in more consultations. In addition to the large weekly meeting, there are regular daily contact moments. These not only involve going over the cleaning work, but also the ups and downs of the cleaners themselves. "The lines of communication with EW Facility Services are short. There's never any fuss or bother. Everything is immediately dealt with in a positive way and they do what they say. Both sides work hard to make and keep our faculty optimally clean. EW Facility Services proactively comes up with ideas to keep the cleaning as functional as possible within the number of hours. For example, we have had a new PVC floor with a wood look laid over the authentic wooden floor. Wood requires specific maintenance, while PVC is easier to keep clean and therefore more hygienic. They also suggested cleaning with Ozone water, which gives even better disinfection results and is also environmentally friendly and safer for the employees. And this spring we are going to change the way we separate waste. There will no longer be waste bins at every desk, but one waste point per department in a central location for separated waste. That saves waste and makes cleaning more efficient.

Vitality programme for employees

Both the RUG and EW Facility Services are very concerned about being a good employer and about the vitality of their - sometimes older - staff. EW Facility Services has introduced its vitality programme "Sterk in je Werk" (Strong in your Work) at the university. The programme includes ergonomics training, coaching, physiotherapy and a motivation system. A personal approach is used to see how things are going and what is needed to keep employees vital and happy. A low absenteeism rate compared with the national average and high quality control figures show that the programme is also bearing fruit at the RUG.

From both sides

The university itself is not sitting idle either and is actively working to ensure that the cleaners can do their work as well as possible. In the new contract, the emphasis is on good employment practices and solutions to problems that the cleaners encounter in their daily work. These include the abandonment of waste and excessive soiling of the sanitary areas. "In recent months we have asked the cleaners to make a list of difficult cleaning points. Think of wiring that is in the way, desks that are full of books and food waste. Now that office and lecture hall occupancy is minimal, this offers scope for tackling such tasks together."

EW Facility Services and the RUG continue to strive for optimum quality on the basis of good cooperation. After all, cleaning contributes to the sense of hospitality.

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