In an attempt to keep their public restrooms cleaner and healthier, a hospital installed buttons that staff and visitors to the hospital could push to notify housekeepers if the restrooms needed cleaning attention. Over eight months, the buttons were pushed 1,920 times. 

Analyzing the requests, what the hospital found was that most of the requests for cleaning attention came in between 3 p.m. and midnight. Their analysis also found that some areas of the hospital had far more requests than others and that the weekends had the fewest requests. 

However, hospital administrators also found that the public area restrooms were cleaned at about the same frequency and at about the same time each day, no matter where they were located, what day of the week, and whether or not they needed cleaning attention. 

This “frequency of service,” as it is typically referred to in a janitorial request for proposal (RFPs) or tender, was not meeting the hospital’s needs. Instead, administrators concluded that these set schedules did not work and should be replaced with what they called “demand schedules” to better address the needs of the hospital. 

In the professional cleaning industry, frequency of service schedules are crucially important. Sometimes referred to as “specs” or specifications in a janitorial proposal, cleaning contractors use them to determine their charges for their services. They are also designed to ensure all areas of a facility are cleaned on a set schedule. This way, nothing is missed or overlooked. 

In most cases, however, these specs are not set in stone. Cleaning contractors are usually willing to make some adjustments to accommodate the needs of the client, as long as these adjustments do not go too far. If they do, this can add to labor costs. When this happens, the contractor may be in the unfortunate position of absorbing the added costs or asking the client to accept an adjustment in the monthly service charge.

Over the years, some cleaning contractors have tried to work around this predicament. They have moved away from the frequency of service schedules to “cleaning needs” schedules, similar to the demand schedules recommended by the hospital administrators discussed earlier.

For instance, instead of specifying in their cleaning proposal that “floors shall be swept and cleaned once per day,” they now specify “floors shall be free of dust, debris, soil, and heel marks.” Essentially, this means that whenever they look like they need cleaning, they will be cleaned.

While this may help address the needs of the client, specifications like this can make it very difficult for the cleaning contractor to bid on the cleaning needs of a facility. What if the contractor assumes the floors will only need to be cleaned once per day, but once service begins, finds that the floors need to be swept and cleaned three times per day?

Obviously, this won’t work. However, there is an effective way to prevent this, better meet the needs of the client, and still provide an acceptable method for cleaning contractors to determine their charges. It’s called a SOW or scope of work.

The Foundation for the RFP

The SOW serves as the foundation for an RFP, and it has several benefits for both the cleaning contractor as well as the client. While it does involve cleaning frequencies, in most cases, these frequencies are based on an evaluation of the needs of the facility, not on set schedules.  

Also, in the best of scenarios, the client has already prepared an “updated” SOW. Updated is highlighted here because cleaning has changed. A SOW prepared even five years ago may not reflect the ways facilities are cleaned today. In such cases, larger facilities invariably call in a cleaning consultant to help them prepare an updated SOW.

Our hospital discussed earlier serves as a perfect example of how a SOW can work. Let’s assume the hospital had already conducted their study and knew specific restrooms would need more frequent cleaning than others and at certain times of the day. 

Possibly, they took this a step further. Instead of basing their SOW just on requests for service, they used ATP monitoring systems to monitor soil build-up during the course of the day. If the monitoring systems indicated that certain restrooms needed attention every four hours, five days per week, while others only needed attention once per day, seven days per week, this would be written into the SOW.

Now the hospital administrators know more precisely how often certain restrooms need to be cleaned and contractors have solid numbers to work with. Written into the RPF, this information helps contractors determine their charges, and if the hospital is taking bids, it helps ensure all the contractors are bidding on the same needs of the facility.

Some other points we should make about SOWs are the following:

· These are formal, written documents

· They often break down a facility into sections to help identify the cleaning needs of each section 

· The SOW may indicate if certain areas need detailed cleaning and how often 

· Areas of a facility that are subject to adverse weather conditions – indicating they may need more cleaning attention – are listed on the SOW

· The SOW identifies how, and how often, cleaning evaluation will be carried out.

This last point is crucial. The cleaning needs of a facility can change. Sometimes, lightly trafficked areas or rarely used restrooms become much busier. In such cases, the SOW will have to be adjusted, and with it, the RFP. Keeping these documents current through careful attention to evaluations helps both the client and the cleaning contractor ensure the health and cleanliness of the facility and the satisfaction of those using the building.

Ron Segura is president of Segura Associates. His company works with building managers as well as large and small contractors, helping them build their brands and streamline business operations. This helps reduce costs and allows them to operate more profitably.  He can be reached at: