As discussed in Part 1 of this column last month, environmental services technicians often have to cope with negative perceptions and constant change, which can create a high level of stress. This impact, however, can be reduced by highlighting the importance of their role.

According to a survey-based study of 87 housekeepers and 126 non-housekeeper employees conducted by a research team from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., the most successful housekeepers are not viewed as just “housekeepers” but as “environmental services technicians” who possess a range of skills, abilities and knowledge. One change that might improve the experience of these workers is to eliminate the use of titles such as housekeeper, to more accurately define their areas of expertise in health care.

An additional change that will help to improve morale would be to allow them greater input into how to do their work. By giving technicians the ability to make crucial decisions that positively impact the patient experience, organizations will benefit from higher morale, improved problem-solving and an overall improved culture.

Celebrating team member accomplishments is another way to boost morale. When leaders emphasize the importance of the environmental services staff to other employees outside of the department, it fosters a greater appreciation for their contribution to the organization. Further, establishing a safe space for sharing concerns can help team members to feel secure and appreciated.

To improve morale and performance, all professionals involved in the continuum of care need to understand and support each other. The importance of investing in environmental service technicians is no less than the importance of investing in physicians. Environmental services technicians need to be provided with suitable working conditions, development initiatives and opportunities for growth over time. For example, tuition-assistance programs will show technicians that the organization encourages and supports their growth.

Investing in environmental services technicians is not just about benefits like development opportunities, however. To improve morale and performance, it may also be useful to align monetary compensation systems (perhaps at the individual and team levels) with overall quality of cleanliness and patient outcomes.

Creating a more positive environment to boost morale and increase productivity is not an easy task. However, by considering these recommendations, environmental services technicians may experience higher morale, productivity and commitment.

John Gnecco is the lead author of this column. His co-authors are Danielle JacksonThomas W. Cline, Ph.D.Michael J. Urick, Ph.D.; and Elizabeth Coleman Gnecco. They all work at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government, Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.


Practice guidance available

Practice Guidance for Healthcare Environmental Cleaning, second edition, helps to define and advance the professionals responsible for care of the health care environment to ensure high-quality outcomes and healthy communities.

This manual provides evidence-based research, guidance and recommended practices that should be considered for inclusion in health care environmental services departments. Because each facility has its own needs, this resource has been designed to enhance an existing program.

Click here for more information.

Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Technician Certificate

This certification focuses on critical areas of competency for front-line technicians, including infection prevention, quality of care, patient outcomes and experience.

Click here for more information.

Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program

AHE has launched a certification to acknowledge the environmental and ecological sustainability efforts of environmental services departments.

Click here for more information.