Some cleaning firms see higher demand as more people return to the workplace, but challenges remain

Some cleaning firms see higher demand as more people return to the workplace, but challenges remain

Office cleaning performed by Clean Lab
Cleaning companies such as Clean Lab have seen increased demand for its services since COVID-19 safety measures were relaxed to allow more employees to return to the workplace this month. (Photo: Clean Lab)

SINGAPORE: A day after it was announced that more employees in Singapore will be allowed back at the workplace from Apr 5, Clean Lab received an urgent request for a deep-cleaning service. 

“The company asked if we can do a deep clean of their office carpet immediately,” said Clean Lab’s business development manager Serene Chang. “They mentioned that their office has been left unused for a long time and dirt is building up.” 

That was not the only enquiry that came through, and the local cleaning and disinfection company soon found its services fully booked for the next two weeks.

Apart from deep-cleaning and disinfection services, more companies are looking for professional help who can be stationed at their offices for regular cleaning and maintenance.

“Some companies have previously engaged regular cleaners to be at their office daily but during the pandemic last year with everyone working from home, they terminated this service. Now that more people are going back to the office, companies are looking at hiring daily cleaners again,” said Ms Chang.

Overall, Clean Lab saw a 20 per cent increase in demand for its services since the announcement on Mar 24, as companies try to adjust to the latest easing of COVID-19 measures to allow up to 75 per cent of employees back in the office.

READ: With easing of workplace COVID-19 rules, firms make adjustments while others take wait-and-see approach

Another cleaning service provider Nimbus also noted a 20 per cent jump in bookings.

So far, it has provided disinfection services that include spraying disinfectant mist and a thorough wipe-down of all office equipment.

Moving forward, Nimbus also expects more demand for regular cleaning as companies “value hygiene and cleanliness a lot more”, said chief executive and founder of Nimbus Daniel Thong.

WATCH: COVID-19: Demand for deep-cleaning services surge in Singapore

That said, there are some cleaning service providers who have not seen an immediate reaction from their customers.

Conrad Maintenance Services said most of the companies it is working with are not in a hurry to have more employees back in the office and prefer to “wait and see for another one to two months.”

It is, however, not too concerned about missing out on the latest boom in demand, managing director Raymond Ng told CNA.

This is because the company, like many others in the cleaning industry, has already seen a surge in the amount of work over the past year amid the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, high-touch points are to be cleaned at least twice a day, while some firms have asked for disinfection controls to be stepped up from once a month to as frequent as twice a week.

Mr Ng and his employees have been clocking longer hours. He has tried offering higher wages to hire new cleaners but to no avail, as locals continue to shun the industry.

“We are facing a very serious manpower problem, probably the worst since I started 18 years ago,” said Mr Ng, adding that the issue of labour shortage has been a perennial one. To cope, his company decided to focus on just industrial and commercial office cleaning five years ago.

CKS General Services, which operates CleanOne, is also grappling with insufficient workers, especially as more than half of its workforce decided to return home to Malaysia since last year.

READ: Government, trade organisations call on firms to pay cleaners fairly amid COVID-19 outbreak

“They haven’t been able to come back and with the situation uncertain, we also find it difficult to bring them back because some customers may not feel safe,” said senior sales executive Joelle Een.

“So we try to hire locally. We have posted job advertisements offering S$1,800 to S$2,300 for the past six to nine months but no one wants to be a cleaner.”

The company has thus far explored other options, such as participating in job fairs organised by Workforce Singapore and posting its job recruitments on other platforms such as Telegram and Facebook.

READ: Why you still need to clean your office space

The company said it intends to focus more on home cleaning as it is less manpower-intensive. It also expects this part of the business to start picking up once more people head back to the office.

Others have tapped technology to cope. Clean Lab, for instance, uses a specialised machine to disperse its disinfection mist.

“From within the keyboards to other hard-to-reach surfaces like the top of cabinets, it will ensure a very detailed disinfection and make the job more effective for our workers,” said Ms Chang.

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Source: CNA/sk(gs)

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