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The Importance of the Individual

The importance of the individual in today’s FM and cleaning industry

In a world where our people should be our priority, how is the cleaning industry effectively managing the importance of the individual, employee welfare and the raising of their profile across industry?

The importance of the individual
A company is nothing without its people. How are the best companies succeeding in engaging with and supporting their workforce, down to the lone worker on site?

Health, Safety and HR with a focus on wellbeing is a good place to start. Time and attendance systems are good for managing the basics such as knowing when an individual has arrived at site and finished their shift. App-based systems on employee’s mobile phones are a convenient way to manage this for both the contractor and employee and can be effective in emergency situations with SOS buttons to call for support. However, this type of technology should never replace human connection.

Area or regional line management should check in with teams and lone workers on a regular basis. In addition to standard risk assessments, high risk sites and lone worker sites should have specific risks assessed and lone worker risk assessments completed. Each member of staff should also complete a medical questionnaire and if something specific is flagged, a wellbeing meeting, site visit or referral to occupational health should be arranged to discuss a plan of action. Situational awareness training takes a step further, especially for high-risk sites to ensure everyone is aware of their surroundings before they start work, looking for potential hazards. It is also important to understand that it is OK to say “No” in the right way if a member of the team or the customer’s team is asking the operative to complete a task outside of the standard specification that may put the employee at risk of hurting themselves. E.g. Being requested to clean under a fridge. In order to complete this request the operative would have had to move the fridge, putting themselves at risk of injury in the process.

Regular onsite training and toolbox talks can maintain engagement and a focus on the health and safety of individuals, whilst online training platforms in tandem with the above can help to identify where there may be gaps in learning or retention of knowledge. Incentives can also be highly beneficial to focus on the importance of safety for individuals, and operating a monthly or quarterly safety recognition program can be helpful in identifying any type of risk which could impact operatives, the customer or members of the public alike.

Over the last few years a growing awareness around the impact of mental health has been welcome, many companies and individuals have made changes to their lifestyles to accommodate a healthier work life balance, but what practical measures can be put in place to help employees?

Employee Assistance Programmes - At times a supportive chat with line managers might not cut it and manager’s expertise probably doesn’t lie in professional counselling either. The NHS counselling services are overwhelmed and waiting lists are months long for services which are required immediately. However, for as little as a few pounds per employee per year, businesses could provide an Employee Assistance Programme free to all staff.

Employees can benefit from support including 24/7 unlimited helpline support by fully trained mental health counsellors to ensure immediate support and guidance. And with no limits or charges, employees can call as often as needed, gaining access to E-counselling, face-to-face counselling sessions, psychologist assessment and case management for more complex cases. This service enables employees to access the counselling they need, discretely and confidentially at a time and place that fits around work and home. 24/7 expert medical information through experts including nurses, pharmacists and midwives and life management guidance on a range of everyday matters, such as financial, legal, consumer, family care and housing issues are also invaluable.

Additional online support and guidance provides innovative tools and expert information such as video links dealing with stress, managing sleep and even yoga, mindfulness, and meditation sessions.

Health Cash Plans – Starting from as little as a couple of pounds a week per employee. A health cash plan is an affordable way for employees to claim money back towards essential health costs such as dental check-ups and treatment, contact lenses, glasses, chiropody, therapy treatments, homeopathy and much more.

Wellbeing Training – Companies working with a wellbeing training provider to deliver in person seminars or live webinars can help participants to gain awareness and understanding of the principles of resilience and mental well-being in the workplace in order to reduce stress and burnout and build a well-being workforce. If these ideas are not an option for your business at this time, why not create an internal focus group and collect information for your team through numerous free online and charitable resources.

Individual employee recognition also goes a long way to boost morale and employee engagement. Regular employee recognition programs and award and reward schemes endorse individuals who go above and beyond, as voted for by customers and colleagues. Newsletters, internal posters and social media channels are today’s tools to promote achievements and help companies to highlight individuals who may otherwise remain unknown to colleagues in different parts of the business or across the country. Understanding the value of communication has increased the number of employee engagement surveys over recent years. Followed by pulse surveys, this kind of reciprocal communication is key in building action plans for issues which are important to the workforce including equality, diversity and inclusivity.

The importance of recognition
In addition to the above the BCC (British Cleaning Council) announced that earlier this year on the 1st of January the first level 2 Cleaning, Hygiene Operative Apprenticeship was launched. This will enable industry businesses to invest in their staff, providing employees an opportunity to access a recognised work-related cleaning qualification.

It will benefit businesses by:

  • Developing a work force with skills specific to the business.
  • Allowing existing employees to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of employees.
  • Providing a motivated and fast-developing workforce.

For more information go to

The importance of raising our profile
In supporting the individual we are also highlighting the whole. Our industry profile raised massively during the pandemic; however we were not fully recognised as key workers when perhaps we should have been. Our operatives were front line in minimising the transfer of germs and viruses from one person to another, has this been forgotten?

Did you know, in 2023 the BCC and 22 associations from across the cleaning, hygiene and waste industry came together to issue a call for sector staff to “speak up” for their industry to help lobby MP’s and sign a petition to make cleaning and hygiene a national priority. A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the cleaning and hygiene industry, entitled embedding effective hygiene for a resilient UK, if implemented would put cleaning and hygiene at the heart of the national agenda, making the nation much more resilient to current common infections and also much better prepared for future public health emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Members of the industry are being asked to download and adapt the prewritten letter which can be found on the BCC website at and email to their local MP and also to sign the petition calling on the government to implement the report recommendations in full. For more information and to view the full APPG report please visit the British Cleaning Council.