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Custodial Staffing Questions

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Q. How many custodians are needed to clean a facility with 214,000 sq. ft. of building space with obstructed rooms? 

Your staffing level depends upon the cleaning specifications and frequencies and individual factors that affect production rates. In addition, a church usually encounters chair set ups as well as after hour weddings/meetings. So, it is difficult to expect a national standard to apply to all churches.

In your case, if your custodians cleaned at 3,600 sq. ft. per hour (a normal production rate), it would take 59.44 hours each time to clean your complete facility. With a seven hour shift, that would convert to 8.5 FTE's.

You would then need to factor in window washing, floor care, and carpet cleaning, in addition to the nightly clean. That would probably take one more person, depending upon the amount of VCT to refinish, and the color of carpet and traffic levels which determine cleaning frequencies for those areas.

Q.  What would be the cleaning time for a university that has a very heavy soil condition? 

A.  There are several variables that will affect the cleaning rates. These might include:
1. The interruption level for custodians to handle special requests.
2. The soil load coming into and being generated inside the buildings.
3. The size of and productivity of cleaning equipment.
4. Overall cleaning specifications (individual task frequencies).
5. General training and speed of crews.

With that in mind, you would probably be looking at 21,000 square feet per shift with challenging soil conditions.

Q.  What is the industry standard for sq. ft. production for custodians in libraries (I work in Texas)? 

A.  The Texas State Comptroller monitors custodial cleaning times for all Texas funded public schools. They suggest 18,000 to 20,000 square feet assigned per custodian. The variance includes, in-part, the number of students and teachers, the amount of outside work, non-cleaning tasks, interruptions, chair setups, and thoroughness of the cleaning specifications.

APPA's cleaning time for university libraries shows 19,551 square feet assigned per custodian for level one cleaning and 42,663 for level 2 cleaning. Level one would appear excessive for libraries. The productivity drops 10-15% when you factor in carpet and floor care and window washing.
 Adjustments must be made to compensate for color of carpet, amount of VCT and number of windows.

Likely, within city libraries you would expect to see fewer interruptions when cleaning after hours and a minimal of non-cleaning tasks. This should bump up your cleaning times to exceed 3,800 sq. ft per hour (26,660 sq. ft for 7 hours). Again, compensating for all the variables makes all the difference in the world. Cleaning Management Software can identify and calculate all the specific nuances.

Q. What is the average production rate for cleaning in health-care settings?
A. In healthcare, as elsewhere, the answer to that will depend on what is being cleaned and how it is being done. I have seen cleaning times from 1,000 to 1,600 square feet per hour for an entire medical campus. Occupancy level and ER admissions affect production rates. ER and ICU may clean about three times slower than administration, and corridors will clean three times faster than patient rooms. So, the mix of room categories also has an affect on production rates. Is there a disinfection step being added to the cleaning? That will add to the time for application and dwell time.
Q. What are the general production times for cleaning educational facilities? 
A. When you study educational custodial FTE coverage, you find a range from 20,000 to 35,000 square feet, based on daily cleaning assignments and the amount of non-cleaning tasks that are required. It is not uncommon for non-cleaning tasks to comprise over 20% of the first shift responsibilities. Second shift cleaning can run under 5% for non-cleaning job responsibilities. Each type of area cleans at a different rate.

Shower rooms take much longer than locker rooms to clean. Rest room will take 2-3 times longer to clean than a hallway. So the mix or make up of the general terrain that must be covered can make a huge difference. If one custodian vacuums a hall with a 12 inch vacuum and another with a 26 inch vacuum, the production times will be at opposite ends of the scale. If one custodian must circle back and re-clean a rest room for the second time on his or her shift, this will greatly reduce the overall production time.

APPA's (Association of Physical Plant Administrators) Custodial Staffing Guideline shows a coverage of 34,000 square feet for level 4, which is described as moderate dinginess. These cleaning times are found in our Cleaning Management Software.  A free trial download is available from our website.

Rest room cleaning will be the most labor intensive with rather slow cleaning rates. Skip cleaning (omitting specific tasks on certain days) will result in higher production times. To assess your own times, you can design a small index pocket card for each custodian listing each job task and the time required.

Staffing for a University

Q.  What is the current manpower standard for housekeepers and building mechanics per sq. ft. for an average facility (university)?

A.  APPA's cleaning production rates depend upon which one of the 5 levels of cleanliness you desire to maintain. Each level requires a specific cleaning task frequency including the schedule for all project work (wall washing, cleaning light fixtures, window washing, dusting blinds, cleaning trash cans, and carpet and floor care). For example, Level 1 classroom cleaning would run about 15,755 sq/ft per shift, Level 2 would be 20,597 sq/ft per shift, Level 3 at 32,143 sq/ft and Level 4 at 43,299 sq/ft.


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School Cleaning Times

Q.  Our school district had to make some cuts last year. One custodian retired and was not replaced. Now, the cleanliness of the building is deteriorating. When, as facilities manager, I am asked why we’re not keeping the building clean, the response is, “We’re down a man.” However, the retired custodian told me that he could clean his area in six hours. This tells me that the person now cleaning this area must be getting done in four hours, because it’s not clean. He has been with us for years. 

A.  Parkinson's Law (C. Northcote Parkinson) states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Whenever there is an absence of cleaning standards or the lack of accountability, supervision, and/or enforcement, people tend to work at their own pace. Professional cleaning management strives to benchmark productivity and require adherence to quality standards. This should lead to productive workers, who do a good job and are happy with their assignments.
Improving productivity and quality does not come easily. It requires establishing best practices, implementing process improvement, and utilizing quality inspections. However, not all areas of a facility clean at the same rate. One person who cleans gymnasiums and open and lightly used classrooms will accomplish the job much faster than another worker who must clean the cafeteria and a substantial number of restrooms.

What this converts to is that some workers may be able to clean 28,000 sq/ft per shift and others only 21,000 sq/ft per shift. Unless you know the production rates in thousands of square feet cleaned per hour, you will be unable to assess and improve those rates. Unless a quality control inspection report is compiled at least monthly, you will have no way of quantifying whether each task is being performed as required.

On the other hand, whenever cleaning staff is reduced, that may require a reduction in services. Management must be aware that each cleaning task requires a set amount of labor to accomplish. If a full-time floor tech is eliminated, who is going to ensure the floors always have a nice shine?

Many cleaning managers choose to avoid confrontation with their workers and feel uncomfortable suggesting the employees are not working fast enough or completing their jobs with top quality. To turn this around, you are welcome to blame me. You can order and then jointly apply the principles from my free E-book 15 Steps to Improve Cleaning Productivity. Sit down with your staff and prepare, as a team, a plan to upgrade quality and improve productivity at the same time.

Cleaning Workers for 30,000 sq. ft.

Q.  How many employees would I need to clean 5 days a week, 30,000 sq. ft. (25,808 is carpet, 3744 VCT and 448 ceramic tile)? 

A.  Your actual cleaning production rate depends upon the type of building, workstation density, cleaning specs, and general use, in addition to other considerations. If it is a standard medical building, you might clean it at 2,600-2,900 sq/ft per hour. If it is an easy-to-clean building with relaxed standards (such as a class B or C office building) you might clean in excess of 4,000 sq/ft per hour.
After a thorough building tour, and using a list of cleaning variables to determine your projected production rate, you would then estimate how many hours it requires. This is accomplished by dividing your production rate into the square footage. If you cleaned at 3,000 sq/ft per hour, it would take 10 hours to clean the building (30,000 ÷3,000).

If you choose to employ two people and have them work late, then it would take them 5 hours each. If you hired a three person team, you would equally divide the work into trash removal, dusting and detail, restrooms, and vacuuming and dust mopping. With this scenario, the three workers would each put in about 3.3 hours a night.

Or, if you had a two story building, you might assign two people up and two people down, which would then bring their individual hours to 2.5 each. The question you have to ask yourself is – what if one of the 5 hour per night workers called in sick? Do you have an extra person who can substitute by working 5 extra hours? Conversely, 2.5 hours is a lot easier to cover in the event of absenteeism, and it is easier to hire workers for 2.5 hours after they have already worked 8 hours on their day job.

Calculating cleaning labor for a fitness center 

Q.  I am looking for the industry average cleaning production rate for a large fitness / health club. My gut feeling is about 3200 sq, ft, per hr., but I need to be more accurate than that. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

A.  I am not aware of any nationwide data on production rates. Besides, each facility will be different. What do you have to do and what is done by their employees?

For example, one facility that I cleaned several years ago was 40,000 sq. ft. The track and halls were easy to clean. The restaurant, childcare, and shower/locker rooms were more labor intensive. The customer wanted the walls of 14 racket ball courts cleaned quarterly and spot cleaned every night. That took 3 hours. Their employees took care of the pools, workout equipment, tennis courts and backend of the restaurant so our nightly production time ran 3,333 sq. ft. per hour. A facility that is smaller would probably clean at a slower rate.
Obviously, if you have to disinfect all exercise equipment nightly, your time will be greater. To be more accurate than this, you will have to perform and time some of the needed services using your people, procedures, and supplies.

Church Cleaning Times 

Q.  Where can I find an estimator to guide me in how many employees are recommended according to sq. ft. ? We have 4 full time and 15 part time employees. Some of our facilities require 24/7 care for continuous traffic: our prayer room, restrooms and other seminar facilities.  

A.  ISSA and APPA both have published cleaning times, but your situation is a bit more complex. Having visited your campus a few years ago, I noticed many of your challenges are unique. Very few churches are open 24/7 for praise and worship. Your conference center is huge and you have the added challenge of a busy coffee shop (much like Starbucks and open about the same amount of hours) and a busy bookstore. You will probably need to benchmark your campus individually, as it is a unique facility.

The difficulty with trying to develop a strong but thrifty work schedule for a busy church campus is simply the amount of transition that occurs throughout a typical week. From symposiums, weddings, funerals, community events, et al, the church campus can be driven pretty hard. There is a trick to putting together a working schedule that is very different from the way one might schedule a commercial building or a school. Simply put, It has to be loaded backwards!

• Start with a blank calendar and map out the regular occurring cleaning that happens every day
• Next, map out the regular reoccurring events that happen each month.
• Determine the amount of man hours needed to provide for each service/event and add this to the calendar.
• Next map out the amount of time needed each day to perform the cleaning in these areas and add this to the calendar
• Determine the time required and frequency for project work such as window washing, floor buffing or stripping, and carpet cleaning.
Look at these areas now as your Base Program and evaluate your options:

• Are the specific areas better served with part time workers, or a full time employee?
• Is an area better off with two part timers in an area instead of one?
• Should an area be “flooded” with several employees to complete the setup?
• From the needs of your Base Program you can begin to build your shifts.

Give consideration to the needs of employees during the shifts but still maintain optimal service to the church.
• Who is willing to work late?
• Who is not available for split shifts?
• String the hours of your shifts together into balanced work weeks
• Add a layer of fall-back employees during peak times, “Rovers” or “Floaters” or “on call” personnel to back you up for the events that pop up on an “as needed” basis
• Maintain a pool of part-time employees to bring in during surge periods

The chair set up time can vary depending upon the skill level and physical speed of the workers.
Also, the size or weight of chairs (folding vs. stackable) can make a difference. A church I am familiar with is about the same size as your operation. They allow 1 hour setting up 150 chairs and the same time to take them back down.
Cleaning production rates vary considerably. I have seen a production rate as low as 1800 sq. ft per hour for elementary schools, daycare, or Sunday school classrooms with individual restrooms. And I have seen production rates of 3,600 sq. ft per hour for large church auditoriums and classrooms with even higher rates for halls.

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