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Cleaning motorway services is not every contractor’s idea of fun, but for So Clean Cleaning and Support Services it has some unexpected rewards. Joint Managing Director Simon Gasson explains.

To say that in a motorway service area each day is different, and that’s all 365 of them, is a bit of an understatement. The most difficult aspects of a cleaning contract all seem to come together here to create a unique challenge.

Think difficult place to get to; lots of unsociable hours; health and safety, for both staff and general public; unexpected surges in demand; and you start getting an idea of the task.

Add to that the outrageous behaviour of some visitors, who treat the service area as a place they can get away with things, the like of which I’ve never seen in twenty years of cleaning, and the picture is complete.

Cleaning Motorway Services is Complex

Since 2009 we have provided cleaning services at Clacket Lane Services on the M25.

As well as cleaning the main buildings, with their shops, food courts and hygiene areas, we service the Days Inn Hotel on the Westbound section, providing a full daily room cleaning service.

Our duties also extend to litter picking the carparks and roadways, all of which means we employ a total of fifteen full time staff working on overlapping shifts from 7am in the morning to 11pm at night.

In what is a difficult environment at times, a combination of task variety and full time hours is one of the attractive features of the job for our staff, who work under the guidance of a well remunerated contract supervisor.

Our staff turnover has been gratifyingly low.

Never a dull moment

Each aspect of the work carries its own individual challenge and when it comes to hygiene services it’s most definitely the unpredictable volume of customers.

Every year the average motorway toilet is flushed 40,000 times and when three coaches unload at once you are abruptly reminded of that fact.

Outside there is then the hazardous activity of litter picking on the roadways while vehicles are moving, not always slowly, in close proximity.

It goes without saying that safety and PPE are paramount here and it’s no surprise that our Health and Safety folder at Clacket Lane is the biggest of any throughout our portfolio.

Cleaning Contractors Team Spirit

Taking all these things together, the contract is about as far from daily office cleaning as you can imagine, but what makes it all worthwhile from a management point of view is the outstanding teamwork – not just of our own supervisors and staff, but between the staff of all the employers on site and from the client management themselves.

To counter the difficulty of the location and the awkward hours, the site operator organises minibus pick-ups to ensure everyone gets to and from work – not just our guys, but all the staff in the shops, restaurants, hotel and petrol stations.

That’s a real bonus.

I often hear contractors bemoaning the lack of client respect for the efforts of cleaners in particular, but in this case we could not ask for more support.

This generates a real sense of camaraderie between the different teams, which is another unexpected positive feature of working here.

As the site is so frenetic, key team members carry phones, with both the Site Director and Site FM maintaining regular contact with our supervisor. There is total transparency in the relationship and no-one’s afraid of asking for help.

So while it’s not the easiest contract in the world, it definitely teaches you a few lessons about what makes for a successful one, for which we are grateful.