Moving to an Activity-Based Work Model? Here’s How to Adapt Your Cleaning Program.
Friday, August 26, 2022
by: Bob Clark, Senior Vice President of Client Experience and Operations Support at ABM

Section: Trends and Tips

Moving to an Activity-Based Work Model? Here’s How to Adapt Your Cleaning Program.

The workplace is experiencing historic disruption as companies adapt to the rapid rise of remote work. Many offices are shifting to activity-based work (ABW) to accommodate their occupants need for flexibility. Small teams may need an open area to collaborate. Others may need space to meet with in-person and remote colleagues. And some occupants may come to the office for a private, comfortable place to focus. 

This new model creates complex challenges for facility managers. Break rooms, restrooms, and lobby areas must be clean and fully stocked, no matter how many occupants come to the office or how they use the space. Hoteling, where occupants may not necessarily use assigned desks, is becoming more common. Conference room space is at a premium since many occupants come to the office just for meetings. These shared work areas require regular, visible disinfection. COVID-19 initiated a change in the way occupants look at cleaning, and while that concern has dwindled slightly, it’s likely to never go away. A 2022 Pew Research survey found that only 36% of workers are very satisfied with their employers’ COVID-19 protocols, leaving plenty of room for improvement.1

To address the flexibility and disinfection needs of ABW environments, traditional approaches to cleaning must be re-engineered to align with the new ways of working. That is why many facility managers are turning to demand-based cleaning. Data-driven solutions such as sensor technology, task management systems, and mobile devices enable facility managers to implement a demand-based cleaning model that ensures areas are serviced when needed. Here’s why it’s ideal for ABW environments.

ABW Environments Require Demand-Based Cleaning

As trends are showing, there are fewer people returning to the office, but it’s still important to provide occupants with clean restrooms and common areas that are properly stocked with the required consumables and other necessities. Shared spaces should not mean shared exposures to contaminants. This calls for a highly visible, proactive cleaning program.

For day cleaning, the most efficient way to address this need is with a demand-based cleaning model. Demand-based cleaning is based on occupancy and usage versus a typical task and frequency schedule. This approach enables facility managers to utilize labor, equipment, and supplies more efficiently while meeting occupant expectations for cleanliness. It also facilitates the cleaning staff to be able to focus on actual usage patterns and direct their attention to where occupants are actually using the space. 

The need for disinfection services increased costs for many facility managers. Demand-based cleaning enables the ability to re-evaluate costs and streamline the use of cleaning supplies and labor based on space utilization. If areas are used infrequently, the cleaning frequency can potentially be reduced in line with the demand. 

Technology Supports Demand-Based Cleaning 

Data, automation, and technology-enabled service workers are key to implementing demand-based cleaning practices. By using a connected ecosystem of technology, real-time occupancy data can be collected to implement smart routing. Below are some of the tools:

  • Sensors that monitor occupancy levels
  • Task management systems that translate senior data into tasks
  • Mobile devices that allow cleaning staff to receive task alerts and log relevant notes
  • QR codes and work validation technology can verify task completion

These tools work together to facilitate a proactive service delivery model based on real-time data and effective outcomes resulting in an improved occupant experience. For example, when a conference room is no longer in use, a disinfection task can be automatically generated and sent to cleaning personnel on their mobile device. Once they complete disinfection, the cleaner can then scan a QR code to provide assurance of work completion, or the system can automatically track their location using GPS locating technology. The same protocols can also be applied to individual desks and private rooms, so occupants feel more comfortable with the idea of sharing what may have formerly been assigned space. 

Monitor Trends with the Data

Data captured from various sensors, equipment, and mobile devices can be analyzed to understand occupancy dynamics and space utilization- for example, if collaborative spaces are used more on certain days of the week. In many environments there may be fewer people in the properties on Fridays, however, they may be more likely to generate food waste. Is the property busier at certain times of the month? ABW is relatively new, and there’s no exact blueprint for the business model as various companies have different expectations related to space utilization. Sensors allow the collection of data and the ability to monitor trends, so facility managers can learn how occupants are using the workplace as the hybrid space unfolds over time. 

With the insights that data collection provides, planning of cleaning tasks can be adjusted to meet the activity levels in your facility. For example, the timing of periodic maintenance tasks can be optimized (i.e. deep clean floors or adjust supply orders) at certain times of the year to accommodate increased occupancy rates. Long-term trend data can also help identify cost-saving opportunities that can offset the additional expenses of disinfection.

Optimize Activity-Based Work Environments 

ABW is all about delivering the ultimate occupant experience. The occupants dictate how they’ll use the space each day, and if the cleaning protocols do not align with their needs, it will be obvious. With demand-based cleaning, facility managers can operate a workplace that fosters productivity and enhances collaboration, all while mitigating distractions and concerns. 

While technologies and workflows that facilitate demand-based cleaning should appear seamless for occupants and cleaning personnel, the implementation can be challenging. Many ABW facility managers are relying on external cleaning partners for additional specialized support. Regardless of the approach taken, facility managers can successfully adapt to the demands of ABW by being just as flexible as the environment itself. 

Thank you to ABM, a 2022 BOMA San Diego Annual Supporting Partner, for providing this educational content!