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Housekeeping Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

In conversation with Rita Chaudhry Corporate Executive Housekeeper at Sarovar Hotels & Resorts

Hence, there is a lot of awareness and training that needs to be imparted to retain the interest in housekeeping.

– Rita Chaudhry

In my family, no girls had ever worked outside. Somebody I knew told me about a vacancy in front office. When I went there, I was asked to join housekeeping. I did not know what was working in a hotel was all about. In those days, nobody joined hotels. I had to seek a lot of permission from my grandparents. I just joined to begin with and today it has become my career.

In those days, occupancy largely depended on the flight movement. Within 45 minutes of the flight landing, we knew that the room had to be kept ready. In those days, housekeeping was more of a five-star hotel concept. It probably did not exist in other star hotels or dormitories. Gradually, as they got exposed, awareness about housekeeping spread to other hotels and then hospitals, malls and so on. This has changed the whole scenario drastically.

The difference then was that there were no inputs, no training, no chemical, no machine, no laundry equipment and no dosing systems. Today, training has become important, briefing is a must, there is more awareness, more products and more occupancy.

Guest experience was important then and now too. In fact, we rise to the occasion only when there is a complaint lodged. Today, most of these shortcomings are attributed to untrained people and shortage of manpower. One of the first machines that we used then came from abroad. Room attendants were essentially male and housekeepers were females. Girls were trained to use the machine too. The training sessions were fun filled and thereafter the user of the machine was more knowledgeable.

Earlier, promotions and movement of people was much restricted. Today, if one does not like being in an organization, they just move on. More than experience, money matters these days. Today, the mindset is such that if you change jobs every two years you make a lot of money. Each one looks for better prospects. In those days when someone took up a job they would stay long enough out of loyalty.

Further, the concept of housekeeping differs from place to place. A housekeeper in a mall does not need to clean rooms and bathrooms. Today, cleaning bathroom has become a big issue.

Again, designations matter today. A room attendant of 10 to 12 years would become a supervisor and now we call them assistance housekeeper, senior housekeeper and so on.

Housekeeping still holds a stigma. There was a time when family members coming to meet the housekeeping staff was a strained meeting. Housekeepers did not want their family to know they were doing the cleaning job and would rather prefer to meet them outside the property rather than inside.

Retaining people in housekeeping is an issue today. It is still possible to convince ladies to stay on the job. However, the average retention of anyone in smaller properties is about six months. People are not willing to join housekeeping any more.

We are providing housekeeping with cleaning equipment, we have brushes, brushes with handle… without thinking about the cost to change the mindset of housekeepers. We need to tell them that instead of bare hands we can use gloves, we can use hand held brushes, instead of broom we have long handle brooms which takes care of their back and fatigue while cleaning.

When we started working in housekeeping 30 years back, there were no chemicals. We only knew of off-the-shelf cleaning products like Vim, Brasso, Teepol and we used to scrub manually right from the washbasin to the bath tub. For floor polishing the chemicals used were a concoction using turpentine oil. All that mattered was to have a…

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