The Indian facility services segment has been one of the front runners in providing services to essential sectors that were operational during the lockdown. However, a large section of the facility services – which include facility management, housekeeping, pest management, specialised services like carpet cleaning, and many other related services – had to keep their doors shut either due to inaccessibility or lack of business due to lockdown.
The ensuing consequences of worker displacement, dropping revenues, lack of new business left some with no choice but to wind up, a few others to look at other avenues or diversify, and others to stay rooted with limited business and alternative business models.
Interestingly, the alternative business model opted for by some of the facility service companies shifted to residential/home cleaning services and cleaning services for the reopening of offices/commercial spaces.
The boom of residential cleaning services that usually skyrockets during the festive seasons in India witnessed a peak in demand over the last two quarters. Clean India Journal went on to probe this sudden need for professional home cleaning across India.
Largely nuclear working families that depend on maid services were deprived of the luxury of having their kaamwali bai coming to work with Covid-19 and lockdown. Similarly, housing societies in large communities who depended on a limited labour force working on monthly wages were stranded too.
A report in the Economic Times revealed some interesting figures confirming the rising trend for professional home cleaning.
The human capital management platforms saw a revival in June when the demand for workforce increased to as much as “50,000”, as stated by one of the companies. Even though all segments engaging higher workforce experienced attrition with Covid, they found that the safest way to return to normalcy was to get the workforce back in place following reopening.
Among the services required, “There is a very high frequency of cleaning and sanitisation in offices that are opening up, that has also led to the rise in demand,” according to the report.
Sodexo reported having at least 41,000 of its 48,000-strong work force back at work, based on enquiries from its clients. In June, 33,000 personnel were already on ground offering facilities management services to the client companies. “As offices gradually reopen and healthcare institutions witness increased manpower pressure to service Covid-care units, the total manpower demand was likely to go up.”
“The manpower requirement is backed by increased demand for disinfection and cleaning services in the corporate environment, particularly from pharma, manufacturing, banking and other corporates.” The company witnessed a 20% surge in fresh hires this month, to about 4,100.
The fear of the virus entered homes and increased with facilities opening up. Apartment buildings and gated communities have become very conscious of the risk of spread within their community, as flats today are literally stacked atop and next to each other. The cleaning of spaces shared by all residents had already started to migrate from unqualified cleaners to professional housekeeping companies, even before the pandemic. Demand for this has now shot up. Professional service providers like Urban Company have reported a 20-30% surge in service requests in October alone.
Bharathi Kamath, MD – Carewel Facilities, Bangalore and Ruth Prathibha, COO & Executive Director – CAERE Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad share their experiences about Apartment/Residential Complex and Home Cleaning with Clean India Journal.
An average working couple is probably accustomed to weekend cleaning, possibly with vacuums and other gadgets at their disposal. However, a larger portion of working couples resort to domestic help when it comes to cleaning. Apartment blocks or gated communities or residential complexes with approximately 90
to 150 flats engage workers on daily/monthly wages to use the humble broom or at the most a brush to sweep open areas, collect garbage and clean the staircases.
The comfort of having these services took the first blow with lockdown. While many managed with residents volunteering to clean up the staircases, and in many other cases, the local municipal ward came forward with labourers to clean up complexes periodically. The fear of getting infected with Covid-19 was more pronounced with unlocking, and outsourcing facility services picked up.
Bharathi Kamath: Covid-19 has brought in changes whic
h most of us would not have imagined earlier. There is a paradigm shift in the outlook of the management committees of residential complexes seeking professional maintenance of buildings and gated communities. Covid-19 has brought to the forefront sanitisation and cleanliness, which have become the paramount concern of residents.
Ruth Prathibha: The concept of outsourcing facility services in residential complexes had started well before Covid-19. With the rise in premium apartment complexes and gated communities, the need for their upkeep to be done professionally has been perceived as a necessity.
Professional Cleaning Awareness
Covid-19 has also increased the awareness and need for professional services not just for cleaning but also related hygiene by way of pest control, landscaping, waste disposal and others.
Bharathi: The main areas outsourced are janitorial services, pest control, landscape maintenance, waste management, maintenance of technical services and security.
Prathibha: The entire public area which includes all common areas, club house, roads, parking, gardens, gym, other recreational facilities like parks, play grounds, pools and lobbies are being outsourced.
Outsourcing – Home Cleaning
Outsourcing became all the more important to working couples, as the work-from-home trend set in. With work stretching on for much beyond working hours and in many cases, meetings being held virtually as late as 10.30 in the night to allow especially the female workforce to have the comfort of finishing home chores, outsourcing to professionals became a boon.
“Talking about home cleaning, every area in the house right from the kitchen, washrooms, rooms, doors, windows, floors, linen care and others, is taken care of. Residents have also opted for deep cleaning which also involves degreasing and descaling in the restrooms and toilets, kitchen and similar areas.”
Bharathi: One-time deep cleaning with sanitisation and fumigation has taken a forefront. Residents believe a clean home is an absolute necessity. Although the number of flats that can be serviced depends on the size of the flat, on an average, a team of 3-4 janitors with a team leader can handle two apartments a day.
The machines used are vacuum cleaners, single disc scrubbers, high pressure jets and UV machines. For sanitising and fumigation, automatic sprayers are used.
Prathibha: The routine activity undertaken by maids in individual homes does not address any details in most cases. Hence, householders are seeing the need for deep cleaning services for their homes from time to time.
Pre-Covid-19 demand was during festivals, moving of homes, change in tenants and at homes where just elderly couples resided. Currently, the fear of infection and need for sanitisation has increased immensely and hence, there is a surge in the calls for home cleaning.
The number of staff required and number of homes which can be addressed per day depends solely on the activity involved in each home and the size of the home. We use largely vacuum cleaners, single-disk scrubbing machines and steam cleaners in a home.
Outsourcing – Residential Complexes
Similarly, residential complexes, by outsourcing to a single service provider, felt reassured by getting all their chores being taken care of at one go.
Bharathi: A professional FM service provider is able to render a number of services under one umbrella as a one-stop solution. This takes away a major load of day-to-day activity of managing committees, as these services require constant monitoring.
Besides, a service provider is abreast of the new developments in new chemicals, machines and good practices which can be incorporated for the benefit of the residents, as well as equipped with structured processes and systems for each activity, which is customised as per client requirement. They become a one point of contact to the managing committee or residents.
The services currently being rendered are mainly janitorial, landscape, waste management and pest control services. In today’s scenario, sanitization and fumigation is a necessity.
The most important process for maintaining cleanliness is:
- Cleaning staff must use appropriate PPE.
- Attending to common areas with high traffic, particularly lifts and stairs. which must be cleaned and sanitised frequently.
- Not to allow accumulation of garbage and spraying of disinfectant periodically.
- Waste segregation is of utmost importance and the area is to be disinfected periodically.
Prathibha: No residential complex — singularly or collectively as a body of residents — has either the expertise or the time to manage the same. With increased incomes comes increased lifestyle expectations and awareness. Hence, it is imperative to outsource it to a professional company that can manage it both effectively and efficiently.
In residential complexes, there are a few sensitive areas like the pool rooms, clubhouse and kids play zone. The main point to be remembered is that processes and protocols have to include the different needs of different individuals that comprise a community. Hence, timing of cleaning in public areas without intrusion is very important. Turnaround time of complaints is very critical as every householder needs attention. Plumbing and electrical complaints form a large part of FM issues in residential complexes, hence hiring the best and pleasant MEP staff matters a lot.
We offer residential home cleaning services to residents of most of the premium apartment and gated community complexes in Hyderabad.
Cleaning Products Consumption
The demand for residential complex and home cleaning has correspondingly increased the consumption of cleaning products and cleaning staff too, during this period.
Bharathi: This depends on the scope of work specified by the client. The frequency of cleaning and sanitising highly frequented areas has increased due to Covid-19. Maintenance of residential complexes is one segment where manpower strength has increased due to new cleaning norms.
Prathibha: Ideally for a complex of 100 units, one would require approximately 60 staff, which would include housekeeping, electro mechanical maintenance staff, gardening staff and all others except security. However, with multiples of the same, it could increase proportionally but not directly.
All said and done, the front runners who have stood there cleaning residences and complexes were directly exposed to Covid-19. While service providers resorted to giving maximum protection, there was always a chance of any of the workers getting infected. This required constant monitoring and testing of the workers.
Bharathi: If any of the workforce has tested positive, the individual has to be quarantined immediately and not allowed to work. Rest of the workforce must be tested to ensure safety of the colleagues and the residents.
Prathibha: Most staff who are required to interact with customers are regularly monitored for symptoms and are subjected to tests. However, in isolated cases of infected staff and residents, we first inform the community of the case and trace contacts. The common lifts and lobbies are sanitised every hour and the respective staff and residents are subject to the quarantine protocol which the community lays down.
Read more on the Domestic and Residential complexes products and consumption in the coming editions of Clean India Journal.