Housekeeping Systems, Inc.
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Free Articles and Reports

Design Components for a Successful Environmental Services Operation
Why Not Use Free Housekeeping Software From a Supply Vendor?
Why Database Development is So Important
Understanding Workloading

Understanding & Developing Production Rates
Using Production Rates to Calculate Cleaning Time
Benchmarking Custodial Costs

Training Programs
Staffing Analysis
Inspection Services
Conversion to In-House
Support Programs
Cleaning Time Calculator
Housekeeping News & History
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Design Components for a Successful Environmental Services Operation

If you design a product like an automobile engine, you will spend a great deal of time designing the most
efficient components to use when building it. An engine designed from the ground up to be more efficient
than an engine built from spare parts.

Operational Design

It is important, when designing a housekeeping operation, to design each component to be consistent with
all other components so that the housekeeping operation can achieve its potential by maximizing its productivity.
The following steps are necessary when designing a flexible and highly productive housekeeping operation:

Define area types and measure what needs to be cleaned.

The square footage of each area to be cleaned must be measured and recorded. Each area should be identified
as to its specific use (office, corridor, rest room, etc.) and floor surface type (buffable, non-buffable or carpet).

Define tasks, performance criteria and accompanying production rates in relation to each identified area type.

A set of tasks, common to all area types, should be defined. Production rates should be developed, using a common
measurable unit, for each task and area type combination.

Performance criteria should be developed for each task that defines the result of performing the task correctly.
These performance criteria should be used to establish the inspection program of a quality assurance program.

Establish the service level and communicate it to all occupants.

Establish a performance frequency for each task in each area type. Don’t assume that every task must be performed
on a daily basis. Test task frequencies by performing the task in specific areas and observing how long it takes until
the task actually needs performing again. Negotiate the service level with the institution’s executive level management
and when they approve the service level, communicate it to all occupants.

Apply the service level (tasks, production rates and frequencies) to the measured areas.

Applying the agreed upon service level to the measured areas will calculate the performance time for each task in
each area enabling tasks in specific areas to be assigned to individual employees.

Account for areas that need to be cleaned multiple times per day as well as variable work loads.

Some areas must be cleaned multiple times per day. For example; Emergency Rooms are typically fully cleaned
two or sometimes three times per day because of the intensity of foot traffic. Often it may only be a single task
that must be performed multiple times per day. For example; school custodians who empty trash in the cafeteria
in-between multiple lunch periods. Areas that must be multiple-cleaned should be recorded as separate square
footage entries. To do otherwise will understate staffing needs in these areas.

A variable work load is a task regularly performed by the housekeeping department that varies in its frequency
and intensity of performance.

For example; hospital custodians must clean patient room after the patient is dismissed. Cleaning a dismissal room
involves cleaning the furniture and room where a patient was dismissed from the hospital in preparation for admitting
a new patient into the same room. The volume of dismissals varies with the day of the week and the time of day.

School custodians clean up at the end of after-school functions. PTA meetings, athletic banquets, dress rehearsals
for the band and choir all generate work for the custodian that vary in intensity and frequency.

Variable work loads must be studied for a period of time and an average daily amount should be predicted based on
actual historic need. Once an average daily amount is determined, it should be entered and assigned to the appropriate
employee or employees.

Account for non-cleaning and cleaning-related tasks.

Non-cleaning and cleaning-related tasks are those that cannot be directly applied to square footage. Tasks such as supply
distribution, trash removal, from the facility, secretarial support, supervision, group leader time, opening and securing the
building, power plant duties, etc. are examples of such tasks.

These tasks should be studied for a period of time and an average daily amount should be predicted based on historic need.
Once an average daily amount is determined, it should be entered and assigned to the appropriate employee or employees.

Design an audio-visual training program that teaches employees to achieve the results stated in the task performance criteria.

Constant, intensive and consistent training is one of the keys to building a highly productive housekeeping operation.
Unfortunately it is one of the most short-changed components of a successful housekeeping operation.

Departmental mangers frequently shorten a new employee’s initial training and fail to provide regular in-service training for
existing employees in order to put those employees into immediate production. This short sighted behavior fails to provide
an environment where employees can refine cleaning technique in a group setting and develop a consistent process that is
motion efficient. When employees are put into immediate production without adequate initial and recurring training they
will refine and perfect incorrect and unproductive processes.

An audio-visual training program must be developed that will train employees to efficiently perform the tasks that were
developed earlier. The audio-visual training program should describe each task well enough so that the employee understands
how to perform the task so that they can achieve the performance criteria for each task.

Training program modules should be developed that teach the cleaning task sequences for the institution’s critical area types
(rest room cleaning, public area cleaning, patient room cleaning, classroom cleaning, etc.). Written testing materials should be
developed for each module that can be used to document training results.

The training modules should be developed in a format that requires a live presentation of the materials. Live presentation
by the employee’s immediate supervisor will strengthen the relationship between the employee and supervisor. When
the supervisor becomes the employee’s active trainer, they become more of a leader than a boss. The act of making live
presentations of training materials will strengthen and develop the technical and communication skills of the supervisor.

New employees should review each module that applies directly to their responsibilities prior to being allowed to
perform alone or in tandem with another employee. This may mean that a new employee spends a large part of their
first day on the job in a classroom setting reviewing training modules with their immediate supervisor. This initial
bonding between the supervisor and new employee will pay dividend later in increased employee cooperation and production.

Existing employees should review one or two modules that apply directly to their assigned duties at least monthly in a
classroom setting with other employees. This setting can provide the team-like feedback necessary to build consistent
performance technique.

Emphasis should be placed on the employee developing motion efficiency. This is done through consistent emphasis
on the details of task performance. Discussing how to move from one step to another, how to move through a room
while performing tasks, how to keep supplies close at hand, how to adjust a trigger sprayer and how much to wring
out a damp mop are examples of the details that help develop motion efficiency.

Design a quality assurance program that confirms the correct performance of the previously developed tasks.

A quality assurance program should be developed that uses the performance criteria developed earlier to verify
correct task performance.

Inspections should be performed by the employee’s immediate supervisor and should be scheduled frequently
enough to provide regular feedback concerning performance to each employee.

An inspection should be unannounced and should take place shortly after the area to be inspected has been cleaned.
The supervisor should ask the employee to accompany them during the inspection. This will serve as an additional
opportunity for the supervisor to
train the employee.

The inspection should take place in a small representative sample of the employees assigned areas. For example; one
patient room and patient rest room in a hospital or one large classroom in a school or two or three private office
spaces in an office building will provide enough area for a meaningful inspection.

The inspection should be scored and a minimum passing score established. Scores should be tracked for each employee
and used to identify individual training needs.


A well designed and implemented housekeeping operation will pay dividends far in excess of its initial implementation
costs. Once an organized plan has been implemented, it provides the foundation for creating a successful and responsive
housekeeping operation.

Departmental management can use the momentum from a highly productive housekeeping operation to
further enhance the department’s productivity once the concepts of continuous improvement are understood.

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Why Not Use Free Housekeeping Software From a Supply Vendor?

Free (or nearly free) software sounds almost too good to be true doesn't it? If you've been around the
housekeeping industry for any time at all, you've probably heard that some chemical and supply vendors
will give you housekeepng software, and in some cases actually load the software with your information,
in exchange for your supply business. In other words, you get free software if you agree to purchase
supplies from these vendors.

Free software is out there if you want it, but be aware that there is a cost associated with everything.
You've probably also heard the saying "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is". At the very
least, you should expect to pay more for those supplies than you would normally when "free" products or
services are involved. Vendors are business people who must make a profit. In other words, they must
profit from providing you a "free" product or service.

But those are the obvious arguments against using "free" software. Look a little deeper and you will see
other issues. Look at another industry (Finance) and draw a comparison there. Finance departments in
institutions and businesses use financial software to manage the entire financial operations of their
business. Go ask your Chief Financial Officer it he or she would agree to use "free" financial
management software in exchange for purchasing copy paper from a vendor. After they stopped
laughing, they would likely ask you to leave because they don't have time to waste. Does this
person know something you don't? Yes - They understand that nothing in life is free and when it
comes to a critical component of your business, another phrase accurately describes the situation -
"You get what you pay for".

Look for a moment at the supply vendor's motivations for offering "free" software in the first place.
They think that they can make a profit from offering "free" software. Any good vendor (let's say a
chemical vendor for example), knows chemicals. They know how to make, transport, warehouse, and
sell chemicals. They understand chemicals inside and out. That's their job. They're in the chemical
business. They are not in the housekeeping business. That's your job. You should know housekeeping
forwards and backwards; inside and out. Go back to your Chief Fanancial Officer and ask them if
they would take financial advice from a copy paper salesperson?

Now go back to thinking about the vendor who is offering you "free" software. How much time and
money do you think they are really going to spend on developing quality software? That's the first
time the word "quality" has come up. After all, you only said you wanted software. Remember, that
chemical vendor, in our example, understands chemicals and not software. They have some software,
but they don't understand housekeeping like you do.

Don't expect a supply vendor to help you learn how to make effective use of your software.
You're on your own. Are you going to have confidence that they can provide you with a tool to
help manage your department? Is your operation important enough to your organization that it
is worth spending enough money to get the right software, or will any software do?

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Why Database Development is So Important

The database that must be developed for any housekeeping software to function, is like the engine in an
automobile. Its what makes a car go. It determines how fast the car can go as well as how much you
can load into the car and how much the car will tow. At least when you're shopping for a car, you can
open the hood and look at the engine. Even if you don't know a lot about engines, you can tell something
about the power of the engine. Most people understand that an 8 cylinder engine is generally more
powerful than a 4 cylinder engine.

Unfortunately you don't get to see the database in your housekeeping software until its been completed.
Imagine that you are shopping for a new car. You've decided on the make, model, color and the interior
styling, but you're not allowed to see or know anything about the engine until after you purchase the car.
The dealer has two cars on the lot that match your selections. Oh, by the way, you're not allowed to
drive either of the two until you've purchased. You can drive the demonstrator models they have on the
lot, but not the one you're going to purchase.

You travel a lot on interstate highways, so its important to you to have a car that can get to your
destination quickly, and you tow a large boat to a lake deep in the mountains where your vacation house
is located. How do you choose between the two identical cars? On price? If you pick wrong, you'll end
up with a car that isn't fast or powerful enough to do what you need to do.

Enough about the automobile example. From more than 30 years experience in housekeeping
management, and the last 20 of that working with housekeeping software and databases,
we believe that by far, the most important concern for anyone considering the purchase of
housekeeping software is how the database will be developed. If your database is not developed
properly, you will not be able to use your housekeeping software for much of anything.

Database development can be a daunting task. Making certain that all the bits of information are
in the right place and in the right format for everything to work out correctly can be time consuming
and frustrating. Every piece of data that goes into a database affects how the completed database
will function. Well thought out and carefully executed data development will make the critical
difference in whether your workloading software will function the way you want it to or not. HSI
has spent literally decades perfecting its data development techniques. HSI understands how the
modern housekeeping or environmental services manager wants to use their environmental services
software once the database has been developed.

Each HSI project leader has had several years of experience actually managing housekeeping and
environmental services departments in a variety of facilities. They know the challenges facing
managers in today's fast-paced and stressful environment.

Want more information on data development? Read about HSI's Software Implementation Options
on the Software Page under Implementation Options.

How should your database be developed and what should it contain in order to have housekeeping
software that is really useful? Read - Understanding Workloading found elsewhere on this page.

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Understanding Workloading

Workloading is the process whereby the appropriate amount of time is calculated for performing one or
more tasks is a specific space at a facility. Just because someone offers you "housekeeping software",
doesn't mean that the software can perform workloading. Some software offered as "housekeeping
software" provides only employee training materials or performs inspections or calculates supply
usage, but has no workloading capability. If you are shopping for housekeeping workloading software,
be aware of this and know what kind of software is being offered.

Even if you are being offered workloading software, be aware that unless the database is developed
correctly, you may not be able to make full use of your workloading software after the database has been
completed. See - Why Database Development is So Important, found elsewhere on this page.

How useful any housekeepng workloading software is when the database is complete, is in direct relation
to the level of detail to which the database was developed. The database contained within a fully
functioning housekeeping software package contains a number of different tables. A table is much like
one folder in a large file cabinet where the entire file cabinet is the database. There are two tables in your
database that will determine how useful your software will be once the database is complete -
the Task Table and the Space Inventory Table. Every vendor's workloading software has its equivilent
of these two tables.

Understanding Workloading - The Task Table

The task table contains information about what employees do - they clean. How you define what it is that
your employees do is one of the critical factors in how useful and easy to maintain your software will be
once the database has been completed. The task table will also contain the production rate for each task
described. you should have a way to adjust the production rate so that you can tune it to your specific
situation. Tasks and production rates can be created in differeing amounts of detail. Following are some
examples of task definitions and how detailed they are.

Task Examples-High Detail
Task Examples-Medium Detail
Task Examples-Low Detail
Dust Table Empty Trash Cans Clean Office
Dust Chair Spot Clean Furniture & Building Surfaces Clean Corridor
Dust TV High Dust Furniture & Building Surfaces Clean Classroom
Spot Clean Pictures Dust Mop - 36" Tool Clean Laboratory
Spot Clean Door Handle Damp Mop Clean Lobby
Spot Clean Table Disinfect Restroom Fixtures Clean Library
Empty Trash - Large Can Police Elevator Clean Patient Room

As a general rule, the more detailed you tasks are, the more more flexibility you have in your database
and the less detail you have in your tasks, the less flexibility - However, too much detail can lead to
a situation where you have to spend too much time updating your database.

Understanding Workloading - The Space Inventory Table

The space inventory table contains information about where your employees do the cleaning. How you
define your space is the second critical factor in how useful and easy to maintain your software will be once
the database has been completed. Level of detail is important in the space inventory table also. Following
are examples of differing detail levels in the development of the space inventory table.

Space Examples-High Detail
Space Examples-Medium Detail
Space Examples-Low Detail
Room 305-Waiting Room Suite 305-Prof. Jones Lab Complex Third Floor
Room 305a-Interior Corridor Suite 306-Dr. Halls Office Complex First Floor Public Areas
Room 305b-Reception Room 542-Patient Room & Restroom Russell Building Offices
Room 305c-Exam Room 1 Room 573-Nurses Station Complex Russell Building Classrooms
Room 305d-Exam Room 2 Room 104-Chemistry Lab & Storage Science Dept. Classrooms
Room 305e-Doctors Office Suite 101-School Admin. Complex Security Building
Room 305f-Break Room Room 286-Men's Shower & Lockers Student Center

Again, the general rule with the space inventory table is "The more detail - the more flexibility and the
less detail - the less flexibility". You could also state that general rule another way: "The more detail -
the more database maintenance time required".

Understanding Workloading - High Detail vs. Low Detail - Advantages & Disadvantages

At first, some people assume that the highest level of detail is best because it offers the most flexability in
workloading. They're right, however, the highest level of detail also can create a data maintenance nightmare.
Imagine a situation where you have high detail tasks like "Spot Clean Pictures" in high detail space like
"Bill Preston's Office", and you have hundreds, if not thousands, of offices in your facility. You would have
to maintain an accurate inventory of pictures for each space. Do you want to count the pictures in every
space and then monitor them to make sure you always have the correct number workloaded in each space?

Likewise, some people assume that the low detail route is the way to go. It is the fastest way to develop
your database. It can also leave you with no flexibility in workloading. Imagine as an example that you
have a low detail database where you have a task like "Clean Office" in a space called "Russell Building
Offices". Administration decides, that to save money, it wants the Housekeeping Department to continue
to empty the trash every day in the Russell Building offices but only clean each office once each week,
except for Professor Russell's offices. They want to continue full daily services to his offices (after all
the building is named after him and all). You will end up having to delete the Russell Building and
re-engineer a higher detail database in order to accommodate two different service levels in the same

We have found that the medium detail database works best for our clients. It gives them the best
balance between flexability and power and doesn't require too much time for data maintenance. Our
project managers, who supervise the development of client databases, will develop parts of a client
database in either high-detail or low-detail depending on how the client will end up using the database
after it has been developed. Database development is the key to a successful housekeeping software

Understanding Workloading - How the Two Tables Interact - Coming Soon

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Understanding and Developing Production Rates

A production rate is a statement of the time necessary to perform a specific task in a standardized
amount of space. A production rate statement always has three parts - Task, Time and Space/Unit.
Below are some examples of production rate statements in a system that uses 1000 square feet (the
Space/Unit component of the statement) as as standardized space:

Remove Trash 6 Minutes per 1000 Square Feet
Spot Clean 3.5 Minutes per 1000 Square Feet
Dust Mop - 24-Inch Tool 7.25 Minutes per 1000 Square Feet
Damp Mop 12 Minutes per 1000 Square Feet
Police Elevator 2 Minutes per Cab
Disinfect Restroom Fixture 1 Minute per Fixture

There is more than one production rate system. They differ, primarily, in the part of the statement that is
standardized. Below are some examples of production rates that use Time as the standardized component:

Remove Trash 10,000 Square Feet per Hour
Spot Clean 17,000 Square Feet per Hour
Dust Mop - 24-Inch Tool 8,000 Square Feet per Hour
Damp Mop 5,000 Square Feet per Hour
Police Elevator 30,000 Square Feet per Hour
Disinfect Restroom Fixture 60,000 Square Feet per Hour

A production rate is not a statement of how long it takes to perform a specific task in a specific space.
That would be considered workloading. That may seem to be an unimportant distinction, but it is what
makes housekeeping workloading software work.

The different systems of production rates are somewhat incompatible. Both of the above examples of
production rate systems work just fine, but if you use some production rates from one system and some
production rates from the other system, you will end up confusing yourself. It's sort of like speaking or
listening to a mixture of equal parts english and french. You may understand both languages, but you're
going to have to think about it harder than you would if you were speaking, or listening to just english.

Understanding & Developing Production Rates - Developing Your Own Production Rates

Developing your own production rates is tedious but rewarding. It's not hard, but it will take some time.
You will also gain a much better understanding of the work you are developing production rates for.
The first step is to determine the tasks that you will be developing production rates for. It is important
to not mix systems in your task set either. Review the article Understanding Workloading - Task Table.
Develop production rates for either low-detail, medium-detail or high-detail tasks, but don't mix then up.
We recommend that you use the medium-detail task examples, because we know that they work the
best, but develop production rates for any task list you desire.

Let's say that one of the tasks you will be developing a production rate for is "Remove Trash". Go out
into your facility and measure off 1000 square feet of several different area types where you perform
the task. You should select the area types that represent the majority of your total square footage. Area
Types such as Office, Corridor, Rest Room and Dining Room will probably be on your list. If your
facility is a school or university, you probably want to have Classroom and Laboratory on your list.
If your facility is a hospital or nursing home, you probably want to have Patient/Resident Room and
Treatment/Exam Room on your list. Add to your list any area type that is important to you or that
gives you concern. Avoid area types that don't represent a significant amount of square footage.

Perform the task in one of the area types where you have measured off 1000 square feet of space.
Record the number of minutes it took. Have someone else perform the task and record the results.
Have different people perform the task and record the results each time. Average the times to come
to an approximation of the production rate. People performing the task should not try to speed through
it or slow down the performance in an attempt to skew the results. You want an honest and real result.
Move on to the next area type and repeat the process. In the end, you should have a pretty fair set of
production rates.

Understanding & Developing Production Rates - Task - Remove Trash

Area Type
Test 1
Test 2
Test 3
Test 4
Test 5
6.52 min.
3.58 min.
4.42 min.
Patient Room
4.72 min.
7.94 min.
1.40 min.

After you have your raw production rate times for the task, you should ask yourself if the average times
generated actually reflect the time necessary to perform the task in all examples of the area type under
study at your facility? Take the area type "Office" for example. Does your facility have different types of
offices like Executive Offices, Private Offices, Modular Offices, Open Offices and office spaces that are
so packed together that you have to turn sideways to maneuver between the isles? We call those Dense
Offices. If so, you may have to engineer seperate production rates for each distinctly different office spaces.

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Using Production Rates to Calculate Cleaning Times - Coming Soon


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Benchmarking Custodial Costs

Benchmarking has been used for years to help improve productivity in large manufacturing companies.
More recently benchmarking techniques have been used in service orientated companies to the same end.
The financial executives in your facility probably study the benchmarks for all departments, including
housekeeping. Knowing how benchmarks are developed and what you can do to make them appear
better can influence how your department is perceived by your facility’s executives.

A benchmark is a snapshot in time that defines the current situation in financial terms. For example,
a company might spend $23,000 to produce 1000 widgets. At a very basic level, that company’s benchmark
for producing widgets is $23.00 per widget. If a company across town can product the same widget for
$21.00 per widget, the second company is more productive and has an advantage in the marketplace.

A housekeeping department provides a service (cleaning) to the facility (which can be defined by its square
footage). The most basic of all benchmarks for the housekeeping department is “Cost per Square Foot”.
For example, if your budget is $3,000,000 per year and your department services 1,250,000 square feet of
space, the cost for cleaning at your facility is $2.40 per square foot ($3,000,000 ÷ 1,250,000 square feet).
The are only two ways to make this benchmark better:

• Decrease the dollars spent cleaning the same square footage
• Increase the square footage cleaned without increasing the cost.

Benchmarking - Service Level is the Key

Going back to our widget example for a moment – The manufacturer of widgets at $23.00 per widget can
only make their benchmark better by either lowering their cost to produce widgets or producing more widgets
for the same amount of money. Lowering the salaries of the employees would lower the cost of producing
widgets but that’s a rather impractical solution. Using less raw materials and making each widget smaller
would lower the cost too, but the designers of the widget created design specifications and tolerances so
that each widget produced would perform a particular job. A smaller widget, using fewer raw materials,
just wouldn’t work.

The primary difference between benchmarking in a manufacturing industry and in a service industry is the
concept of design specifications. If you change the design specifications the product will not work! In the
housekeeping industry, the counterpart to design specifications is Service Level. Service Level is the
combination of tasks and their performance frequencies.

Contracted housekeeping operations are frequently bound by contract to perform at a designated service level.
Changes to the service level have to be negotiated and the contract price (a benchmark in itself) can go up or
down. Many in-house housekeeping operations are mandated, by their Chief Executive Officer, to provide a
dictated service level. The key point here is that the housekeeping manager seldom, in ever, has the authority
to significantly change the service level, along with the corresponding budget and resulting benchmarks,
without prior approval from somewhere up the chain of command.

When you adjust the service level, you are adjusting labor. The higher the service level the higher the labor
used. Labor represents roughly 90% of you entire budget. If you cannot adjust labor on your own the only
way to change the benchmark is to adjust the amount of money you spend on materials. If your materials
cost represents roughly 10% of your budget, it will be difficult to impact the benchmark by purchasing cheaper
chemicals and equipment. In fact, cheaper materials may well increase the need for labor. A cheaper floor
finish may need to be burnished more frequently and cheaper vacuum cleaners may mean that employees
must spend more time vacuuming.

Benchmarking - Modifying Service Level

If you’re trying to make your benchmarks look better, there are a couple of rules of thumb for modifying the
service level without impacting appearance level too much.

• Adjust service level in areas out of the public eye
• Adjust service level in area types representing a large percentage of your total square feet

A hospital should avoid adjusting service level in patient rooms, public corridors and restrooms. A college
should avoid adjusting service level in classrooms, corridors and restrooms. It’s doubtful that you can have
a significant impact on your benchmarks by adjusting the service level in area types such as storage rooms
and file rooms. The area type that is out of the public eye and also representing a large percentage of the
total square feet of many facilities is office space.

Lowering the service level in an area type like offices should not be done without the input and the approval of
key office workers as well as someone at the executive level. Office workers consider their offices to be their
personal territory and don’t like to see changes made without their input.

Before approaching your boss about lowering a service level, you should explore the possibilities and
estimate the potential savings. Fully define your current service level for offices. You probably don’t
clean every surface in every office every day. Make a chart similar to the one below:

Min/1000 SqFt
Converted to Daily Number
Remove Trash
5 x Week
High Dust
1 x Week
Spot Clean
2 x Week
5 x Week

Calculate how long it takes your employees, on average, to perform each task in 1000 square feet of typical
office space at your facility. Measure off the space and note the time it takes for your employees cleaning
it on several different occasions. Clean the area yourself to verify the average time. For any task that has a
frequency of less than 5 times per week you must convert the performance time into a daily number. For
example, if spot cleaning takes 4.5 minutes to perform in the measured area and you perform spot cleaning
only twice per week, perform the following calculation:

Spot Clean 4.5 min. x 2 times per week ÷ 5 days in a week = 1.8 minutes per day

After you’ve calculated each task time, fill in your chart. In the example above, you've calculated that it
should take, on average, 17.5 minutes per 1000 square feet to clean in that specific area type. The numbers
in this example chart will not accurately reflect how long it takes to perform each task in offices at your
specific facility.

You will want to perform this calculation in several different office spaces of 1000 square feet in order
to come up with a good average for your facility. Assuming your employees are working with good
equipment and using correct techniques, you can fairly certain that it takes, on average, 17.5 minutes
per 1000 square feet to clean offices in our example facility. All you need to know now is how many
thousand square feet of office space you have in your facility and you will know, with a short calculation,
how long, on average, it takes you to clean all offices in your facility.

You’re now in a position to estimate the potential savings of a change in your service level to offices.
Think of what task you can eliminate or do less frequently in offices. Ask your counterparts in other
facilities what their service level in offices is. Observe the office space at the end of the office work day.
Does every trash can need emptying every day? How long does it take to really notice dust accumulating
on ledges? If vacuuming is skipped on one day, is it really noticeable? Design a new lower service level
and calculate the estimated cleaning times based on your observations. It will look something like this:

Min/1000 SqFt
Converted to Daily Number
Remove Trash
5 x Week
High Dust
1 x Week
Spot Clean
1 x Week
1 x Week

This new (lower) service level takes half as much time as the original service level. Depending on how many
thousand square feet of offices you have in your facility, changing the service level in offices could have a
major impact on your costs and resulting benchmarks.

Benchmarking - Define Your Way to Better Benchmarks

When you start comparing your benchmarks with benchmarks from other facilities, you have to look beyond
the bottom line benchmark numbers to understand the true cost of service at each facility. We've already talked
about service level. You cannot accurately compare yourself with another facility unless you can normalize the
service level between the two. Although you can't account for every difference between the two different service
levels, you should be able to account for variables responsible for major differences.

Another way to make your benchmarks look better is to understand how your facility reports its own information,
which eventually results in your facility’s benchmark. In the case of “Cost per Square Foot”, understanding the
definition of both “Cost” and of “Square Feet” can help immeasurably in making your benchmarks look better
before you even address service level.

How does your facility define and report its cost? Given the same square footage, a lower cost will create a
better benchmark. Does cost mean the total bottom line figure for everything in the housekeeping department
or does it mean just labor costs? If the figure includes labor, does that also mean the labor for departmental
management and clerical support? Some facilities don’t include that in their reporting. Does cost include waste
removal tipping fees and other contracted services? Many times, that figure is maintained outside the housekeeping
department’s budget. Understand exactly what cost means and you’ll be in a better position to face challenges like
“Why are our benchmarks always higher than XYZ Facility?”

How does your facility define and report its square footage? Given the same Cost figure, a higher square footage
number will create a better benchmark. Do you report your gross square footage or net cleanable square footage?
Gross square footage, being a higher number, will create a better benchmark. Do you clean anything outside the
facility like sidewalks or parking decks? If so, it’s a safe bet that square footage is not included in the reporting

Benchmarking - Summary

You have some control over what your benchmarks are. Knowing and understanding how they are calculated
will give you the power you need to change them or explain why you cannot change them.

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