By Bob Owens
Your self-storage business is only as strong as your most valuable assets—your employees. In a competitive landscape, protecting their health and enhancing productivity by incorporating green-cleaning practices can positively affect your bottom line.
There are many stories of unhealthy environments in workplaces across the country. Employees are falling ill with respiratory problems, chronic headaches and other health issues. Increased absenteeism and high health-insurance costs all adversely affect a company’s bottom line. Still, company owners don’t understand why many workers are missing so many days. What most of them don’t know is the answer may lie in the actual buildings in which their businesses operate.
According to the American Institute of Architects, 30 percent of U.S. workers suffer from health problems caused by volatile organic compounds from carpeting and furniture, inadequate air circulation, poor lighting and mold buildup. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates workers take up to $3 billion worth of sick days annually to recover from the ailments and numerous other health conditions stemming from unhealthy work environments. In addition, a recent Consumer Federation of America study shows about $100 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost earnings can be attributed to sick building syndrome (SBS) and the reduced productivity it causes.
Although this poses a serious health and productivity threat to the American workforce, the good news is more companies are realizing the importance of a healthy work environment. A manifestation of this increased environmental awareness is the awareness that green cleaning is good for employees—and the company.
Benefits of Green Cleaning
Green cleaning uses a combination of products, practices and equipment to clean effectively while protecting the environment and the people who work there. Recent studies suggest that its effects are substantial. According to the Indoor Environment Department at the Lawrence Berkley National Design Laboratory in California, improved air quality achieved through sustainable design, building and cleaning strategies can lower SBS symptoms by 20 percent to 50 percent, while cold and influenza are reduced by 9 percent to 20 percent, and allergies and asthma drop 8 percent to 25 percent.
Taking a green approach to cleaning involves using certified cleaning products. For example, instead of taking the mop-and-bucket approach to cleaning, use spray cleaners with microfiber floor polishers that are either reusable or disposable so they don’t introduce dirty water to the floor.
There are also a number of products considered “green” you can purchase from maintenance suppliers and even your local grocer. Be careful, however, as not all products that claim to be eco-friendly truly are. Look at the products’ labels for specific green ingredients such as grain alcohol instead of toxic butyl cellosolve as a solvent, and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus, rosemary or sage instead of triclosan. There are also a number of websites with recipes for mixing your own environmentally friendly cleaning products using simple ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, borax and others.
When cleaning floors, be sure your vacuum cleaner is equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that traps small particles that would either be left behind by conventional vacuum cleaners or worse, lifted and spread into the air. Self-storage operators should also consider using recycled bathroom paper products—tissue paper and paper towels—because they’re biodegradable.
By maintaining healthier, happier employees and a more sustainable workplace, green cleaning provides long-term health and cost benefits that clearly make the switch from traditional cleaning advantageous. If you haven’t incorporated these products and techniques into your self-storage business, now’s the time to start.
Robert Owens, co-founder and president of O,R&L, has more than 22 years of experience in the real estate management and construction industries. Under his leadership, O,R&L Facility Services has become an industry leader in facility management, property management and janitorial services for properties and companies. He’s also the co-founder and president of Owens Realty Network, a Winter Park, Fla.-based realty brokerage firm. For more information, visit www.or-l.com.