No-Brand Nudo

Company Makes Once-a-Week Janitor Job a Good Gig

In May of this year, I took a very part-time job as a one-day-a-week janitor. I’d been thinking of getting a part-time job for a while but wasn’t interested in a position that required two or three several-hour shifts per week at places like Walmart or Best Buy.

I’ve been successful earning side money through Upwork for the past several years, but I got tired of seeing job offers I didn’t want and not getting jobs I did want. Also, the tasks and clients on Upwork were kind of strange at times.

What it amounted to was I wanted a part-time job where I could simply be alone to do what needed to be done. In that respect, my job as a janitor hasn’t disappointed.

Here’s why my janitor job for two hours every Tuesday evening has gone well:

The onboarding process was superb.

From the start, I had a good feeling about how I would be treated as an employee. The orientation and subsequent onboarding for my position was far superior to what I received when starting jobs in two new units at the company where I’ve worked full time at for close to sixteen years.

The orientation for my janitor job took place toward the end of a day on a weekday, so I had to leave my full-time job early to be there. The lady running it was down-to-earth and easy to interact with. I think she meant what she said when she claimed to love her job “in this weird little building in Urbana.”

For a few hours, I sat with several other newbies at the orientation and learned how to request time off; discovered what my shift would be, and at what building I’d be working at; learned about the two different ways to clock in and clock out (via the app or by phone); and received all needed contact info. We watched a few videos, were offered a few treats, met the owner, and were made to feel extremely welcome.

The company is superb.

When the owner of the company popped in at the orientation to say hello and meet everybody, he asked each of us to say something about ourselves and talk about why we were starting a cleaning job. I told the group the standard sort of thing: I was looking to earn extra cushion money and pay down some debts. I was the only one among us who was working just one day a week; everyone else was working more days and hours. We all had our own stories, of course, and the owner seemed to like hearing from us, though I’m sure the things we told him he’d heard before.

The pride the owner took in his company, and the interest he took in us trainees that day, felt reassuring. It made me want to show up for work and do a good job right away.

I could see immediately that this cleaning company was far different from the one Stephanie Land worked for and later wrote about in her bestselling book Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. Her inspiring story has been made into a great Netflix series, by the way.

My manager is superb.

On my first day of work, my manager met me at the building I’d be working at weekly. He showed me the ropes and helped me clean the first two times on the job. After that, I was on my own.

This wasn’t the same manager I’d been expecting to meet on my first day. That guy had unexpectedly gotten married and simply quit showing up for work, I was later told. To the vanishing guy’s credit, he came back to the company not long after but was informed he could no longer manage.

So the manager I met on my first day had been thrust unexpectedly into a leadership position and told me we were each in the same boat, learning as we went. He had been me – new to the company and a regular janitor – only days before. Such is the life in the cleaning business, I soon gathered.

Such is the life in the cleaning business, I soon gathered.

My manager is nearly fifteen years younger than me, and I sensed a bit of deference in him as he showed me what had to be done. Here’s what he said to me about cleaning the glass windows on the doors, which makes me smile when I think about it:

“I do sort of a wax on, wax off kind of thing, but you’re a grown man. You can do it any way you want.”

What I like about my manager is the confidence he had in me and the autonomy he gave me from the get-go. He said the building was mine and I could arrange the supply closet how I wanted and clean in any fashion that worked for me. That I would do a thorough job never needed to be said. He trusted me, and that was encouraging.

My manager has a learn-by-example kind of personality, but I have also learned practical things from him. He’s showed me, for example, how to tighten a faucet I initially thought was defective and told me it needed to have tape around it. He also came up with the practical idea of labeling bags with rags marked either “Used” or “Clean” so there is no confusion. Simple, sure; but helpful.

My manager doesn’t visit my job site often because he doesn’t need to. But when he does, I hear about the work he does – deep into the night – and how strapped he often is. That inspires me to work hard for him.

I actually look forward to working every week.

The building I work at is not large – the dusting, wiping, mopping, vacuuming, and trash collecting can all be done in two hours. I’ll hold off on saying what type of business it is, but I will say this: The people who work there are thankfully tidy folks. Every week the microwave is spotless, the toilets don’t ever get too bad, the floors are never muddy, the wastebaskets don’t contain anything out-of-the-ordinary gross, and things aren’t left lying around in a haphazard fashion. I do often see bugs, both dead and alive, but that’s no big deal.

As you can see, I got lucky in the building I selected. (Yes, I got to select the building I work at as well as the hours I wanted.)

But here is what I didn’t expect: I’ve grown to like showing up every week and cleaning this little building with the eight offices, two bathrooms, one little break room, a front lobby, and a small entrance/exit area in back. Most of the offices don’t have much personality, but a few of them do. One woman conveys her love of music through several tasteful knickknacks and coasters with an illustration of a piano that read “Where Words Fail Music Speaks.”

The occupant of another office has a bit of a messy desk, and I suspect it might be the head honcho’s because it’s located in the largest office space. One time there was a five-dollar bill on this desk. I suspect the bill was left there purposely, but not to see whether I would steal it. Rather, I think it was left there so I wouldn’t touch that portion of the desk, which raises or lowers via flat-surface buttons that I’d wiped over the previous week, causing the desk to go down a bit. I think this person put that bill there to indicate I should not wipe that area of the desk.

Another time I saw one of the earplugs I’d dropped on the floor the previous week. Rather than throw it away, someone generously left it on top of the microwave for me, and I used it with the other earplug that evening while vacuuming (the Dirt Devil is loud).

The last time I cleaned, I saw a Post-it note that had somebody’s bank account number on it. It was upside down on the desk, stuck at an angle. I glanced at it and went about my business.

Though this office does not possess much personality, I’m sure I’ll see many more quirky things like this in the future.

The company and its clients need the help, and the money ain’t bad.

Recently, my manager told me that the employee retention rate at our cleaning company is a mere 30%. That made me wonder if any of the newbies I trained with at orientation were still there. He also informed me that companies were seeking cleaners through our outfit but not offering decent hourly wages, which was a concern.

That surprised me because my hourly wage is solid, and it just got better thanks to a fifty-cent raise. Twice my manager has nominated me for Employee of the Month, and twice I have not been selected. I suspect he’ll keep trying, and for that I am grateful.

Who knows how long I’ll do this. It’s a physical job and I’m not in my twenties and thirties anymore. I for sure won’t pick up any extra shifts because it would be too taxing on my body. I view my very part-time janitor job as a weekly two-hour workout with cleaning machines and chemicals.

I view my very part-time janitor job as a weekly two-hour workout with cleaning machines and chemicals.

Maybe I’ll do it for a year or so and check out; maybe I’ll be able to go longer. Already, after working at the job around three and a half months, I’ve discovered it’s not the extra money that keeps me going, like I thought it would be. The job has evolved into my wanting to maintain the cleanliness of this little building I call my own, and wanting to do a good job for a manager, client, and company that deserve it.

Photos by Sal Nudo


2 responses to “Company Makes Once-a-Week Janitor Job a Good Gig”

  1. It is all about finding your niche in life whether it’s full-time or a couple of hours not everyone is that lucky maybe it’s them the company or a little of both who knows…For you these couple of work that’s good 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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