Down Etc has spent more than two decades providing luxury hotels the world over with bedding and bath products. The professional housekeepers with whom we work have been our partners in creating beautiful beds and baths so guests would have great nights' sleep and memorable experiences during their stays. They are invaluable to us, to the hotels in which they work, and to the guests for whom they provide service.
While some things change, others stay the same, including the responsibility of housekeeping for the first and lasting impressions of a hotel's standards for its cleanliness and the attentiveness of its staff. 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.
Changing Expectations of Hotel Housekeepers
Prior to the pandemic, guests expected their hotel rooms to be cleaned daily. That was one of the delights of a stay away from home, returning from sightseeing or business meetings to a hotel room in which the bed had been made, the towels replaced, and the room refreshed. However, since the return to travel following the pandemic, hotels have made daily service only upon request and guests have declined such service. That change has not made the work of hotel housekeepers easier. To the contrary, it has cost jobs and left those housekeepers who remain responsible for cleaning rooms that have gone uncleaned for days.
UNITE HERE, the hospitality union, is fighting for requirements of daily room cleanings across the U.S. and Canada. While some have viewed the reduction in room cleanings as environmentally friendly, the union says that is greenwashing.
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.
Showing 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. 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.
Celebrating Hotel Housekeepers
Down Etc supports hotels celebrating their housekeeping team’s success with prizes, monthly drawings to win luxury bedding items, or programs to support housekeepers’ health and wellness. This year, Down Etc has donated its Globe-athon Opal Wash Make Up Remover Washcloths to over 200 hotel properties that are taking the time and making the effort to recognize their housekeepers and environmental services workers with celebrations, raffles, and gifts.
We wish all housekeepers a great night's sleep!
-The Team at Down Etc
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Cover Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-arranging-flowers-in-a-glass-vase-6466286/