Maintenance and Operations, Sustainability/Business Continuity

Is It Time for a Cost-Cutting ‘Refresh’ of Your Facility’s Cleaning Needs?

There is a lot of anxiety in the office building sector, and it’s found in every city in the U.S. and most cities worldwide. The fundamental cause is related to the pandemic. Many workers don’t want to go back to the office.

These workers and their employers have adjusted to remote working. While some corporations are now asking their staff to return to the office, many of these same corporations admit that worker productivity has remained surprisingly good—even increased in some cases—when their team works at home.

This means organizations may no longer need to rent traditional office space. In fact, a recent study published in the Commercial Observer, a publication that focuses on the office rental market in the U.S., reports that in 2023 nearly half of all companies plan to cut the amount of office space they rent.

Talk about anxiety. It is real. While things may get better with more workers going back to the office, we may never again see a pre-pandemic situation where all workers work in the office all the time.

This means facilities managers must look for new ways to reduce operating costs wherever possible. And they may as well start with one of the most expensive costs almost all facilities have: cleaning and maintenance.

Historically, as much as half of the operating budget of an office building goes to cleaning and maintenance and supplies. A recent study by Statista indicates this amount has come down in recent years, but not by much. They report that from 2017 to 2021, approximately 40% of a facility’s operating budget was spent on cleaning and maintenance.

So, are there ways to reduce cleaning and maintenance costs but still ensure facilities are clean and healthy? The answer is yes. It’s not complicated. What facilities managers need to do is a “refresh,” a re-evaluation of their cleaning needs.

SOWs and RFPs

To begin our refresh and start reducing cleaning costs, there are two acronyms we need to know: SOWs and RFPs.


SOW refers to “scope of work.” The goal of a SOW is to determine what needs to be cleaned in a facility, how often, and the outcomes expected. It should be formalized in writing because it becomes the foundation for the request for proposals, or RFP, which we will discuss next.

The SOW breaks down a facility into sections, identifying the cleaning needs of each. It determines what areas no longer need to be cleaned because they are no longer in use, what areas need traditional cleaning and maintenance, and which may need more detailed cleaning (for instance, restrooms and kitchens).

The SOW then determines how often these same areas need to be cleaned. For instance, lightly trafficked areas in a facility, such as hallways, may not need to be cleaned and vacuumed each cleaning visit. Vacuuming is time-consuming, and reducing this frequency to once or twice per week can be a genuine cost saving. On the other hand, heavily trafficked areas such as lobbies, food service areas, and restrooms must be cleaned every visit.

A SOW, we must add, is not set in stone. It may turn out that reduced cleaning frequencies in some areas is proving ineffective, and soil buildup is more than expected. While flexibility is needed, right now—in a post-pandemic era—all SOWs need to be updated to help cut cleaning costs.


RFP refers to a request for proposals. In the past, some facilities managers recycled their RFPs. Each time an RFP is released, the main difference from the previous RFP is that a new date has been added. That won’t work any longer. Using an outdated RFP will not help cut cleaning costs.

Based on the new SOW, the RFP should be adjusted. Simply indicating what areas of the facility no longer need to be cleaned or cleaned less often can produce significant cost savings.

Further, the RFP should include what types of cleaning supplies, products, and equipment are to be used. Some facilities managers may not realize this, but the professional cleaning industry has changed dramatically in the past few years.

Many cleaning systems now have “brains.” They can be programmed for frequency of vacuuming hallways or cleaning floors—eliminating workers’ need to operate these systems. While these “smart” cleaning systems invariably cost more than traditional cleaning systems, the ROI can be swift. After that, it’s all dividends.

The same goes for advanced cleaning chemicals now in use. For instance, in most cases, refinishing floors three or more times per year is not needed. New floor finishes are designed to last much longer, and with proper care, refinishing can be reduced to once every 18 months. Since this is invariably a costly add-on service, reducing refinishing frequencies is once again a significant cost savings.

Cost Savings and Jansan Distributors

With the SOW and the RFP updated, there is one more thing we need to discuss: the necessity that you work with a jansan (janitorial) distributor. For instance, we just discussed how new floor finishes can delay refinishing cycles. With all the concerns facilities managers are now grappling with, they likely are unaware of this. But jansan distributors are. It’s their job to know which products, technologies, and cleaning systems will work best in their clients’ facilities, promoting occupant health, ensuring proper building appearance, and generating cleaning cost savings.

Michael Wilson is is Vice President of Marketing at AFFLINK, a distributor-based company specializing in marketing packaging, cleaning products, and technologies that improve building efficiencies as well as help protect human health and safety. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.