4 Facilities Questions Answered

Do you know what it takes to keep the office clean and healthy? Our expert answers questions about facilities management, cleaning and the office.

Recently, some of our customers had a chance to ask Staples Business Advantage expert Neal Duffy, Senior Manager, Facility Solutions, some of the trickier facilities and cleaning questions that arose in the office. Air freshener giving you a headache? Are you adequately protected against the flu? Neal has great advice and answers.

Dueling Disinfectants

When it comes to keeping the office clean, preferences come into play a lot, from the cleaning crew to the building occupants, about everything from color to scent. How do you balance these preferences? Is there a way to be sustainable while doing it?

Neal: People have been conditioned that fragrance and color are needed to clean. Who wants to use a clear glass cleaner? It needs to be dark blue, right? And when people seek to mask or cover up odors in target areas like bathrooms and breakrooms, the air fresheners or fragrances can actually be more offensive. Here are a few things that might help:

  • Talk to the person who sets the cleaning specs for your area and talk to them about people-friendly products that don't just mask odors. "Clean" should not have a smell.
  • Encourage the sourcing and use of more environmentally friendly products. Most suppliers offer these now, as more consumers are conscious of the negatives that come along with heavily fragranced or dyed products. Staples has our own line called Sustainable Earth by Staples, formulated using effective ingredients that are also people-friendly.
  • Communicate to leadership and facilities management if and when someone's sensitive or allergic to certain products so the use of those can be avoided.

Avoiding an Outbreak

Do you have any tips on how employees can clean or disinfect things themselves? We have a cleaning service, but they only come in once a week, and when one person gets sick, it always spreads through the office.

Neal: No matter how good your cleaning service is, there are daily use surfaces like breakroom appliances, faucets, doorknobs, etc. that are breeding grounds for germs and may require more frequent cleaning—daily or even multiple times a day. Here are some good places to start:

  • Wash your hands, wash your hands and wash your hands—frequently and thoroughly.
  • If you can't get to a sink to wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Practice common sense. If it's peak flu season or your colleagues are sick, take extra precautions like using a tissue or paper towel to open the door, or using a knuckle to press buttons. It may sound silly, but the fewer germs you allow to enter your body, the smaller your chance of getting sick.

Green & Clean

I'm looking for recommendations to pass along to our cleaning crew for products that are mostly natural and have fewer chemicals. What would you recommend?

There are many environmentally friendly and people-friendly products on the market to choose from these days. It's key to look for third party green certifications such as Green Seal, EPA Safer Choice and EcoLogo. These certifications can help to distinguish the more sustainable products from those with harsher chemicals and dyes.

Saying Thanks (one of our favorite questions!)

I'm not involved in facilities management at my office. What can I do to better show that I appreciate the staff that keeps our office healthy and clean?

Neal: Keeping an office clean is not only a big challenge, but it's also extremely important to the health, safety and satisfaction of everyone in the office. Some things you might consider doing to help show your appreciation:

  • Holidays of appreciation: There are several that fit, including National Custodial Workers Recognition Day (October 2) and World FM Day (usually in May), but you can also designate a day in your office to do something simple, like a sign and cookies or snacks for your cleaning crew.
  • Communication: Setting up a notebook for your office to communicate needs, concerns or thanks, especially for an after-hours crew, can help them better understand your needs and deliver better results, avoiding escalation.
  • A simple "thanks": Just saying "thank you" on a regular basis can let your facilities staff know they are appreciated and it goes a long way in making their job easier.

Interested in more expertise from Neal Duffy about facilities management and your facilities vendors? Check out the Q&A we did with him about how changing facilities suppliers doesn't have to be painful.