From our own perspective at DOC Cleaning, I think the best way I can describe it is to say that it certainly was not straightforward. Our client base includes a combination of offices, public entertainment venues and heritage sites. In none of those sectors was the ‘return to normality’ anything like normal.
The main issue for all our clients, and therefore for us, has been the uncertainty about what they themselves should or could be doing in order to reopen their buildings. The reopening of offices, particularly in London, was held back by a number of factors, including the reluctance of office workers to use public transport. That led clients to push reopening dates back further and further and made life very complicated for the owners and managers of multi-tenanted buildings, who for most of the year found their properties at best partly occupied, but with a need to clean the common areas for the few workers using the building.
The situation improved in the summer when the larger employers in the city began to enforce attendance. Ultimately, however, it required the end of furlough in October to accelerate the process and, whilst there are still a fair number of buildings that have not fully reopened, we seem to have reached a new equilibrium. Meanwhile, large public venues and heritage sites were very much at the mercy of two things. One, the government’s guidelines on when they could reopen, and two, for venues relying on audiences, their need to sell a certain percentage of seats in order to make holding events viable. This in itself acted as a brake on the re-establishment of their performance schedules.
What has it all meant for us at DOC? In short, an everchanging situation in which we have spent a lot of the year working with our outstandingly flexible workforce to cover clients’ requirements. There has been a huge amount of juggling to fit staff into available shifts and massive credit is due to our very diverse group of supervisors and area managers, whose language skills have played a big part in encouraging our front-line teams to take up opportunities as they presented themselves. I must also give a shout out to our ‘back office’ HR, finance and admin teams who have had the job of processing the unending changes caused by the constant state of flux.
At industry level, 2021 has seen some notable changes, all for the better, I think. The two that stand out are the creation of the APPG, which senior members of our industry have worked so hard to bring about and, secondly, the clear way in which the reputation of our industry has improved to the point where we are no longer an invisible service. I for one have taken real pride in being part of an industry which has proved so vital to the nation’s management of the pandemic.
On a personal level I am delighted beyond words at our recent success in the PFM Partners in Cleaning Awards with our longstanding client, the National Gallery. I am also proud of the (very) long service awards attained by three of our management team this year. On these counts, 2021 will be hard to top, although there is the small matter of our 50th anniversary to look forward to.
Merry Christmas to you all!