Unsung Heroes

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Written By:  Cam Walters

There are many unsung heroes in our communities who do jobs for little or no thanks. Everyone knows to respect firemen and police officers, but one is hard-pressed to find people who proudly voice their admiration or respect for custodial staff. Though the realization may not have ever occurred to us, the truth is that custodial professionals play a vital role in keeping our society running smoothly.

Before working at Interstate, I had never considered the hardships that a custodian faces on a day to day basis, but I have now witnessed just how much crap they must deal with (no pun intended). There are standard job requirements for a custodian, such as mopping, sweeping and basic cleaning; however, there are often also unnecessary tasks they must spend time on created by us, the people they are cleaning up after.

Many of these tasks created or requested by faculty or staff that are not listed in the day-to-day job description occur far too often.  These include hanging banners and pictures, moving tables and desks from one area to another and cleaning spills from careless individuals.  The fact is that many of the custodians spend their days on call waiting for the next accident to happen, all the while, still expected to complete their daily tasks that require most of their shifts attention without any disruptions.

When it comes to the cleaning aspects, people usually don’t notice the job until something isn’t done correctly, or when there’s an outbreak of an infection or illness. Custodians can go months of working without a complaint from anyone, but the first time one is filed, it is perceived as though the janitors have not been completing their job. We must remember that the facilities individuals are complaining about are routinely cleaned more than the average household.

Consider this; for a population of 2,200 students, a school may only have 10-12 custodians cleaning daily close to 300,000 square feet. Whereas a household of 5 and 3,000 square feet will have one-person cleaning approximately one time a week. Thus, a school janitor would be responsible for up to 30,000 square feet a day to fulfill their duties. This does not include all the non-cleaning tasks that arise throughout the workday. Taking the time to notice when the jobs being done well pays huge dividends in employee morale and retention.

Ultimately custodial professionals take pride in their building.  They are performing their job for minimal pay and take pride in making the community a better place that everyone can be proud of.  John F. Kennedy once asked a janitor in the NASA restroom what he was doing, to which the custodian replied, “Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”  That is the pride that illustrates the true role of a custodian’s work.


Cam Walters has been involved in the cleaning industry for 6 years. He is currently an Account Manager, specializing in the oversight of Educational accounts.