Using benchmarking to establish janitorial staffing for new facilities

One of the most overlooked aspects of benchmarking is its use to develop janitorial staffing levels for new facilities. When facilities are built or redeveloped most of the focus is on the design, construction and other aspects of the occupancy process such as furniture and move in. What often is overlooked are the staffing plans to clean the facility. Janitorial contractors can take advantage of this situation and offer janitorial pricing that is non-competitive when the building goes into occupancy.

Data entered in a benchmarking system can be used to determine staffing levels for janitorial operations. For the building life, operating costs often represent more than 90% of the life-cycle costs and the appropriate staffing levels have a significant impact on the overall condition of the facility. Using benchmarking can show the impact of staffing decisions over the life-cycle of the building. Without good benchmarking comparisons you may not realize that staffing levels may need to be increased or decreased, your level of service is too low, or which best practices may have the most impact on improving the staff utilization. As you can see, a case can be easily made for benchmarking that will justify the minor amount of staff time to benchmark.

We have used examples from FM BENCHMARKING to illustrate how easy the process should be and this approach will allow you to obtain the key output reports in minimal time. In the following example, we benchmarked an office facility for janitorial staffing levels.

Comparing your janitorial staffing levels may give you the wrong perspective on your performance unless the comparisons are made with a relevant peer group. For a quick analysis of a 400,000 GSF building that is under construction, we create a chart showing the area cleaned per full time janitorial worker.

For janitorial staffing Figure 1 shows a relatively tight range across the second and third quartiles of about 20,000 cleanable square feet per FTE worker.

Figure 1 — Area Cleaned per FTE Janitorial Worker: Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING
Filters: Type of facility (Office) Size Greater than 600,000 GSF

Most FM’s would probably prefer to staff up the janitorial organization over time. A janitorial staffing plan that moves into the facility with the minimum staff and increases staff if needed is appropriate for most organizations. A prudent staffing plan would be to utilize the first quartile value, or a little to the left, say around 23,000 cleanable area per FTE worker and then increase the staffing a bit if more cleaning is needed. Using benchmarking data in this way provides a rational and easily defended approach to developing a staffing plan.

The case can be made to focus our efforts on implementing the key aspects that will influence the overall janitorial operating costs and improve the efficiency of the staff. Janitorial services are compared on a cost per area basis. Using a benchmarking tool in this way gives an idea of the performance of a good peer group but it doesn’t directly show their building’s actual performance.

If you were to see how your building performed compared to others in your peer group, and if your building’s performance were not at the level you wanted it to be, you then would need to delve more deeply into the findings. One such way would be to analyze the best practices that have been implemented by your building and compare them to the best practices implemented by those in the better-performing buildings in your peer group. Some benchmarking tools, including FM BENCHMARKING, allow you to do this. When you benchmark not just staffing levels, but best practices as well, one truly is using the power of benchmarking to its fullest.

Articles are based on data from FM BENCHMARKING, the online benchmarking tool for facilities managers and CREs. Data tracked by FM BENCHMARKING includes cost data (utilities, maintenance, custodial, security), sustainability data, and best practices. For more information, go to

FM BENCHMARKING is a collaboration between Facility Issues and FMLink.