My friend who is a nurse now cleans her own office. In a cost cutting move, the powers that be reduced housekeeping services throughout the hospital. Now, in addition to scrambling to see to patients and process vast amounts of paperwork, my friend or one of her co-workers now lug a vacuum to work once a week.
It may be the nurses today, but you can be sure it will be the patients tomorrow. Soon you’ll schedule surgery and be sent pre-op instructions that say, “Please leave all jewelry and valuables at home, but do bring a broom, dust pan and toilet brush.”
Another friend, who works for a pharmaceutical company, has had his trash can taken away. Poof! One day the wastebaskets disappeared. Workers in his department were told to bring plastic bags and cardboard boxes from home and take out their own trash. Corporate America embraces no-trace camping.
Hotels also have implemented cost-cutting moves by reducing housekeeping services and staff. But aren’t hotels largely about housekeeping? If you stay more than one night, many chains now offer the option of having your room fully cleaned, partially cleaned or left untouched.
Those with housekeeping jobs are seeing hours cut and positions eliminated. They’re considered dispensable, if not downright disposable. Housekeeping has never received the respect it deserves. I say this as someone who has kept a home running, doing dishes and laundry, dusting, vacuuming, stocking the fridge, organizing closets and cabinets and tending all manners of ill health.
My nurse friend doesn’t think she’s too good to clean. She’s raised three sons; she knows a thing or two about dirt. My other friend doesn’t think he’s too high and mighty to take out the trash. He does it all the time at home. But it is one more thing that takes time away from the thing they were originally hired to do.
It is time to admit that multi-tasking is overrated. Often a job calls for focus and concentration, the ability to follow a thread and to insure that the next step happens, that a project moves from A to B to C quickly and uninterrupted.
When everyone does their appointed and specialized jobs, it creates harmony and efficiency in the workplace, just as multiple people doing multiple jobs creates harmony and efficiency in the home. I cook; he sets the table. I marinate the meat; he lights the grill.
Housekeeping cleans the office; the nurse sees another patient. Janitorial takes out the trash; the scientist concentrates on cells in the Petri dish. Hotel rooms are cleaned in a timely manner; guests check in without delay and consider a return visit.
Housekeeping, although often underappreciated, has always been a cog in the wheel than enables the wheel to turn—efficiently, quietly and most often without germs and contamination. It is the behind-the-scenes ordering, cleaning and setting things right that allows the fresh start of a new day.
I hope those cutting housekeeping are taking out their own trash, cleaning their own restrooms and vacuuming their own conference rooms.