In 2016, ISSA published an article titled “The Psychology Behind Clean: How to Use Modern Technologies to Create a Noticeable Perception of Clean.” In the article, writer Mark Sisson makes a case for how important a visible perception of cleanliness is to all industries and businesses in general.
Sisson’s argument: “In simplest terms, customers often decide where to eat, what to buy, and how to rate a company’s product or service based on perceptions of visible cues rather than hard data and logic.”
This idea could not be any truer today, and the argument is even more relevant. For most, perception is reality. If something fits our aesthetic ideal, we are more likely to gravitate towards it. Applying this concept to the buildings we spend our time working, shopping, and living in is more important now, on a mass scale, than it has been in the past.
As companies respond to the changing needs of their workforce and how to safely bring consumers back into their spaces, the emphasis on health and safety have been key initiatives. Renewed focus on the importance of cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing are the minimum expectations consumers are bringing with them.
McKinsey recently reported shifts of this same nature: “We have observed other shifts that are much newer but likely to be similarly long lasting. For example, the unprecedented focus on hygiene during the crisis has prompted updated hygiene protocols...”
In addition to heightened awareness regarding hygiene protocols, McKinsey also noted a shift in employee-employer dynamics: “Existing safety protocols may be expanded as personal protective equipment becomes table stakes for many roles”....and “Employees in critical roles may be well positioned to demand that the expanded benefits they were offered during the crisis lockdown (for example, more generous sick-leave policies and enhanced medical benefits) be maintained.”
It is clear that shifts in what we consider as necessary to be safe and healthy in our everyday surroundings are changing and these changing ideals will directly affect a majority, if not all, indoor spaces.
The perception of a clean building will not be an ideal held by a few but will become a prerequisite for many in terms of how it affects feelings of health and safety.
As new return-to-work protocols continue to be adopted and reconfigured, the continued support of clean and healthy environments continues to play a key part—especially for employees that must or want to go into work each day.
While new or added sick time benefits may be necessary, so too is the priority of working to prevent the spread of illness in the buildings to which consumers and employees will be returning.
It will not be enough to say a building is “clean;” a visible clean and evidence of cleaning will be necessary in order to put people at ease.
This ideal will go beyond making sure garbage's are emptied regularly, bathrooms are well maintained, and visible messes like spills or left behind trash are cleaned up promptly. In the past, these were visual ques as to whether a space was properly maintained—and often cleaning staff did this work behind the scenes.
As PPC (Picture Perfect Cleaning) notes “We form opinions of people, products, and places based on not just how clean it appears, but how clean it feels.”
Moving forward it will be increasingly important that these cleaning tasks, along with additional disinfecting and sanitizing, are happening regularly, and that consumers and workers see it happening, as this will help generate the “feeling” of clean.
As Sisson points out in his article on perception: “The room can look spotless, but without other visible clues, people aren’t going to trust that the door handles are clean. Without visual clues that change our perception, we do not trust the cleanliness of many public spaces, and we certainly don’t trust the hygiene of other people.”
Cleaning teams and equipment have commonly been behind the scenes workers as it often made sense for the bulk of cleaning to be done “after” hours when buildings are not as busy or are closed to the general public.
This protocol is likely to be a practice of the past as the focus on the importance of cleanliness becomes ever more important. Limiting the numbers of people in buildings and stores and providing sanitization stations plus requiring masks are some of the immediate measures taken due to COVID-19, however, these alone will not prevent the spread of germs and pathogenic disease.
The public has gained greater knowledge during the pandemic about the importance of increased cleaning and sanitizing in order to stay healthy. This in turn has raised awareness about the importance of increased and quality cleans. For businesses to continue to gain the trust of people, the perception must be that cleaning is a top priority. To do this, companies will need to bring cleaning teams the equipment they use out into the open.
A prime example is using autonomous equipment like ICE Robotics’ and SoftBank Robotics’ Whiz, an autonomous vacuum sweeper. Whiz can be deployed to run on carpeted surfaces and is designed to work in complex real-life situations, including around people and obstacles in its path. Because of this, vacuums like Whiz are a safe way to bring equipment into the public eye to elevate the perception of a quality clean.
Bringing cleaning staff and equipment into the limelight can have a major impact on how consumers and staff feel. As Stathakis points out “When they [people]see office cleaners, day porters and cleaning teams move throughout your building attending to things, customers, visitors and employees get the message that office cleaning and maintenance is a priority.”
Bringing on autonomous equipment to enhance the perception of clean has other positive effects as well. It allows cleaning staff to also be visible and working on other detailed or specialized tasks resulting in more efficient and quality cleans.
This can go a long way as perception is largely based on our senses. In the past, surfaces that did not look dirty were not given much thought—the assumption was that they were cleaned by someone at some point. That assumption will no longer be enough to ease the minds of workers and consumers entering buildings and forming new loyalties.
According to Forbes, people and businesses have “7 seconds to make a first impression.” Lasting impressions can be made in those first seven seconds, thus the importance of tackling the job around the clock to always be prepared.
Allowing cleaning teams to be present and visible brings awareness to company goals and priorities, but also brings attention to an especially important job and workforce. Not only that, it gives a sense of transparency—something millennials look for in most aspects of their lives. And as one of the largest growing workforce groups, this will likely remain a priority for businesses in the future.
As Mark Sisson points out “Don’t try to hide the cleaning process, make clean—and cleaners—visible. Seeing professional cleaning personnel working and visually communicating the steps you are taking will go a long way toward tapping into human psychology and adding to the true value of clean.”
Using intelligent cleaning equipment means access to fleet tracking technology that collects and stores data in cloud-based systems. Fleet tracking technology like i-synergy by ICE Robotics gives access to data analytics such as days, times, and even operators of equipment. These reports can be emailed to end users and stake holders helping to show proof of performance,
The communication of proof of performance is the message of a Confirmed Clean. Being able to post reports, share data, and visually communicate spaces cleaned through time stamps and start and stop times can add to the perception of cleanliness of a space.
ICE Robotics is a leader in the floor cleaning equipment industry and focuses on people-first collaborative cleaning solutions. For additional support and services contact our Client Care Team.