Several years ago, the Hotel Industry in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, was hit by a union-organized strike that caused a lot of concerns in the mind of hotel operators. The dispute was mainly related to manual labor quotas for performing housekeeping activities. Union and hotel operators were in great disagreement about the time needed by hotel employees to clean and make ready a specific number of hotel rooms.
Approximately three years later, the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles experienced the same situation.
This series of events has prompted us to take a close look at the Hotel Industry where there are many kinds of manual labor and thousands of employees perform repetitive work day-in and day-out.
These strikes had a profound negative affect on the hospitality industry and caused great concern among many hotel operators. Questions such as: “What constitutes a fair measurement?” and: “What can be considered a reasonable output expectancy?” needed be not only addressed, but also answered by managers using convincing and supporting evidence, if the controversy was to be resolved in their favor.
This represented a great opportunity for our company to develop and implement Engineered Labor Standards that are accurate, fair, and attainable. We could also provide hotel operators, as well as Trade Unions, with “Preferred Work Methods” intended to optimizing operational efficiency and standardizing the way each activity is performed by each employee.
The conclusion of our analysis showed that there was a tremendous potential for reducing costs and increasing customer service satisfaction in the Housekeeping and Laundry departments through improved efficiency.
Why did we decide to focus only on these two operations, rather than extend our interest to the rest of hotel operations such as: Reception/Guest Check-In, Reservations, Administration/Guest Check-Out, Concierge, Food & Beverage Service, Room Service, Banquets, Maintenance, Sales & Marketing, Safety & Security, etc.?
The reason is quite simple: The Housekeeping department is the most important, it requires the greatest number of man-hours, the biggest number of employees, and it’s a Cost Center, unlike the Restaurant and Bar, which are Revenue Centers. To the contrary of Housekeeping, as long as they are not overstaffed, the more people they employ the more revenue is generated.
The Housekeeping operation is also the one that customers notice most if anything goes wrong. One has to have the right number of staff on duty to maintain an acceptable level of customer service. Specifically, housekeeping in a hotel, whether it is a three-star or five-star, has to meet rigorous standards far more strict than most people maintain in their own houses.
One of the most neglected facts about good housekeeping is that it requires the support of a good laundry department. More often than not, hotels spend large amounts of money on linen, for rooms as well as for bathrooms, since this makes a statement about the quality of accommodation offered by the hotel. Moreover, one of the most difficult numbers to quantify in a hotel is the cost of the laundry operation. “This laundry is costing us a fortune,” complained one general manager to the director of housekeeping. “Can you get the costs down?”
This is not an uncommon question in the hotel industry and yet most housekeeping managers do not know how to specifically answer this question. Too many managers do not know how to analyze the costs nor do they have any measure by which to judge their costs, except by past performance. We can help to achieve this goal not only by establishing better work methods/communication between departments and installing engineered standards, but also by providing management with reasonable ways, including a customized Labor Reporting software package, to conduct a hotel analysis by operation, department, etc.
There are two basic ways to reducing operating costs of any given operation: one, reducing the number of employees performing that operation; and two, reducing the amount of resources (i.e., energy, fuel, material, equipment, etc.) necessary to support the work performed by the staff. The only way to achieve this goal and staying in business is to improve efficiency without sacrificing customer service.
We are time-measurement experts. Hotel operators can certainly cut costs by implementing today’s sophisticated and state-of-the-art solutions associated with the use of electricity, water, chemicals, and other resources. But only with our approach they will be able to lower one of the biggest costs affecting your hotel: labor.
The job of a hotel housekeeper is to keep an assigned number of rooms clean. This includes a variety of services depending on the room’s occupants. For a standard occupied room, this will involve basic cleaning duties. For a room where the occupants have just checked out, the job is more difficult and involves turning over nearly everything in the room. A check-out room must be so neat and clean that the new occupants cannot tell that another family may have vacated the room only a few hours earlier. Some occupants who are in the hotel room when the housekeeper arrives or are perhaps ill and spending the day in bed may prefer service known as trash and towels. This is exactly how it sounds. The housekeeper will provide fresh clean towels and toiletries and remove the trash, but otherwise leave the room alone. If a guest leaves a later service sign on the door, the room must be revisited, perhaps several times throughout the day until the sign is removed. However, some guests forget to remove this sign entirely. Depending on the hotel this may mean that they will not receive any service, or it may mean they receive a phone call offering later service. Some locations will even leave a set of clean towels and toiletries outside the door. One last consideration is rooms that have been vacant for several days. Though they have already been cleaned and turned over, these rooms must be revisited so the housekeeper can sweep and dust, ensuring that the room doesn’t look dusty and abandoned when new guests arrive.
The specific duties of a housekeeper may vary from one hotel to the next, but usually include several standard jobs. The first is making the beds. A good housekeeper should be able to make each bed in about a minute. Unless there are very obvious stains, the sheets and pillowcases are rarely changed daily. The average amount of time for sheets to be left unchanged is three days. However, this also varies from one hotel to the next. In very expensive locations the sheets are changed daily. The number of sheets and pillows on the bed can also vary. While a standard hotel bed has a bottom sheet, top sheet, blanket and comforter, nicer hotels will have a sheet both beneath and on top of the blanket. Some less-expensive hotels may not have a blanket at all. Hotel beds are typically made with the comforter covering the entire bed and are almost always made this way when guests first check in. However, during a guest’s stay, the comforter may only be folded neatly at the bottom of the bed. Next, the housekeeper must refresh any amenities in the room, such as coffee. End tables and desks may be straightened, but the guest’s items are generally left as they are. Small touches such as closing the doors of a television cabinet can give a room a finished look very quickly. If there is a porch or balcony, this should be swept and any ashtrays need to be emptied. Lastly, the trashcans in the rooms will be emptied, and the carpets swept. Moving on to the bathroom, the housekeeper will wipe down the tub, toilet, sink and counter. Towels will be changed and amenities will be refreshed. In a check-out room, the bathroom is cleaned more thoroughly with a variety of cleaning agents, usually including bleach. Small touches are important here, such as carefully folding the towels. Each hotel has its own preferred method for folding and placing the towels. The toilet paper must be folded to a neat point as well. In some hotels, the tip of the toilet paper is even pressed with a stamp featuring the hotel logo or name.
Most housekeepers work a typical eight-hour day. However, this day is usually filled with non-stop activity. Most hotels give each housekeeper between 15 and 20 rooms each day. An occupied room should take no more than 15 minutes to complete and a check out should take no more than half an hour. This is often a difficult schedule to keep considering the state of some rooms. In hotels with large suites, a housekeeper may be given around 10 suites to complete each day. Suites often take much longer because of the additional amenities. Stoves, counters, and refrigerators need to be cleaned. If there is a dishwasher, the housekeeper will often be required to load and unload any dishes. In a suite there are also usually several bedrooms and bathrooms, all requiring attention. Housekeepers must always stay conscious of the time of day. The typical hotel check-out time is 11 a.m. Vacated rooms need to be cleaned as soon as possible to be ready for the usual 3 p.m. check-in time. Most housekeepers have a set area in the hotel for which they are responsible. This means that they are not assigned an equal number of occupied rooms and check-outs each day. Some days can be very easy, with all rooms occupied. However, some days–especially weekends–can be extremely difficult when nearly every room is a check-out.
Though the typical housekeeper is responsible for a number of hotel rooms, there are many other important roles in the housekeeping team at most hotels. In large hotels, there is usually ahouseperson for each floor or section. This person is responsible for emptying the dirty linens and trash in housekeepers’ carts and refilling their towels and amenities when needed. In some locations it is not possible for each housekeeper to empty his cart throughout the day, so the houseperson is essential by making his rounds continually, at least once an hour. The houseperson is also responsible for vacuuming hallways, dusting banisters and woodwork, and cleaning any common areas on the floor. Another member of the housekeeping staff is usually assigned to the lobby area. In large hotels this can include the check-in area, pool, fitness center, childcare center, laundry facility, and a variety of other areas. Lobby housekeepers usually make their rounds through these areas several times throughout the day. If a guest calls for special amenities, such as a microwave or crib, or other items that are not typically left in the room, such as toothbrush, sewing kit, or matches, these are often provided by another hardworking member of the housekeeping staff, sometimes called a runner. Hotels with minibars and turn-down service usually leave these specific tasks to separate members of the staff.
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