When Case Western Reserve University transitioned to remote operations last spring, a contingent of staff members continued reporting to campus. The Department of Custodial Services’ residential and academic teams—led by Joe Thomas and Fred Peck, respectively—were among those considered essential.
“I went into pandemic mode at the end of January when I started to stock up on wipes and chemicals,” said Peck. While some thought he may have been going overboard, he realized the pandemic could hit close to home. Despite his early efforts, a shortage of supplies has been an ongoing hurdle for the department, prompting partnerships with new vendors to overcome backlogged orders.
Apart from the logistics of acquiring supplies, assuaging staff members’ fears was another primary concern. With 54 individuals working in residential spaces, 111 in academic spaces, and staff members from four contracted companies, Peck and Thomas made it a point to check in daily with the most up-to-date recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and University Health and Counseling Services.
“[We] had to let them know [we] wouldn’t put them in a situation unknowingly,” Thomas said. Updated safety procedures were accompanied by a switch to stronger chemicals and disinfectants, providing staff with more confidence that spaces were fully sanitized.
Through it all, the team came together to keep campus clean.
“Our department is different from staff working in offices,” Peck said. “When those staff members go on vacation or out, their workload can sit for a while. It is not like that for the cleaners because their work still needs to be done daily, so it really is a team effort because we have to pull together to get it done.”
Peck added: “I have a lot of respect for them for what they do. Then throw in a flood here or there and things get interesting. But there isn’t a better team of people I could ask for.”