Jan 26

Cleaning Staff Challenges for Bed & Breakfast Owner

Every year I face the same challenge: How do I find reliable people to do the daily cleaning, laundry and bed-making here at the Habberstad House Bed and Breakfast? Every year one or more of our cleaning ladies exits for one reason or another. Reasons range from “I’m 65 years old now and my back can’t take working so much. I’ll need to cut back to 2 days a week” to “I’m getting a divorce and need to work full time at my old job where I have full paid vacation, sick time and health coverage” to “I don’t need to work anymore” to “I need my summers off so I don’t have to get daycare for the kids” and on and on. So here comes the 2015 version of the same old, same old. I started out by letting my current cleaning lady team know, asking them to put the word out to their friends and extended families (in this small town everyone seems to be related by marriage or divorce, so there’s a long reach to “putting the word out”) that we could use some more help to fill in the gaps. Here we end up needing cleaning help 7 days a week from May through October. It’s best to have 2 people working together to get everything done between 10 AM and 3 PM, which is ideal, because guests tend to try to check in early around 3 PM anyway, they have to get home for their kids who are getting our of school, and because the cleaning ladies have had enough of the work by then anyway. In spite having 2 washer/drier combos, laundry is a major task, given that we have up to 6 guest rooms worth of bed linens, lots and lots of white (often badly stained) towels and 3 sets of bathrobes that need to be dealt with. Making beds is not easy on the back, day in and day out. And cleaning the 3 two-person whirlpool tubs to my satisfaction takes time and agility. I provide all sorts of make-your-life-easier cleaning equipment to make dusting in high or low places easy to do, not require getting down on your hands and knees to wash floors, and so forth. I have had the occasional older cleaning lady who insists on cleaning the kitchen floor and other floors that old-fashioned way, with a bucket of water, toothbrush, scrub brush and countless rags, a process which takes quadruple the time and is very hard on the knees, and is not worth the effort by yielding that much cleaner a floor, in my opinion. I can see that once or twice a season, but the modern floor cleaning devices do just fine, and those old-fashioned-minded cleaning ladies no longer make it past the interview process.

We make the job attractive enough, offering a very good hourly rate, usually starting at around $14.00 an hour and working up to $20.00 an hour. I’ve even paid extra for working on Sunday, something I may have to resort to again in 2015, since Sunday is a tough day to get help. Unfortunately, we usually need to turn over all 6 guest rooms on Sundays. We also offer a cheerful environment, a positive attitude, paid lunch break, direct deposit payroll processing through a payroll service every two weeks, full workers comp, and the usual payroll-related benefits. We don’t offer health benefits, especially since everyone is very part time and we only have 3-4 people on payroll at any time. What is hard is that we’re a seasonal employer, since we are closed in the winter, and that means people have to pick up other jobs to carry them through to our next season, usually May through October. As the result, we lose some people to other jobs.

We’ve had high school students, and the challenge is their need for flexibility. And their need for training on how to clean. Enough said there.

We had a lovely Christmas dinner at a local restaurant for our cleaning staff last December, and included their spouse/significant other in the evening. We also gave them a box of Godiva chocolates as a gift. A nice time was had by all. Didn’t get a single thank you note, though. Times they are a-changing.

Well, enough rambling. I’ve posted a help-needed request on Facebook for my local friends to again, “Pass the word, please!” I am hoping I won’t have to put an ad in the local newspaper. That brings some interesting results that are not always the best use of my interviewing time. Flyers in the local bank and restaurants, grocery stores and down at the library are next.

Every year it works out, some seasons being harder on my blood pressure than other years, but I’m hopeful that 2015 will end up working out as great as 2014 did when it comes to that important part of running a 6 guest room premier B&B like ours: finding good help. Wish me luck.