Maybe this comes as a surprise, but one thing I looked forward to moving to Germany as a student was the chance to odd job. Apart from it being a thing of satisfying curiosity, I needed the money especially when the seven thousand euros begins to run out. I was privileged to get the job connection through a neighbour of Barbara, my first German friend. Finding one had been tough particularly in the first months when my German was little to nothing. I recall a telephone convo to a packaging company and the shrill feminine voice at the other end explaining how they reserved employment for persons with fluent German skills on a job that required no verbal abilities. ☹
I did not become a housekeeper instantly either, I had an interview (in my broken German) and received confirmation later. I worked in one of German’s top hotel chains but officially employed by a hospitality agency. I did receive hotel employee benefits like lunch, joining in employee events and sorts.
I was on that job for a little over a year. I dare say, this job has been like no other. For one, it has been the only job that required my physical investment to a 100 percent. Though I did learn a lot about how the hotel industry works, I gathered some life tips on this job. I share below of these, four things I learnt on this job.
Did you know it is possible to clean a room in 15 minutes? Yes, you saw that right, in 15 minutes, to the standard required! So, until I went through this process of training as a housekeeper, cleaning was a thing I reveled in. There would be music playing, dancing, etc. basically cleaning at home, could take a chunk of my Saturday mornings. However, working as a housekeeper, I marveled at how fast cleaning tasks could be done and the little time it took to do them. Cleaning a room for new occupancy (check-in) with a single bed can take 15 minutes (some experienced housekeepers do this in less) with training. This means laying the bed with new sheets, cleaning the bathtub (or shower), wash sink, & toilet, wiping surfaces & floors, throwing rubbish out, airing the room and vacuuming. All that in 15 minutes. Can you imagine that? I couldn’t in my first days. So, the trick, I learned, was to be mindful. To be present in and on the tasks at hand. Get in there, do what you need to do, get out. No time for mind wandering. Time is essential on this job. Concentrate on the task at hand, get it done, think later, or you might take too much time on tasks and even forget to clean something.
2. The value of time
As I said time is a key essential on this job. I learned to appreciate time better on this job. Each keeper receives a varied allocation of rooms per workday dependent on season, experience, check-ins, room-type, etc. So, when I get 15 rooms, I may have 7 check-ins which means I would have to lay 7 to 14 new beds and clean the room as if it had never been occupied. If the 8 rooms were stay-ins, I would lay the beds (change sheets if dirty) and clean the room. I would generally have 6-8 hours to get this done. Since check-ins are the priority (get paid more), I needed to apportion the needed minutes for a room, get them cleaned before check-in time which was 2 pm. Respect, in this job, was gained by getting rooms done quickly, in time, and to the satisfaction of the supervisor (quality control). I checked the time each time I entered a room finding the difference in the time I spent and learning to recover from rooms that took much time.
3. Are Gyms not overrated?
Being a housekeeper takes a toll on literally every part of the body. You need strong arms to lay beds to standards, bend multiple times, squat to check under beds, back and shoulders to push those trolleys, run in and out of rooms. There is so much movement and you are literally standing for most parts of the working day. This job made me lose weight without a gym subscription. In the beginning, all I did after work was sleep. After a month or two, I felt stronger with lesser fatigue. Though the cleaning chemicals were a minus, the work was a sure test of my physique. It is a job requiring a lot of physical exertion and did help me unwilling to get my physical body stronger.
4. Empathy and Respect
I wish this had been something I learned before this job. This position gave me a hands-on insight into housekeeping. It is a challenging job mostly done by women, migrants, and persons with low societal status. The experience left me with respect and awe for housekeepers. They literally are the backbones of the hotel industry but as always never get the due recognition, never seen, never heard. It is hypocritical that I say I realised this after being a housekeeper because there is no need to walk in someone’s shoes to be empathetic to their situation. We can be kind, respectful, and empathetic when we choose to.
So, the next time you are in a hotel, kindly remember, yes, you paid for the room and have earned the right to let your pets sleep in the bed or throw toilet roll all over the room. But also remember that the more time a housekeeper spends in cleaning your room, the less money they make. What stays with most housekeepers are the acts of kindness, tips yes of course! And the people who lay their beds, clean after themselves, there are people who even leave written notes of gratitude with smileys. Yes, those are some of the acts you never forget when you have a day with 24 rooms to clean. I will also never forget my colleagues, some of who have had only this job their entire lives and will till they retire. They were some of the kindest-hearted women I ever met. They helped me a lot in the first months. They did show me a lot of kindness which warms my heart when I think of them.