Keeping labor costs under control can be challenging. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic where heightened cleaning and disinfection requirements need to be met. Your custodial and building & grounds staff are tasked with more labor than previous years to keep up with this need and ensure your schools are safe for the return to in-person learning. This can also put your workers at an increased risk for fatigue, which can lead to issues with their safety. Many factors affect your labor savings, like training and resources, but it’s important to remember the influence you have as a superintendent.

One of the main ways to reduce the impact of labor costs is to improve the efficiency of your cleaning tasks so you can get more done in less time. Floors are a big concern for many superintendents because most of the dirt that enters your facility ends up on your floors from foot traffic in and out of your entryways. Carpets have been a popular choice for school flooring for areas like classrooms, entryway matting, libraries, and other high-traffic areas. Carpets are useful since they’re stylish, sound absorbent, and cost-effective. However, they trap allergens and other contaminants easily and affect the indoor air quality of your building.

Not maintaining carpets properly leads to a buildup of these contaminants and mold where moisture is left, like from a leak or spill. Since sections of damaged carpet are hard to replace and can be expensive, it’s important to be proactive about your carpet maintenance. Daily dry vacuuming is necessary to maintain the appearance and integrity of your flooring, and it removes contaminants which would otherwise be recirculated into the air. Finding ways to vacuum faster and cover more space efficiently will help to reduce your cost associated with floor maintenance.

Backpack vacuums are newer to the market than other traditional vacuums, like upright or canister vacuums, and they have measurable cost benefits. They can clean up to 3-4x faster than upright vacuums since they allow for increased mobility and comfort for your staff. Custodians maintain a neutral body posture when using backpack vacuums and they’re able to maneuver around obstacles like furniture and desks easier. They also make cleaning hard-to-reach areas that trap dirty easily more effective. Tasks like vacuuming stairs can add excess time to labor when custodians are lugging around a heavy vacuum that requires a cord, but backpack vacuums can eliminate both these hurdles. Even tasks like cleaning high windowsills which attract dust is doable with extension wands, like in stair wells or gymnasiums. Staff will need to be trained on how to maintain their batteries if they decide to go cordless, but this will save you labor time.

It can be challenging implementing new equipment for your team, some custodians may feel uncomfortable wearing a backpack vacuum at first. Emphasizing the better ergonomics and reduced back strain will help to reduce any hesitations to using a backpack vacuum they may have, and they’ll have more time back in their day to finish other tasks that need to get done. You can ensure reduced back strain for your staff and make daily operations safer for your team. According to ISSA, ProTeam backpack vacuums cover 14,286 square feet per hour on average, and a ProTeam corded backpack covers 10,000 square feet per hour on average. ISSA reports traditional upright vacuums only cover 2,875 square feet per hour on average. If you apply this to a $13 per hour wage, your district could have their investment returned to them in only 20 hours of vacuuming.

As we continue to put an emphasis on healthy schools for students and staff, it’s important to look for creative ways to reduce the impact of labor costs and increase cleaning efficiency. This enables you to have more resources to keep your schools healthy and allows you to reallocate time to other labor tasks.