Window cleaning is a huge industry in the UK with nearly 2,000 businesses and a market size of £184m. Growth of the commercial market is predominantly affected by the level of construction output and general business confidence.
Understandably as a result of economic uncertainty following Brexit and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic the industry revenue has been extremely volatile. However, it seems that there is positive news afoot for window cleaners as despite disruptions to construction activity, a number of tall buildings are in the pipeline, indicating that demand for industry services is forecast to increase.
Specialist Window Cleaning (SWC) founded in 2011 by Gareth Thomas, is a family run company that has grown to become a national window cleaning provider and now operates as part of Incentive FM Group. According to Thomas “while other companies look for market differentiators in technology and lower margins, SWC has created our USP through developing our people. Our people are everything. We invest heavily in training our staff and have set a standard for all window cleaners.”
The recent labour shortage crisis has had a huge impact on companies like SWC who have struggled to employ new staff due to a surge in demand for workers and a post-Brexit fall in supply. Over the past few years the number of female applicants has increased dramatically. Thomas comments “window cleaning is often perceived as a male dominated environment, but increasingly more women are joining the industry. We’re passionate about achieving gender equality in the workplace and hope to inspire others to do the same. It’s important that in traditionally male-dominated industries, women feel confident they can apply for any suitable opportunity. The more organisations applaud women’s achievements, the more women in business will believe they are supported and have legitimate opportunity to advance.”
Annaley Boon started her career as a window cleaner with SWC in 2016 and loves the flexibility of hours, that the early starts give her. Her typical day begins with a planning meeting where the team discuss their daily jobs, collect necessary equipment and then head to the first job. She comments “I love my job because it’s so varied. Some days we spend the whole day at a single site or others will be working with several customers. We have a great relationship with our clients and always make sure they’re happy with our work before we leave the site. It’s very satisfying leaving a building looking beautiful.”
The career development opportunities at SWC mean that Boon and her colleagues are always learning new skills and techniques and are offered opportunities to progress within the business. When asked why there aren’t many female window cleaners Boon commented: “There is a perception that it is a predominantly male job and it definitely shouldn’t be. Women are physically capable of doing the job. As long as you’re punctual, polite and enjoy a challenge this is a perfect role. I have been fully accepted and embraced as a woman in the industry and would encourage any women that are thinking of applying to go for it!”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic SWC supported all of its employees with weekly welfare calls from the management team to ensure all the staff were feeling physically and mentally safe and supported. Any company decisions were communicated across the business and staff were encouraged to report any worries or issues that were affecting their wellbeing.