New Teams System Restructures Pomona Staff Workloads

On Sept. 9, Pomona implemented a new “teams system” for the housekeeping staff working in the residential halls and one academic building. The new system is meant to compensate for some of the changes made to Pomona’s housekeeping this year, including the loss of six housekeeping employees and the decision to stop using “on-call” workers.Vice President and Treasurer Karen Sisson was part of the group that oversaw the development and implementation of the new system.“One of the things we were looking at was, with reduced staff, how can we accomplish the same service level?” Sisson said.In addition, Sisson said many housekeepers and students had voiced concern over moving staff around regularly, as it inhibited the ability for students to establish relationships with the staff members.The solution, the administration decided, was to create teams of three housekeepers. In this system, the individual housekeepers continue to work in their assigned buildings, as they have in the past, but the team comes together to accomplish non-daily tasks.Each team is in charge of deciding how they accomplish these tasks, though Sisson concedes there is some administrative oversight.Overall, Sisson said, the feedback from the housekeeping staff has been positive.However, one housekeeping employee, who has asked to remain anonymous, has suggested that this feedback is misleading.“Before, there was a lot of retaliation to the employees, so that’s why we don’t want to speak up anymore,” the employee said. “When they do their evaluations and raises, you won’t see a raise [in your salary] if you’ve been talking to the students about your problems.”Rather than being a more efficient system, the employee suggests that the new teams system simply requires more work from each employee.“The bosses act like we are machines. They want us to be a hotel, but we’re not. At a hotel you only stay there for three days, or sometimes just 30 minutes,” said the employee. “Here, the students live here 24 hours a day for a whole year, and so there are constant messes to clean up.”Sisson praised the redistribution of the workload as a positive aspect of the new system. She explained that the school recently completed a study that evaluated how often each room on campus needed to be cleaned. The goal of this study was to distribute the workload evenly between the employees on campus.The employee agrees with Sisson that the key to making the housekeeping system efficient is an even distribution of the workload. However, the employee insists that the new system has not created the equity of workload that it sought.“There are some [employees] that have to clean 15 bathrooms each week and others that have 36,” the employee said. “We have enough employees to get the work done. The only thing we need is divided and equal work for each employee.”Another advantage of the new system, according to Sisson, is that it eliminates the need to use temporary workers to fill in for a full-time employee who cannot come in.“There will be two other people who are knowledgeable about the specific needs of that building. When you have one person out sick, the things that are really essential can still get done,” she said. However, there has already been one incident this year of a housekeeping supervisor going to an off-campus agency to hire temporary workers. Sisson said that this situation resulted from a miscommunication between the supervisor and the offices of Facilities and Campus Services.“There was no approval for that hiring from [Director of Facilities and Campus Services] Bob [Robinson], [Director of Campus Planning and Maintenenace Operations] Margie [McKenna] or I, and, the next day, [the temporary workers] were gone,” Sisson said.Although it was only one incident, the employee explained that the presence of temporary workers on campus has made many of the employees uneasy.“[The full-time employees] have been working here long enough that the students trust us,” the employee said. “[The students] leave valuable stuff in their rooms…What’s going to happen if a worker is hired to come in to cover for one of us one day and he takes stuff from a student’s room? The student is going to blame one of the [full-time] workers, and they are going to get fired.”The employee also said that when the school routinely hired fill-ins through an outside agency several years ago, there were incidents of belongings being taken out of students’ rooms by workers.

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