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Future in Housekeeping

The evolution of housekeeping is taking a new turn with housekeepers taking on different roles, progressing into other departments and also shifting out to facilities and hospitals. Leading housekeeping experts share their experiences and views on the trends

Focus on human resources
Meenu Tognatta
Divisional Housekeeper, ITC Hotels

Housekeeping has evolved over the years and the focus today is on manpower. “Right from the chemicals used to the uniform they wear, human-friendly solutions are adopted to ensure housekeepers comfort. Earlier, no one thought about green chemicals which do not harm the users but today it is more about providing hazardous-free chemicals, a work environment which is hygienic and people-oriented.

“A lot of time and motion study have gone into housekeeping related work and today the staff is working at places imbibed with best practices.

“Being empathetic towards the worker, the rooms in the hotels are so designed to prevent bending of back and knees while cleaning, things laid out require minimum cleaning or dusting, etc. There is much attention paid to the fabric used in the rooms, the lighting is concealed with not many lamps and shades around, and also the rooms are sound proof.

“Speaking of uniforms, it should be such that it elevates the personality. We try to keep uniforms user-friendly, easy to wear and comfortable to work in.”

To meet this growing demand, the future of housekeeping depends on the students coming out of the hospitality institutes. But today very few students are taking up housekeeping. “To build the future, we need to collaborate with these institutes, counsel with the students and help change the approach towards housekeeping. It should not be seen as a low profession and we need to believe in dignity of labour. Today, to making a successful career in housekeeping takes a long time. We need to give housekeeping proper ranking and salary to see fast progression.”

Demand for housekeeping will grow with the growth of healthcare, multinationals and malls, residential complexes, airlines, airports and other segments.

It has been observed that many of the activities involved act as or a deterrents. “Washroom cleaning is only one part of the housekeeping profession. Experience as a washroom attendant is essential for the housekeeping profession. The good hygiene professional believes in dignity of labour and respects those who clean up their own spaces, be it a stall or a glass or a light or whatever. In the old days there were no vendors who used to clean for us. In those days housekeeping was much more complicated.

“Nowadays we pay a lot of attention to the comfort of customers, giving them proper sleep experience, privacy and recognition. Every customer is treated like a VIP… things have changed completely. The future is also very bright… and the day is not far when robotic helpers will appear in housekeeping.”

Focus on Education
Abha Dwivedi,
Corporate Housekeeper at Fortune Park Hotels Limited by ITC

Education in hospitality was a different concept all together in those days. Having trained from the Oberoi Center for Learning and Development, hospitality education was totally a new experience then. “We were a batch of 13, which consisted married women, divorcees or ‘older ladies in the age group of 23-25 years’. Today, some of us from the batch are executive housekeepers and some have become general managers.”

Housekeeping in the late 90s was different. “Acceptance was one of the biggest challenges that we faced at work then. When I joined the Oberoi New Delhi, initially I worked with the team doing rooms, maintenance and all the other chores. However, when I took over as assistant manager in the same hotel, the team which has been working in the property for almost 20 years, could not accept taking orders from me. There were days when I have done the dusting myself in order to ensure the standards are maintained. There was no scope of complaining or protesting. It was all the learning which made the difference.

In the meanwhile, I moved from operations to training manager at OCLD and did three batches. And again, I moved into operations as Assistant Housekeeper. I was with Oberois for 12 years in all.

In those days, there were many levels and a hierarchy and all along it was a learning process. Following Oberoi, there was more learning at Imperial Hotel as HOD and pre-opening at Leela Palace Udaipur.

Many housekeepers who have worked for almost eight to 10 years in the hotels and understand their function, can do anything. They are good enough to become general managers, provided they get the exposure.

Today’s hierarchy is much flatter, the progression and growth are very fast. I do not say people should not have aspirations, but we need to realize that if we do give them growth, there should be some amount of years and experience put back into the system. Today, we have housekeepers as young as 28 years of age. While this may not be wrong if the person has built in some amount of experience and expertise to reach this level but I observe that today we do not find that kind of dedication and expertise in the housekeepers. They are in a big rush to make it very big.

In fact, if we have a mentor and are ready to take up the challenge, we can definitely rise up to become successful general managers.

Speaking of the future of housekeeping in hotels in India, one the one hand there is a total dilution, in the sense, the scope of housekeeping has widened with additions of front office and engineering. Technology has advanced, people have become more aware. The housekeeper today do not want to be in housekeeping for a long time. It is not very exciting scenario to know that there may not be good resource a few years down the line.

There is talent in the market today. But good housekeepers are moving away from hotels to facilities, hospitals, cruise liners and so on. There are many other opportunities and this shift was bound to happen.

Focus on work
Namrata Marwaha
Corporate Housekeeper, The Leela Palaces & Resorts

I am from an F&B background (banquets). Those days, I had observed the housekeepers roaming around with their diaries. Quite a cushy job I would think, while the rest of the staff would be running around organizing breakfast, etc. I passed out of catering college in 1983 and 1985 when I took a housekeeping job with Taj Vivanta, My boss felt I was not sure about my career and as did not have a housekeeping profile. I told him I wanted to try it and if I did not fit in I would go back to F&B. Since then there has been no looking back.

One reason that attracted me towards housekeeping was that one needed an eye for details. With one look, you should know what’s right and what’s not. So the macro and micro detailing is the most important thing in housekeeping.

However, housekeeping has evolved tremendously over the years. Back in 1983, we hardly had any equipment. There were no vacuum cleaners. People had to manually sit, swab, mop, clean… today we have technology you have people roaming around with an iPad where they can with the touch of a key check the room occupancy, movement of housekeeping attendants, which rooms are to be turned over and the balance where super cleaning is required. Today information has produced transparency for everyone. Paperwork has also been reduced to zero. When we were managers, we used to carry registers, checklists, put tick marks and all that. Now there’s nothing like that. I think the housekeeper’s most important tool is her hands.

According to me, the future of housekeeping is very bright. Housekeepers are committed and don’t usually hop from one job to another. I see this quality as leading to a scenario where we will see them not restricted to housekeeping but growing into general managers and even CEOs. I think housekeeping is the heart of the hospitality business. People may be smiling all around, but unless the heart beats you are not alive.

We have nine properties and I feel that housekeeping should have laundry under it because quality comes under housekeeping. In house laundry is the most accepted process today and our managers are trained to take care of all aspects like linen and laundry… it’s all under the same roof.

 

Focus on human resources Meenu Tognatta Divisional Housekeeper, ITC Hotels Housekeeping has evolved over the years and the focus today is on manpower. “Right from the chemicals used to the uniform they wear, human-friendly solutions are adopted to ensure housekeepers comfort. Earlier, no one thought about green chemicals which do not harm the users but today it is more about…

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