By Matt Ellis
Cleaning companies are among those businesses that have to operate with an abundance of caution during this pandemic as janitors and hazardous-waste cleaners are on the front lines making sure office buildings, medical centers, and schools are safe. The term, “an abundance of caution,” became a buzzword during the early days of the pandemic. New York Magazine said it “implies politeness and restraint instead of flailing panic,” a perspective widely welcomed during these times. For the past five months — as the company has sent thousands of people to worksites across New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — AffinEco has operated with an abundance of caution for the health of its workers and customers.
“Our main goal is to provide all employees and clients a safe environment where they can work,” AffinEco VP/General Manager Jorge Jimenez said while explaining the company’s new pre-shift health check process for all employees.
When COVID-19 hit, AffinEco began requiring its workers to call a phone number with an auto-attendant that asked a series of questions about their health and recent exposure to the virus. Late this summer, the company began piloting a more streamlined process: Two hours prior to their shift, employees receive a text message that leads them to a portal where they can answer those same questions.
“We started the pilot program with about 100 employees. We thought it would be easier for employees to use an automated text system instead of having to remember to initiate a phone call before every shift,” said Agnieszka Senecal, AffinEco director of account services. “The new system is easier for supervisors and managers, too. They receive an email and text message whenever an employee completes the pre-shift health check, and they can access a dashboard that shows them the total number of employees reporting sick or well.”
AffinEco VP/General Manager Sandino Cifuentes said, “It benefits everyone: the workers, their co-workers, and our customers in the buildings. It’s a fantastic way of reassuring our customers we are being proactive and we are monitoring the health of our employees.”
Prior to the automated text system, site supervisors had to give employees printed forms to fill out, sign, and return each week — in addition to using the daily call-in line. According to Cifuentes, that process was cumbersome. “The logistics of the written forms were driving us crazy,” he said.
AffinEco launched the pre-shift health check program using software from two different vendors to determine which would meet all the company’s needs. Senecal said each provides an English and Spanish version to accommodate a diverse workforce and allow employees to choose their preferred language.
“Our employees understand this is for everyone’s benefit. They know how important their jobs are to keep everyone safe and keep their environment as clean as possible,” said Cifuentes.
The cleaning and maintenance industry is vital to building owners and managers as facilities have reopened and must sustain pandemic-related health and safety requirements. “Our employees are part of the solution,” said Jimenez. “They are very conscious of what’s going on. They’ve been working through this for five months. They know and feel the pain. They’ve seen people lose their jobs and they feel lucky to have jobs in this industry now.”
As required by certain AffinEco customers, employees have their temperature scanned when they arrive for work to further ensure they haven’t developed any illness. “That gives some of our clients an added sense of security and safety, and that is our number one priority,” said Jimenez.
Recently, AffinEco also started using interactive software to verify that its staff are following Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) regulations for cleaning and disinfecting high-traffic areas — like elevators, stairwell hand railings, and door handles and knobs.
“Before we started using the service verification software, the cleaners had to manually fill out a checklist and hand it in to their supervisors. Now they go to a smart phone and check it off as they go. Then that gets emailed to all the parties,” said Jimenez.
Throughout its history, AffinEco has used emerging technology to improve operations and efficiency. Now, with the importance of their work being magnified by the pandemic, the company has again found solutions to ensure it operates with more than an abundance of caution — which provides peace of mind for the company, its workers, and their customers.