Interview/text taken from CHT.
For many companies the announcement of the lockdown changed their business beyond recognition overnight. Gareth Thomas, Managing Director of Specialist Window Cleaning Ltd (SWC), part of Incentive FM Group, reflects on what has happened in the window cleaning sector.
Things changed overnight
Our business is split into two main divisions – firstly, Retail, made up of our high street retailers including restaurants and pubs, secondly, Commercial, which consist of office buildings, high end residential properties and hotels. Following the lockdown announcement, almost our entire retail portfolio was forced to close overnight, meaning these businesses stopped their window cleaning services with immediate effect.
The commercial office sector followed suit a couple of weeks later when they were able to organise home working. During this period, we actually undertook some additional cleaning work as companies were keen to reassure any essential workers by providing deep cleans and Covid-19 sanitisation services.
However ultimately, as a business, we decided that we couldn’t justify our services as being essential in the main and that it was more important to safeguard our staff. Therefore, we made the decision to furlough all of our window cleaning teams, leaving only a few members of staff to deal with all essential work and emergency call outs. These individuals volunteered, but we made sure they had the right skill sets and lived in the best locations, to keep travel to an absolute minimum and provide a full complement of services to our customer base. The majority of these works are taking place out of normal working hours and our teams are adhering to the HSE guidelines on in-work social distancing.
Some of our clients are of course deemed essential and have stayed open such as supermarkets and pharmacies, wherever possible, we have tried to offer other additional essential services whilst on site to help keep the number of workers visiting each location to a minimum. We have now integrated other services such as, touch point cleans, watering of hanging baskets, green walls and planters, litter picking and emptying of waste bins to save any other teams visiting.
New ways of working
Like many businesses, at SWC we have had to adapt to new ways of thinking and the way we run our business on a day to day basis. We are now having daily video calls to review operations and the objective is to be prepared and utilise our time wisely and looking at ways of supporting our staff throughout.
As well as using this time to review all policies and procedures across the business, we have made sure we do not forget about our operatives who are stuck at home. We are making sure we are engaging with the staff on a weekly basis during a welfare call each Tuesday at 10.00am, where both directors of the company take the time to speak to all the team members and keep the teams up to date with any government guidelines and the ongoing process to make sure that they remain feeling part of the team. These calls are to make sure that all staff are ok and that they are supported through this difficult time as well.
We have also arranged a family quiz evening every Thursday at 7pm which I host, where we encourage all staff members to join in for some fun!, they can log in and compete amongst the greatest minds in SWC. The winner will get a nice bottle of Champagne sent to them and this is followed by a group clap for the NHS at 8pm.
Making lockdown count
We are also using this isolation time to put together online training packages to help continue SWC’s excellent training and development of all operatives. We have carried out web-based training such as safety–harness training webinars, Drivetech driver awareness training and ladder safety training. Additionally, all senior managers are undertaking numerous CPD training courses including mental health awareness training and specific Covid-19 related training programmes, to help support the fight against this virus.
These measures will allow SWC to be stronger and better placed to service our clients from the moment lockdown is lifted, having already had a number of confirmed orders for re-opening cleans, Covid-19 sanitisation and deep cleans across whole business.