While some things change, others stay the same, including the responsibility of housekeeping for the first impressions of a hotel's cleanliness. Often invisible, the efforts of housekeepers may go unappreciated. Since 1981, however, the second full week of September has been designated International Housekeepers & Environmental Services Week. Officially sponsored by the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA), this is a week dedicated to recognizing the efforts of cleaning employees who have one of the toughest jobs in a building but also one of the most important.

A Return to Travel and the New Role of Housekeepers

This year, “The number of people traveling for the U.S. Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels and possibly set new records in some cases, according to several travel companies.” Post-pandemic hospitality may see some changes including adjustments to housekeeping.  Hotels may be “limiting room cleaning to every other day or by request only. Some are even charging extra for it.” The reason may be a shortage of housekeeping staff.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported, “A survey conducted in May by the American Hotel & Lodging Association found that 97% of respondents were experiencing a staffing shortage, with more than half ranking housekeeping as the most critical challenge. To recruit workers, most hotels have increased wages and are offering more flexible work hours, and some are expanding benefits, according to AHLA’s survey.” The staffing shortage results in larger workloads for those housekeepers on the job.

Recognizing the Work of Housekeepers and the Hazards They Face

Cleaning hotel rooms is not as simple as guests, even tidy ones, might think. Making certain the room is clean and ready for the next guest goes beyond changing the bedding to include everything from ensuring lights and electronics are working to disinfecting, vacuuming, and straightening. Housekeepers must complete these many repetitive tasks safely and efficiently. Every housekeeper accumulates their own set of tricks and tips to get the job done.

This does not eliminate the risks to which housekeepers are exposed. An article in the LA Times in 2014 reported, “They have the highest injury rates in the hospitality industry.”  In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had, prior to Covid-19, “identified four categories of hazards that affect hotel housekeepers: Ergonomic hazards that result in musculoskeletal injuries were the biggest contributor to injury. That was followed by slips and falls, exposure to chemicals that can lead to respiratory problems and infectious diseases that lurk in biological wastes as well as blood-borne pathogens.”  This final hazard came to the fore in 2020. 

Show Your Appreciation by Tipping Your Housekeeper

Housekeepers make the difference between an average stay and one that results in a great night’s sleep.  In a guest room, the housekeeper’s presence can be felt in everything from the cleanliness of the bathroom to the positioning of the pillows on the bed. Like porters who assist with luggage or valets who arrange transportation, housekeepers work hard to satisfy guests’ needs. The housekeeper is typically the first employee to whom a guest will reach out when in need of assistance. However, unlike porters and valets, travelers are often unsure whether it is appropriate to tip housekeepers and in what amount.

Experts recommend the amount be determined by the experience, including: the length of stay, the degree to which the room is used, and overall satisfaction. Before COVID-19, Tripsavvy.com recommended, “For the housekeeping staff, tipping $1-5 per night is appropriate, but you should leave more if you leave the room particularly messy.” In light of the new cleaning protocols, travel experts recommend leaving $5 per day, believing it’s “a small price to pay for extra safety and comfort.” Travel + Leisure includes failing to leave a tip for the housekeeper as one of the top ten mistakes to avoid when staying at a hotel. They advise, “Leaving gratuity for the housekeeping staff at a hotel should be second nature as well. If you've forgotten to tip housekeeping daily during your stay, the best thing to do is leave a tip in the room before you check out.” 

Most hotel housekeepers are women, and many are the breadwinners for their families. Hotels have made efforts to improve communication between guests and housekeepers including “incorporating room attendant postcards with personalized notes into hotel rooms, which both encourages tips and provides a place to leave a tip.” Guests should be sure to leave a note with the tip so that the housekeepers know the money is meant for them. Housekeepers work hard and often alone so tipping is appreciated.

Take a Moment to Thank Your Housekeeper

Down Etc recommends hotels celebrate the housekeeping team’s success with prizes, monthly drawings to win luxury bedding items, or programs to support housekeepers’ health and wellness. Down Etc has been honored to provide its bedding products for giveaways and awards. If you feel your housekeeper has gone above and beyond during your next hotel stay, take a moment to write a review or to let the hotel management know.

We wish all housekeepers a great night's sleep!

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