The devastating impact of Covid-19 has been felt in all corners of the globe and never has personal and public hygiene been more important. A thorough wash of the hands with clean water and soap or a splash of hand-sanitizer is the most basic yet effective first defense against this complex and highly transmissible virus. But what about mall doors, shared bathrooms, office lifts, conference rooms and chairs in waiting areas, in fact any high frequency touched surface?

The pandemic has shocked retail, entertainment and commercial activities at all levels. Once bustling with thousands of shoppers, patrons and workers, venues were abruptly vacated with the ominous threat of an invisible enemy looming large. At the height of the lockdown, the closure of shopping centres, theatres, sporting arenas and office towers meant an immediate realignment of commercial cleaning solutions.

martin stack - - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

Cleaning services are traditionally engaged for a number of reasons. In offices, a clean, fresh and healthy workspace increases employee productivity, reduces spread of diseases, resulting in fewer sick days and most importantly, creates a safer, healthier work environment.

In a retail mall, especially as iconic as The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, aesthetics and hygiene are equally critical. Visitors from all corners of the globe descend on the property for MICHELIN-starred restaurants, world-class shopping in designer boutiques and entertainment.

For Australia-based Springmount Services, which is marking its sixth year in Singapore, it had to find the perfect balance of discretion while implementing cleaning solutions and delivering high-quality sanitation with attention to the smallest of details. The mall’s unique operating hours also meant our team had to ensure the space was in the best possible condition after a long day and spotless when open to visitors first thing in the morning.

Rapid response

At the peak of the lockdown, as millions worked from the safety of their homes, shopped online and even streamed live performances through dedicated digital platforms, bricks-and- mortar office blocks and retail malls remained shut.

While the threat of Covid-19 was clearly communicated by the authorities, the rapid escalation of the virus still caught many industries off guard. Springmount Services was able to implement a clear chain of command internally and with its clients. The ability to execute highest level deep-cleaning services using new technologies and management of high-risk areas proved crucial.

Educating our team on the ground on new protocols and government guidance was imperative for their safety and that of our clients.

Innovative cleaning solutions such as robotic scrubbers have delivered exceptional cleaning performance. Advances in technology have significantly enhanced automated cleaning options, producing reliable, consistent and effective results.

See also: The new normal

Hygiene driving growth opportunities

Asia-Pacific, one of the fastest-growing markets for the billion-dollar commercial cleaning industry, is on an upward trend.  According to Allied Market Research report, Cleaning Services Market-Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecasts, the sector was expected to reach about US$74.3 billion by the year 2022. Asia Pacific, according to this study, is the second largest market in terms of cleaning services and market size, after North America.

Until a Covid-19 vaccine is available however, the future of traditional offices, retail malls need to be re-imagined as people remain guarded and will avoid crowded locations. Spaces need to be re-designed, laid out to allow for physical distancing for a start. Raising awareness about workplace hygiene and wellness is key to building confidence and allowing workers and shoppers back.

See also: China joins WHO-backed virus vaccine programme

The significant impact of this pandemic supports Springmount Services’ long-term growth strategy. Hygiene, especially in commercial spaces, shows an upward trend. There is renewed commitment by companies to not just engage the services of commercial cleaning contractors to upkeep a sparkling façade and peripheral cleaning but to dive deep and offer solutions that will prevent outbreaks.

Most commercial sites have identified hygiene as one of the most important factors in day-to-day operations. Hygiene will play a major role in venues people will choose to patronize – be it shopping malls, theatres, restaurants and offices.

At the individual tenant level, greater sensitivity towards hygiene will require more frequent and rigorous sanitisation of the office environment, particularly of shared areas such as canteens and bathrooms, along with hardware such as phones and keyboards. Hygiene concerns will require office managers to ensure high standards of cleanliness are maintained while communicating this to employees.

Property managers – particularly of buildings that include shared amenities such as cafes, retail and agile space – will need to augment existing hygiene policies to reassure tenants and employees.

This outbreak has therefore, highlighted the importance of property management in shopping malls and retail stores. Hygiene and other measures to ensure facilities are safe and clean for employees and customers will be top of mind and occupants of buildings will furthermore require a sense of security and confidence that correct and adequate protocols are in place for their health and safety.

Martin Stack is founder and managing director of Springmount Services Pty Ltd.