February 20, 2024

Addressing the health and wellbeing of the cleaning industry

Over the course of our lives, people spend about a third of their time in the workplace. Recognizing this significant portion of time spent, many organizations and industries recognise that actively supporting the health and wellbeing of their workforce is a critical element in growing employee engagement, enhancing performance, and promoting retention.

Our essential workers – predominantly lower-paying and physically demanding roles – are often overlooked despite the toll the job has on our health and wellbeing. In particular, people working in the cleaning industry work in physically demanding jobs, coupled with exposure to various chemicals and repetitive tasks. Alongside the physical nature of the job, the often-solitary nature of cleaning work can contribute to feelings of isolation, adding to mental strain. A lack of recognition and appreciation further exacerbates the challenges, leading to inadequate support systems across the industry.

To better understand the needs and aspirations of people working in the cleaning sector, Healthy Families Waitākere hosted several workshops with cleaners from across West Auckland. A comprehensive toolkit is currently being developed, with six focus areas. Healthy Families Waitākere Governmental Systems Lead, Caitlin MacColl, explains.

“Throughout the workshop series, having a centralised hub for information and guidance was identified as a clear need. After some exploration and theming, the toolkit is being crafted to include a tuakana teina buddy system, so people have a clear way to connect with one another. A feedback circuit is being designed so insights and information can be readily shared across the workforce and with management. Understanding their employment rights and providing opportunities for professional development was also highlighted – all which will be provided in the toolkit.”

The drafted toolkit was presented to the National Cleaners Collective, which included representatives from the National Public Health Service, Worksafe, Ringa Hora, AUT and professional cleaning companies. The draft was well received, and further feedback will be weaved through the toolkit. The collective aim to have the toolkit finalised in the coming months.

Healthy Families Waitākere is part of the National Cleaning Service Sector Collective led by Auckland Regional Public Health, where organisations work towards employee-centred initiatives around health, wellbeing and professional development.