INCLEAN January-February 2021

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What long-term changes do you think will be implemented to business processes as a result of the pandemic? It’s still evolving as to what long term changes will be implemented as a result of the pandemic, however, it is evident working from home will still be prevalent for many businesses and it will be some time before offices return to pre-COVID occupant levels. Because of this, ISS and our clients will need to focus on creating safe and healthy workplaces. There will be changes to workplace sizes and layouts, but it will also be our focus to entice people back to the office and reassure them that it is safe to commute to work and be at the office.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the industry over the next 12 months? A challenge and an opportunity for the industry is responsible outsourcing. The pandemic and to some extent the hotel quarantine inquiry in Victoria, has shone a light on the need for responsible outsourcing. There is an opportunity for responsible, reputable, and accountable organisations, who recruit properly, pay fairly, and provide correct training and equipment such as PPE, to stand out from the pack. For too long there have been contractors in the industry who haven’t done the right thing by society – their staff, their customers, the environment. I think there is an opportunity to be led by government and large organisations to say that we can’t accept this anymore. There needs to be a behaviour change in the way people procure services such as cleaning. If you see a price and think it’s too good to be true, then it probably is – and what it also means is that the cleaner is probably getting underpaid. There is a huge opportunity for this industry to take responsibility and stamp out that behaviour. Those companies that help protect the brand and reputation of their clients by employing ethically and being accountable and responsible will be most successful.

Has the pandemic fast-tracked digitalisation, or new technologies in the industry? There is a growing focus on robotics, and on equipment to enhance cleaning and sanitation – such as safe fogging and spraying technology, temperature monitors, and systems to prove that an area is clean. We are currently looking at new technologies including robots. We were already looking at increasing our use of robotics prior to COVID, however, I think there

is now more acceptance with the use of robots as organisations start to review their real estate costs. If a robot can clean the floors and spray disinfectant and the same time, that is going to reduce cost and provide a great hygienic outcome then people will start to look at that solution more.

What do you expect to be the big trends of 2021? Hopefully, it is a gradual return to normal – offices and places of work are important meeting places where face-to-face interactions happens. The second one is recognition of cleaning as a critical service. In the past the cleaner was often forgotten, working at night unrecognised but I think we have seen a huge change in that regard. They’re now seen as a vital part of the community which is fantastic.

There is an opportunity for responsible, reputable, and accountable organisations, who recruit properly, pay fairly, and provide correct training and equipment such as PPE, to stand out from the pack.

What are some of key issues the industry should urgently address in 2021? Firstly, we need to work with our customers and communities to rebuild confidence in returning to the workplace. We need our cities to re-open and I think the cleaning industry has a big part to play in that. We need people to have confidence that it’s safe to go into the city and that it is safe to go to work. Secondly, modern slavery is an enormous societal issue. Underpayment of cleaners has been systemic for many years. No major corporation or Government entity should be awarding work to a cleaning company if the price “looks too good to be true”. The outsourced cleaning industry is currently in the spotlight and as an industry we need to be responsible and help keep our communities safe. This industry has a huge role to play and we have all witnessed first-hand that cutting corners can have catastrophic impacts!

Is there one key message you would like to share with the industry? COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the brilliant work cleaners do to keep community safe and to make places hygienic. We have 17,000 employees across Australia and New Zealand, and more than half of those team members are cleaners. We are so proud of the role our front liners played during this time in cleaning schools, hospitals, and workplaces. But it’s not just the cleaners at ISS, there’s many hundreds of thousands of cleaners across the country working during COVID-19 and they should all be thanked, rewarded, and recognised. We need to treat them as heroes. ■ 45