What is the future going to be like for the cleaning industry?
The cleaning industry is a huge industry and one we are proud to be part of. There is no doubt that the importance of professional cleaning has been highlighted by the Coronavirus Pandemic. But how much of this new appreciation will convert into more business for our sector going forward?
We thought it would be interesting to look at some of the trends that have developed over the last eighteen months to predict whether we will see long-term change in our sector.
How has the cleaning industry grown over the last three years?
Initially, one might be forgiven for thinking that there is only bad news for our sector post-pandemic.
Pre-2020, things were looking good. According to the British Cleaning Council (BCC), the cleaning sector contributed over £54.5 billion to the UK in 2018 alone. A report by MTW Research predicted that there was to be a £95 million boost to the contract cleaning sector alone following 2019 and 2020. However, this was before the impact of the pandemic on the economy was fully understood, and a subsequent report from IBISWorld now predicts the industry’s revenue will fall by 5% by 2021.
But other real-time sources of big data suggest things might not be so clear-cut. Using Google Trends, we can track how much professional cleaning services are being searched for and gain an insight into how conscious people are about their need for these services over time. The more people know they need something, the more they are searching for it. In November of 2020, during the Second National Lockdown in the UK, the volume of people searching for “cleaning services” was twice the number for the same period in 2018. The general trend year on year was for an increased search of keywords connected with cleaning services (see figure 2).
We think that, rather than seeing a decline in all areas of the cleaning industry, we will see changes in different areas, as people are increasingly aware that they need these services post-pandemic. What trends are we predicting will emerge as we learn to live with Covid-19?
1. A return to environmentally friendly services
Before the pandemic, there had been trends within the industry to make services more environmentally friendly. It was well understood that there was a huge environmental and financial benefit to “Going Green”. An example of the financial benefits of environmentally friendly practices given by Unique IQ in 2019 stated that it was estimated a company with 50 employees could save £15,000 by replacing paper towels with hand dryers.
However, during the Covid-19 outbreak, this improvement was dealt a huge blow. Paper hand towels and disposable cleaning products have returned en masse, as companies aimed to follow infection control procedures. People’s health has had to take priority, and rightly so. Our own recommendations have always been that paper towels are better for limiting the spread of infection.
With the vaccine rollout in the UK moving at pace, businesses are hopeful that life will return to normal soon. With this, businesses’ concerns about environmental impact will return, and hopefully a return to finding cost-effective ways to “be Green”.
Embrace environmentally friendly cleaning products
One concern that will remain is the efficacy of cleaning products. Covid-19 is here to stay, and as such the cleaning industry will need to respond by ensuring eco-friendly, antiviral products are used wherever possible. We predict that there will be an increase in these eco-friendly, antiviral products and cleaning companies will have to tread the line between supporting the environment and providing Covid-safe hygienic workplaces.
2. Hybrid working is here to stay.
Another trend that seems to be emerging within our Nation is the move to hybrid working. Many businesses are going to move to a hybrid model as standard following the three National Lockdowns. There are many factors affecting this, and Covid-19 has just given the push that some needed to make it happen earlier than expected. Environmentally, it is a good way to cut down carbon emissions and financially, companies will save on rent, utility payments and service contracts. This is going to have a significant impact on the commercial cleaning sector.
Ultimately, for those industries where people can work remotely, fewer buildings are going to be needed and therefore fewer cleaners. A report by IBISWorld states that:
“Upon reopening, offices are expected to require more cleaning services to meet government safety guidelines. However, this is not expected to offset the loss of revenue over the lockdown period, resulting in revenue declining in 2020-21.”
This could be perceived as a disaster for those whose businesses rely on office-based routine cleaning contracts.
Do not just provide office cleaning services
But there are many sectors that cannot make use of remote working, the manufacturing and industrial sectors, healthcare, social care, and education. These are just a few of the sectors that will continue to use commercial cleaning services, including contract cleaning and deep cleaning. If you are a company specialising in office-based cleaning services, now might be the time to diversify into different sectors.
Although we predict that the demand for office cleaning services will remain static post-pandemic, we have already started to see movement towards an uptake in mixed-use commercial properties in our local area of Worcester. If the Bank of England’s predicted economic bounce back post-pandemic happens, this local trend might become a national one.
3. More periodic cleaning services
Although there may be fewer office buildings to clean in our hybrid-working future, there may be a new industry service that could see growth in the future.
Covid-19 has raised awareness of infection control, and periodic Covid secure cleans have made business owners aware of how quickly the build-up of dirt happens in the workplace. I know this just from anecdotal evidence, talking to my clients as I serve them day-to-day. We even have clients checking that our products pass EU health and safety regulations since the start of the pandemic. We predict that there will be an increase in requests for deep cleaning or periodic cleaning services going forward.
Reasons for hope
Although many predict a bleak economic future, our thinking is far more positive. Yes, offices may have fewer staff working in their buildings every day, but ultimately new industries and businesses will rise out of the damage that has been inflicted on our economy over the last year and a half. Our industry will change and adapt, as it has done before. Some areas will grow, some will shrink, but if we continue with a positive mindset and respond to our clients’ needs, there is every reason to be optimistic about the future of the cleaning industry.