Under-staffed residential caretakers drive new cleaning measures, enforcement incentives – The Oracle
Resident Services have implemented new practices to attract employee candidates, including increasing the salaries of residential caretakers, due to understaffing in residences on campus.
Since the end of 2019, there has been a decrease in cleaning staff due to changes in the market and complications caused by COVID-19, according to Assistant Vice President of Housing and Residential Education Ana Hernandez.
The shortage of on-call staff was not an issue in the 2020-21 academic year as fewer students were on campus. However, with the return to in-person operations, the cleaning staff were scattered to deal with the increased activity on campus.
âLast year we had fewer residents on campus, so the shortages weren’t as pronounced as when everyone came back,â Hernandez said. âWe are currently at over 95% occupancy. We are trying to get back to what we think we need to better serve communities. “
The number of cleaning staff is 20% below standards, according to Hernandez. She said the shortage is attributed to the difficult nature of the work, which has been complicated by the pandemic. Guard staff were required to perform their duties, while maintaining COVID-19 security protocol.
âWith the activity of working remotely with COVID-19, things have been more complex,â Hernandez said. âThis is a problem frontline staff face across the Tampa Bay area, as well as nationally. “
Due to staff shortages, residents of Juniper-Poplar Hall received an email on November 4 announcing that bathroom cleaning would be reduced to once every two weeks rather than once a week.
“All bathrooms [Juniper-Poplar Hall] will be cleaned every two weeks for now in hopes of returning to weekly cleaning in the spring semester, âHannah Majka, coordinator of Juniper Hall Residence Life, said in the email.
Some residents, like first year Anamaria Correa-Castano, said she felt frustrated at having to take on a responsibility that the residential caretakers had assumed.
“I don’t want to clean things that I expect them to be cleaned [by custodial staff]”said Correa-Castano.
Correa-Castano said she and her roommates planned how they wanted to handle bathroom cleanliness during bi-weekly cleanings.
âFor the bi-weekly schedule, we had to talk to our roommates about the difference and the bathroom situation, how we are handling things in particular,â Correa-Castano said.
“Now that that has changed [to a biweekly schedule], more things have piled upâ¦ We just asked our roommates to be more attentive and everyone in the room to be more attentive.
Despite the changes in the cleanup schedule, geology major Megan Hipple said she was grateful for the work the staff did and understood the challenge of understaffing.
“[The residential custodians] do a very good job. I’m really thankful that we don’t have to split the bathroom cleaning tasks between four girls, âsaid Hipple.
Juniper-Poplar is not the only living room to be affected. Guard staff are spread across campus as needed and are not assigned to a single room, so the shortage is affecting other residential areas as well, according to Hernandez.
“We take an approach where all residential communities are served by all housing and residential education staff,” Hernandez said. âSo when we have shortages or when we have excess demand, we reassign staff as needed. “
In order to combat the problem and advertise the position, Resident Services has changed the job description and increased wages from $ 12 an hour to $ 15 over the past month to encourage new applicants. Employees also receive benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, insurance benefits, and pension plans.
Most guard posts are created for company offices and performed after hours when the area is empty. A residential babysitting position, however, requires interaction with students since the staff clean the areas where students actively live and work.
Hernandez said the advertised job description has been adjusted to include the interaction applicants will have with students.
âResidential care staff are part of the community and are sometimes the staff that our residential students see most often, in and around their buildings,â Hernandez said. âWe want to make sure that we have staff on board, that they understand this dynamic and that they really contribute to that and to the success of our students. “
Residential guards have yet to see an increase in employee numbers since salaries were raised, Hernandez said, but she expects the team to return to standard operations during the spring semester. .
âWe want to make sure that we support the staff and recognize that they are a vital part of our residential communities,â Hernandez said.
Additional reporting by Brandon Rush.