The most successful environmental services departments are able to flex with change, both planned and unexpected. During the COVID-19 pandemic, EVS departments all over the country have been enduring the ultimate test of their adaptability. The pandemic is stretching EVS department resources in new and more volatile ways.

A common scenario EVS Departments have been facing throughout the pandemic:

Three EVS tech­ni­cians test pos­i­tive for COVID-19 and aren’t allowed to return to work for two weeks. A third of the EVS staff have been exposed to those 3 indi­vid­u­als. They must be test­ed due to pos­si­ble expo­sure and aren’t allowed to return to work until their tests come back neg­a­tive. But, a lag in test results means poten­tial­ly healthy team mem­bers are unable to work for an extend­ed time.

Other New Factors Affecting Work Assignments

New Sick Leave Policies

If employ­ees report they are expe­ri­enc­ing flu-like symp­toms, they can take com­pen­sat­ed sick leave out of a bank that doesn’t detract from their reg­u­lar allot­ment of employ­er-spon­sored sick time.

Employee Safety Concerns

Many EVS employ­ees are con­cerned about con­tract­ing the virus or trans­mit­ting it to fam­i­ly mem­bers. Some are not will­ing or able to take on the risk or cope with the psy­cho­log­i­cal strain of work­ing on the front line and have resigned.

Increased Workload

Ter­mi­nal cleans for rooms of COVID-19 patients take longer. There are new clean­ing assign­ments relat­ed to high touch points in com­mon areas.

Some Loss of Flexibility

Once an employ­ee has been assigned to a COVID-19 unit, they will not be moved to anoth­er area of the hos­pi­tal to avoid cross-con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. This takes away an EVS director’s abil­i­ty to bal­ance work­loads and man­age for pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

Unpredictable Hospital Volume

When the pan­dem­ic hit, many hos­pi­tals saw reduced vol­umes of elec­tive surg­eries and increased activ­i­ty in urgent care and emer­gency depart­ments. Elec­tive surg­eries, for instance, were stopped, affect­ing ORs, Lab, Radi­ol­o­gy and inpa­tient vol­ume. When patient vol­ume is low, EVS depart­ments aren’t able to keep staff on hand.

How­ev­er, when the patient vol­umes spike, it is dif­fi­cult to bring in unsched­uled work­ers. While nurs­ing staff have incen­tives for remain­ing on call and pick­ing up extra shifts, EVS work­ers don’t. They are fre­quent­ly work­ing two jobs or have fam­i­ly com­mit­ments that reduce their flex­i­bil­i­ty to work over­time.

How EVS directors are responding to these challenges

EVS direc­tors’ respons­es include defer­ring work, and in a few cas­es giv­ing EVS tech­ni­cians haz­ard pay. Some hos­pi­tals have had nurs­es and care techs clean­ing COVID patient rooms to reduce the num­ber of peo­ple who could be exposed.

Some EVS direc­tors move work­ers clean­ing non-clin­i­cal spaces to pri­or­i­tized patient rooms, pub­lic areas, and nurs­ing sta­tions instead, result­ing in ancil­lary areas get­ting a quick­er clean­ing. They may also reduce fre­quen­cies or process­es in cor­ri­dors (for exam­ple, opt­ing for scrub­bing only instead of sweep­ing, scrub­bing, and pol­ish­ing).

Many hos­pi­tals are focus­ing on pro­tect­ing and bol­ster­ing their EVS staff to com­bat dimin­ish­ing morale and fear of the virus. Mon­te­fiore Nyack Hos­pi­tal in Nyack, NY con­tact­ed employ­ee assis­tance to help staff man­age the emo­tion­al toll of work­ing dur­ing a pan­dem­ic, and cre­at­ed a “wall of war­riors” to dis­play pho­tos of front line staff. Con­tract­ed staffing was used to sup­ple­ment EVS staff dur­ing COVID-19 relat­ed absences to help man­age the increased work­load.

North­well Health, New York’s largest health­care provider, has imple­ment­ed strate­gies specif­i­cal­ly for pro­tect­ing EVS work­ers, includ­ing expand­ing EVS staff, des­ig­nat­ing ele­va­tors for COVID and non-COVID patients and dis­in­fect­ing them after each use, train­ing EVS staff on don­ning and doff­ing PPE with the help of nurs­ing edu­ca­tors, and pro­vid­ing in-ser­vice train­ing on N95 mask usage.

Ear­ly in the pan­dem­ic one Smart Facil­i­ty Soft­ware client had to dis­patch admin­is­tra­tive staff to clean an entire clin­ic in the sys­tem after the first case of COVID-19 came through.

The software helping EVS Directors Respond

Hun­dreds of Envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices depart­ments are using ES Opti­miz­er and Ser­vice Opti­miz­er, a soft­ware that builds and man­ages thor­ough, equi­table work assign­ments. This soft­ware has the tools to accom­plish this as well as quick­ly roll with the punch­es when it comes to staffing sur­pris­es with the sched­ul­ing and Short Staff Assign­ments Mod­ules.

Mobile Communications App

With the mobile app, lists of com­plet­ed tasks stay syn­chro­nized, so there’s no lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Team mem­bers can eas­i­ly see which areas have already been han­dled by anoth­er staff mem­ber and which still need atten­tion. They can also receive any new assign­ment in real time.

Short Staff Assignments

The Short Staff Assign­ments capa­bil­i­ty com­bines the crit­i­cal work of mul­ti­ple assign­ments into one.

Recent Mobile App Advancements that Expand Flexibility

The soft­ware evolved to address new volatil­i­ty in work assign­ments based on ongo­ing cus­tomer feed­back this year. Team Mem­bers can now sched­ule their own work assign­ments, project work, and short staff assign­ments on the fly (on their mobile device). This allows the team to remain flex­i­ble to the chang­ing demands while still doc­u­ment­ing the work that’s being done.

Reach out to us for more information about these features, or if you’d like to request a demo of our software. If you use our software and there’s a feature that would make your job easier, offer us feedback.