According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September 2021. In the same month, there were over 10 million job openings. Most companies can relate to the disparity in these numbers, as the need for workers outpaces the availability of them. The sector seeing the some of the biggest demand for employees is the service industry. Employers were already having a difficult time retaining housekeepers, janitors, and others related to environmental services before the pandemic. Several factors have been identified as contributing to the lack of available EVS employees:
- Health and safety concerns – Most healthcare EVS workers were on the frontlines when the COVID hit the US, putting them at higher risk for contracting the virus. The increased demand for more thorough and more frequent cleaning of hospitals added to worker stress.
- Lockdown unemployment – When offices, stores, and other buildings began to close during lockdown, those able to work from home could continue working. Cleaning professionals saw the need for their services plummet, and unemployment benefits made returning to work less desirable to some employees when buildings began to reopen.
- Better offers from other industries – The service industry often offers jobs that do not require a high level of technical knowledge or highly specialized skills. The increased availability of online schools and training let people improve their chances of being hired in other sectors.
Although there isn’t widespread consensus among labor experts as to the exact causes for the current shortage, most would agree that companies should reexamine how they are attracting and retaining employees. Additional things that EVS employers could do to counteract the impact of the labor shortage include:
- Address health and safety concerns – The use of PPE helps break the chain of infection, but EVS workers also can minimize their exposure to dangerous germs and bacteria by using disposable mops, wipes, and dusters. Ergonomic issues can be alleviated by replacing outdated hardware with more lightweight versions.
- Maximize efficiency of each employee – Until more workers fill job openings, existing EVS employees are feeling the pressure to clean faster and better. Using cleaning products and tools that are designed to achieve optimum results, such as the patented Premira microfiber mop pad, means facilities can be cleaned and maintained more easily.
- Consider alternative employee benefits – Many service industry employers have been offering higher wages to attract employees. Not all companies can afford to do this, however. Providing leadership training, elevating the EVS profession through recognition programs, and other untraditional benefits can be valuable potential employees.
- Reallocate unused internal labor – Some companies might find sources of labor internally that aren’t being used fully or efficiently. For example, if a hospital that operates an in-house laundry switched to single-use wipers and dusters, they could reassign a portion of laundry staff to more critical customer-facing tasks like cleaning patient rooms and operating theaters. Replacing relaundered textiles with single-use products could also help generate energy and water savings.