M.ith hygiene, that’s such a thing. Even in the workplace. There are reasons for dissatisfaction or mistrust every day: Some people are bothered by the coffee stain on their desk in the morning – could it not be wiped away in the many hours since work? The other thinks he sees suspicious stains on the carpet – where are they coming from? And the next one is certain that the toilets haven’t been cleaned in ages – guaranteed! Since Corona, the serenity should not have increased, because now there is also a virus in the game. And because most employees in their companies rarely or never see cleaning staff, building and office cleaning remains a mystery. Everyone expects the best, but hardly anyone knows how it works in detail, who takes on it and what is important.
That doesn’t apply to Sascha Hartmann. He has the maximum expertise: three years of training, master craftsman in the building cleaning trade, state-certified disinfector, studies and soon probably a dissertation. Topic: climate-neutral building cleaning. Hartmann is responsible for around 10,000 cleaning staff at the Berlin service company Dussmann, and he feels like national football coaches: They also deal with countless observers and critics who believe they know everything better. “A lot of people who clean their toilet at home think: it’s not that different in the office,” he says. “But building cleaning is more than just cleaning.” Specific example: “If there are blood stains on the carpet, they are not so easy to remove. That takes a little longer and is a science in itself. “
The fact that Corona kept its employer in suspense early on has to do with a customer from Bavaria: the auto supplier Webasto, who hit the headlines at the end of January with the German Corona patient number 1. This was more radical for the company than for the service provider, because cleaning companies are not liable in such cases. Patient number 1 was a man who was infected in a meeting room with a Chinese colleague. The administration and development departments were shut down at that time, and the employees were sent to the home office. The cleaning there is a private matter – and less standardized. There are more than 700,000 cleaners in Germany – minimum wage from the beginning of 2012: 11.11 euros – self-employment is not a major hurdle. In any case, you don’t have to be a master.
The new wishes of customers
In many offices, on the other hand, large service providers are used to deal with tea kitchens, toilets, stairwells, carpets, keyboards, telephones, doorknobs and knockouts. To take care of. The Dussmann cleaners alone take on around 12 million square meters every day, the equivalent of 1,700 soccer fields. Because there are more than 100 care facilities among them, Hartmann is not afraid of normal offices. “Unlike in nursing homes, we are less likely to deal with really dangerous germs in offices,” he says. Infectious diseases have always been an issue at work, such as tuberculosis. “And we basically deal with influenza viruses on a daily basis.”
According to the industry, offices are usually not cleaned for longer due to Corona. In an example calculation, the Federal Guild of Building Cleaners assumes an average of 15 minutes per office. “In general, no further work steps have been added for cleaning due to the pandemic,” says Piepenbrock from Osnabrück, one of the largest building service providers in the country. The same applies to the cleaning products. The cleaning of surfaces is mostly done with detergents containing surfactants – “these are very likely also effective against the coronavirus”.
In many office and commercial properties, it is currently more important to meet the new wishes of customers. Above all, cleaning intervals are being changed: where main entrances were usually cleaned once a day before the pandemic, cleaning staff now sometimes move on an hourly basis. Further challenges await in the rooms themselves: for example, new protective walls made of Plexiglas, which are very sensitive and not easy to clean. Above all, the consulting effort has increased, for employees and for customers.
Finally, there were concerns that were not an issue before Corona. For example, the question of what role air conditioning plays in fighting viruses, or whether additional devices for air purification make sense. Sascha Hartmann makes the sound that air conditioning systems are a greater risk for cleaning staff than for office workers. Viruses get stuck in their filters and changing them is tricky. You have to imagine it like a bulging vacuum cleaner bag, only much bigger. Anyone concerned with something like this needs a special protective suit. Air conditioning systems are safe for employees, professional handling is required. Hartmann still finds mobile filter devices useful. “Additional air cleaning with appropriate filters provides additional security,” he says.
The industry is open to new tools and technologies anyway. In addition to cleaning robots, there are now room sensors that measure movements or QR codes on desks that users use to log in – both to signal cleaning staff whether and when cleaning needs to be done. This is more difficult to organize than ever due to the frequent change from work to home office. There are also new coatings for large surfaces that destroy microorganisms. But they are not a miracle cure. “One hundred percent sterility is not possible, not even through the use of new surfaces,” says Hartmann. “They support cleaning, but they do not replace it.” And cleaning itself has its limits. It is now “fleeting”.