Learn the Dirty Truth Behind Cleaning NYC Buildings
And Make the Perfect Cheat Sheet Checklist and Schedule that Solves it, Even on a Part-Time Budget
(PART 3: Anchoring the Schedule)
So, you've made it! We've made it to the home stretch together to create a porter/cleaning schedule for your building that is intelligently designed and practical for any building superintendent to adopt and perform with ease.
Moreover, now you have a perfect cheat sheet that should guide you in the scheduling of basic cleaning for any building.
So, what do we need for the final stretch? Let's review.
First, we applied the WELL principle to identify all of the tasks that need to be covered. Next, we prioritized using the four-point guide . Now, you're ready to figure out how often to perform these tasks (the "frequency") and, finally, which days and times of the week, month or year they should be assigned.
Setting the minimum standard is critical and needs to be determined before we look to set the frequency. For some tasks, maintaining this standard may require daily coverage; for others, it may mean monthly or bi-monthly coverage. Sometimes, the standard or frequency is not arbitrary but instead set by outside laws or regulations and are beyond our control.
For example, for garbage and recycling, the choice or schedule is set by NYC. Curbside pickup is three times weekly depending on your neighborhood or location. Moreover, make that after 4PM on pickup days. Miss these days/times of the week and you're likely to get a sanitation violation or vermin-infestation or both.
Absent these special circumstances, most, if not the rest, can be assigned their own frequency number, such as once a week, bi-weekly, monthly, etc., once you've determined what the standard should be.
As you go down this list, you may find some tasks easy to designate a frequency (like cleaning the lobby, which is daily or every visit). But others may be hard, even if you know what the standard should be. This will depend on a variety of hidden factors that will reveal themselves as you test and tweak the schedule over time.
The important thing is not to get bogged down by a desire to get things set in stone just yet. Relax, it'll take time.
Finding your Anchors
The main reason why many buildings opt for having a part-time Super (versus full-time or live-in) is cost savings -- less salary to pay. But, in order to maximize savings under a part-time Super paradigm, tasks must be bundled together and executed back-to-back in the same period of time as much as possible.
The first step towards doing this correctly is to set the "anchor" days or times. These are the days/times of week that absolutely require the Super to be present. Such anchors may be early Saturday morning for buildings in rowdy neighborhoods where strewn garbage from the night before must be picked up before the sanitation officer passes by the next morning.
Or, anchors may be determined by the more important tasks in your work list, which I call "anchor tasks." These anchor tasks, like anchor days, are immovable, so once they are identified and set, they allow us to organize the rest of our tasks throughout the week, month and year easily and efficiently.
There's an easy way to determine at least one set of anchor days for every single building in NYC, thanks to bureaucratic engineering. We touched upon it before in Part 2, and it also happens to anchor down on a weekly basis a WELL task of first importance: garbage and recycling pickup.
Garbage usually needs to be arranged and placed curbside for pickup three times weekly. For recycling, it's once per week. These items must actually be placed on the curb the evening before the pickup day and after 4PM, to be exact. Thus, your first anchors are 3PM-4PM on each day before the garbage or recycling pickup day.
For those of you revved up to get this going, how do you know which day is a pickup day? Fortunately, NYC has made it super easy to find this out. Just click here: (https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/site/collectionSchedule).
Look at the screenshot of the DSNY (Dept. of Sanitation) website below. I plugged in my fictitious address of 254 W 10th St in Manhattan and I immediately received the exact days for pickup for both recycling and regular garbage!
Done! Thank you for making this super easy, DSNY!
Let's continue to use our fictitious example. So, now you know that garbage/ recycling falls on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Therefore, you know minimally that your building superintendent should be scheduled on-site for Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So, let's put that down on our spreadsheet.
Going down the sheet, now identify the other anchor days/times. For example, if your building is a target of over-zealous sanitation officers on the morning beat, then you may have to schedule a meticulous cleaning of the front sidewalk every morning to avoid getting a ticket. These morning visits will be another set of anchor events to set your weekly schedule.
As you identify your anchors, you can now distribute the rest of your list among the anchor days/time. Use your frequency number to build the weekly program and then start putting together the longer program, such as monthly, quarterly, and yearly schedule.
It is up to you whether you want to bulk up a single day with more tasks or if you want to distribute the tasks evenly over the week. This will depend upon personal preferences or uncontrollable circumstances, such as your Super's other obligations aside from your building's duties.
Remember that part-time building super intendents generally have other obligations or side work that he may be juggling. So be flexible when setting non-anchor tasks. As long as the city's legal requirements are met, the important anchor tasks are performed, and your basic standards are met, you should be good enough.
You're almost there, but hold the celebration just yet. Without validating this schedule against a realistic budget, your schedule could end up just a wishlist.
Budgeting your schedule
At the end of the day, it's all about the budget. For good or for bad, the final shape of your schedule will be defined by it. To have a schedule shot or cut down for going out of the budget will ensure salt added to the wound of many hours that have gone into this meticulous and painstaking planning.
For such an important thing, however, Co-op/ Condo Boards are often unsure what the budget should be for porter (cleaning) or building superintendent services. I've found that buildings can both overshoot and undershoot the balance, leading to an abundance of unneeded hours or, if the schedule is too short, an overworked and overwhelmed Super.
So, how do you relate your schedule to a budget?
There's no substitute to pure experience here, if you know firsthand how long these tasks should take to complete.
The Long-Hand Approach
However, if you don't have firsthand experience, there are other ways to go about this. One way is to go "forward," which is simply doing and timing the tasks until the entire list is complete. Your final budget is whatever your hourly cost is for the Super (his salary) multiplied by the number of hours needed to complete the list.
Once you determine the budget by this long method, you can either keep it if it works for you or you can work back from here and trim the list according to what your budget needs to be.
The Short-Hand Approach
In fact, if you know your budget, going in "reverse" is easier; that is, the short-hand approach. Start off with a budget in mind, then determine the number of hours translated from the budget. At least one variable will have to be known, which is the amount you'll want to pay him, broken down to a per hour rate.
Once you divide the budget cost by the cost per hour, or rate, you'll have the total number of budgeted hours for the week. Then, as described above, work down the priority list by filling in the anchor days/time and then by shoehorning the remainder tasks into each anchor shift.
Some tasks or standards may get left behind, but at least you've preserved the budget.
Either way, the method is going to be empirical. There's a lot of tweaking involved and possibly even going back and forth from the drawing board.
Don't be discouraged. If you're a board member, the investment of time will pay off for every new future Super since you'll know the process inside and out. If you're a building manager in this industry for the long haul, doing each exercise will reveal new insights into the process, which will get easier for every new building.
Our Secret, Easy Method: Part-time Super Calculator
If you've tried and found this last part to be difficult, don't worry as you're not alone. Over the years, even I've found getting down to budgets and hours needed to be excruciatingly difficult. Like snowflakes, every opinion seems to differ as to what this number should be.
So frustrating were these exercises that I eventually created a calculator to help standardize the process of figuring out the total number of weekly hours needed for a Super to clean any building in NYC regularly (given some limitations).
If you'd like to use our calculator, please don't hesitate to email me with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.