The corona crisis has hit many industries very hard. Sales collapse and demand decreases due to uncertainty about future economic developments. States are trying to stabilize companies and avert the worst with unprecedented aid packages. But for the cleaning industry, including carpet cleaning, the current crisis could be an opportunity.
At the moment, the need for hygiene is perhaps higher than ever. The demand for disinfectants, for example, can hardly be satisfied by the manufacturers. But if you take a closer look at the situation, it quickly becomes clear that the measures in Germany, but also in Europe, resemble a patchwork quilt. A standardized procedure of the individual countries or uniformly implemented hygiene processes are sought in vain. Hygiene also comes into play in the media and political discussions, if only as a marginal aspect. In contrast to virologists, specialists, and business representatives, hygiene experts have so far hardly been consulted in order to contribute their expertise to solving the current crisis.
The industry has always been concerned with infection prevention and fights for higher hygiene standards in hospitals, for example. In the past, however, the latter usually failed because hygiene was still often regarded as a pure cost item. So instead of optimizing hygiene processes and reducing infection rates in hospitals, often only the bare necessities were done. The political will to change this situation was rather low, at least in Germany. There are some positive examples in neighboring countries, e.g. in the Netherlands, which could serve as a basis for optimizing hospital hygiene in Germany.
So if the discussion about better hygiene standards in hospitals and other medical facilities leads to resistance, one should not be surprised that the will to create standards in other areas is even lower. But due to the rapid and massive spread of the pandemic in Europe and the resulting weaknesses in the system, this could change a bit. However, it is considered unlikely that hygiene standards as a whole will develop positively. However, there are two essential areas in which optimization could take place sustainably.
On the one hand, the pandemic plans need to be fundamentally revised after the crisis. While some countries in Asia had standardized processes for dealing with the virus in the drawer, in Europe it sometimes took weeks for adequate measures to be ramped up. For a long time, there was also no uniform and coordinated approach visible. An elementary part of the response of Asian countries to the virus was the sharp increase in hygiene measures. If the cleaning industry succeeds in integrating the partly existing concepts for infection prevention into the pandemic plans, this would have an extremely positive effect on the industry.
It is also likely that politicians would be more aware of the importance of systematic hygiene measures in other areas. These could be, for example, improved hygiene concepts for restaurants, shopping centers, universities, care facilities, or airports. The prerequisite for this, however, would be that politics and public administration perceive the players in the cleaning industry as consulting partners and systematically seek support from them. In addition, the creation of temporary hygiene measures could also have a lasting effect on easing of the current “shutdown”. The question here would be, of course, how long this would last.
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The second area where the cleaning industry could benefit is the private sector. Many companies were simply unable to take their own ad-hoc hygiene measures for their employees. Especially in the office environment, hygiene and cleanliness are often not topics that are discussed apart from tenders for property cleaning. As long as there are no hygiene deficiencies due to the work of the building service providers, and they usually clean outside office hours, these topics are not given high priority in day-to-day business. This could change as a result of the corona crisis, provided that companies implement standardized hygiene processes and systematically train their employees.
However, this requires offers from the hygiene industry that go beyond pure product deliveries and maintenance cleaning. Step by step, the players in the industry must also develop into recognized hygiene consultants, who are also consulted, for example, for employee training and holistic hygiene concepts. However, a simple offer of value-added services is not to be seen as a solution here, since in the past the willingness of customers to pay for these services was to be seen as rather low. Rather, it is important to increase the knowledge of customers about the necessity of holistic hygiene processes and concepts tailored to the situation and to become a recognized consulting partner for them.
Whether there is a positive effect on the industry in the long term will depend heavily on whether cleaning and hygiene processes are changed or optimized during and after the current crisis. In addition, the cleaning industry must speak with one voice and influence politics through central advocacy. At present, this is prevented by the often very decentralized structures of the industry. As a result, hygiene often does not have the importance in decisions that should actually be necessary. Examples here are, for example, the resistance against the hygiene traffic lights by the catering industry or the hesitant action despite high infection rates in hospitals. These two points will determine whether the cleaning industry can emerge stronger from the corona crisis or settle at a similar level as before the crisis.