Learning lessons from the YMCA of Metro Chicago when it comes to keeping facilities clean, safe and open.
Cleaning and janitorial services have always been a priority for community centers nationwide, but never more so than since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 20 Chicago-area facilities serve as striking examples of how this mission-critical function has been and continues to be successfully addressed.
Even during the lockdown period, long before reopening to members, the need to continually change, adapt and evolve cleaning, disinfecting and support services became clearly apparent as many Chicago Ys transformed their centers into shelters, providing housing for vulnerable populations. Others served as temporary hospital wards. Still others offered childcare and recreational programs for children of essential workers. And cleaning services changed proactively to meet each new situation.
“As has been demonstrated time and time again, serving as a valuable lifeline for community residents is a vital part of the YMCA mission,” said Basil Fitzsimons, the vice president of real estate and facilities at the YMCA of Metro Chicago. “This role has always come with challenges, but perhaps none as great as those brought about by the global pandemic. Under those extraordinary circumstances it was essential our cleaning partner be proactive, technologically advanced, accountable and extremely nimble. It’s a tall order but one that working collaboratively we were able to fill.”
Initially, that meant providing prescriptive guidance involving equipment, chemicals, systems and processes needed to get facilities clean and keep them that way. Then a comprehensive program was designed that included rigorous multi-step cleaning and disinfection protocols; assignment of day porter and nightly cleaning service personnel; and utilization of proprietary mobile performance measurement and reporting technology. Daily visits by a service supervisory team dedicated solely to the YMCA account also helped ensure consistent, direct communication and immediate response to unexpected needs.
Today, as the nation’s recovery has progressed and metro-Chicago YMCA facilities have safely reopened, much has changed. But the thing that remains unchanged is the need to protect the health and well-being of members and staff and keep centers open.
“The notion that ‘clean has changed forever’ has received considerable attention lately and I believe that’s right on the mark,” said Fitzsimons. “In fact, change in just about every situation where it occurs is inevitable and positive when addressed effectively. Our centers are constantly changing, providing new services, attracting new audiences and meeting new priorities every day. We need to embrace and anticipate change, being proactive, not reactive, in virtually everything we do — and cleaning is one part of the big picture. Customized cleaning procedures and protocols, dedicated account supervision, cutting-edge technology and effective communication tools are all part of our continuing effort to adapt, prevent setbacks and keep our people safe and our centers open and welcoming. Standing still is not an option.”