The corona crisis has put the often unnoticed work of cleaners, security guards and other facilities service providers in the spotlight. This appreciation from society gives us an additional incentive to work even harder in these difficult times, and to keep looking for new opportunities to make a positive impact.
I am of the generation that was brought up to believe that peace, cleanliness and regularity are good for a person, and that belief continues to give hope throughout this current crisis. During the day I follow all the latest developments in the news, but in the evening I like to take the dog for a long walk if I can, or relax on the sofa with a good Netflix series. I also try to stick to the structure of my normal working week as much as possible. A lot has changed at the office, of course. We stay at least one and a half metres away from each other, hold meetings online, discuss matters over the phone and we wash our hands regularly.
Over the past few weeks, the way in which we carry out our day-to-day activities has, of course, also changed radically. On 15 March the government announced additional measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which have impacted the various activities of Facilicom Group in very different ways. At Gom Zorg, it’s a case of all hands on deck: cleaning in the healthcare sector plays a prominent role in the fight against Covid-19. At Gom Education, there are considerable differences; the majority of educational institutions are closed, but a number of schools are still open to provide day care. Here too, cleaners are sorely needed. The Netherlands is also in great need of Trigion’s security guards and Incluzio’s home helpers, for example. And the majority of Huizen van de Wijk, community centres and Incluzio neighbourhood centres have had to temporarily close their doors. But most of our community team employees continue to work from home. Many people who were already in vulnerable situations need care and support, especially in these difficult times.
Despite the differences between our divisions, there is no doubt that the corona crisis is having an enormous impact on a people company like Facilicom – not to mention the financial impact. We now have more than 30,000 employees, and we are currently focussing 100% on the health and well-being of our employees, clients, partners and suppliers. We are in constant contact with everyone on and around the work floor. For example, the division directors regularly post video messages, we keep our employees informed via online portals and e-mails, and we support our colleagues with videos and magazines. We are talking to our clients about the services they need, both now and in the near future. And in doing so, the Board is preparing for various scenarios: What will happen if the corona crisis continues for months? And if consumers then travel and/or go out less than before, for example, what impact will that have on our services?
We are trying to remain pragmatic and positive as we deal with the situation in which we as a society currently find ourselves. One positive to take from this is that we are also witnessing the emergence of innovative ideas and initiatives that bring people together, both in the Netherlands and within Facilicom Group. All over the country bear hunts have sprung up, stimulating children to hunt for bears in the windows of local residents as they walk around the neighbourhood. At all Facilicom Group divisions, enthusiastic colleagues are now forging new connections between employees and clients. How can we deploy employees who have to stay at home as a result of government measures against the coronavirus to divisions and clients who are in need of extra hands? What can we do for society? We are encouraging our colleagues to volunteer for the chat line, an initiative we experimented with last year during the Week against Loneliness and which we have now relaunched.
Even in this time of crisis, all kinds of positive developments are taking place. Our people are exploring ways to make even stronger connections – both within our own organisation and with society. We are looking to the future, and we are pushing ourselves to make a real contribution to society.
It is also pleasing to note that the work carried out by facilities service providers, such as cleaners, is increasingly in the limelight. In their speeches, prime minister Rutte and King Willem-Alexander mentioned the importance of cleaning services in the healthcare sector. Messages on social media and articles in De Volkskrant, among others, show how much appreciation there is in society for the cleaners who play such an important role in hygiene in the healthcare sector and in other workplaces in the key sectors. Gom Zorg’s clients have literally applauded our cleaners. That does us a world of good, and gives extra strength to our colleagues who overcome their fear of being infected because they know that they can make the difference.
We hope, of course, that the corona crisis will soon be over. At the same time, we hope that we can hold on to the positives that have emerged during this difficult period. I have been working in the facilities service sector for forty years now – a sector for which I am filled with admiration because these services are provided by people who make a difference every single day. It’s wonderful to see that our added value is now more visible than ever. Once the corona crisis has passed, we must not forget the appreciation for the work of facilities service providers.
Geert van de Laar, CEO Facilicom Group