Do You Have A 3 Hour Magnet

Next time you sit down to figure out how many cleaning hours to bid a building at, budget for and assign to a cleaner – you may want to remember this story.

Let’s say our cleaning business picked up a new account -an office building, which we thought should take about 3.5 – 4 hrs. to clean.

Well, when we started the job, we would simply show some new cleaning person how to clean it in about 3.5 to 4 hrs.

So far, so good – right?

Well, the first week went fine. Our cleaning person spent at least the 4 hrs. we gave them, maybe even a little more, since they were new.

But then a surprise…

As we kept watching the time sheets, we started to notice something – the cleaning times began to drop.

Slowly at first; from 4 hrs. or more at the start, to 3.75 within as little as a week or so.

AND then down to maybe 3.5 hrs/visit after another week or two.

And finally, we saw the nightly cleaning times coming in as low as 3.25 . . .or even 3!

What in the world was going on?

Didn’t we train them well enough?

Were they taking shortcuts?

Was it laziness?

Did we just estimate the hours too high! It took a while, but we began to realize something.

Drum roll please…

Our part time people LIKED to work about 3 hours per night!

Call it human nature.

Call it whatever you want, but we saw it time and time again.

Many of our office cleaning associates would eventually (sometimes almost right away) gravitate to about 3 hrs. per night – like they were being pulled by a magnet!!

We asked our part-timers about it.

There were all kinds of reasons given from …

‘After working my day job, I get tired after about 3 hours of cleaning at night.’ to

‘I don’t want to be out too late’ to

I like to be home about 9 P.M.’

In the end, the reason why may not be as important as simply being aware that this 3 hr. magnet is there and affects how our people felt about the job , at least our part time, night operation.

So, what should we do?

I mean it didn’t make sense.

Well, we could fight it, and retrain folks over and over again until they put in the exact amount we assigned them.

Or …we could try something different.

We decided NOT to ALWAYS fight this natural tendency – frankly, many of the reasons why they wanted to get done in about 3 hrs. were understandable.

So, we decided to try to work around or with, this feeling, keep an eye on it, and sometimes even find ways to use it to our advantage.

What do I mean?

Well, what if we tried to create schedules that gave each cleaning person as close to 3 hrs. per night, as possible, which is what they seemed to want?

Call us crazy, but we tried it.

We began to take our total cleaning hours per night for a building and break it into as many of these desirable 3 hr. shifts as possible.

For example, a 6-hour job was now scheduled for 2 people working 3 hours each. And, how did it work?

Great! Not only did our people like the 3-hour shifts, we quickly discovered they were easier to hire for and keep filled than a shorter 2 hour or longer 5 hour shift.

Summary: Check to see if you have an 3-hour MAGNET in your cleaning business!

If so, make sure it’s working for you, not against you!

You Can Do This, You Really Can!


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Hey Mark, good to hear from you. And, yes, you're right, generally, the time to get and keep an office clean can drop as the staff gets more familiar and efficient. I think the point I was trying to identify is simply the human nature element found in nearly everything, including work such as cleaning. Wishing you all good things, Dan

Mark E Baird

But as one cleans an office and develops a routine and has completed a thorough cleaning, the time it takes to KEEP and office clean drops.


Tobias, you're welcome, glad you found the message practical and 'sound' I particularly like your formula: 3HM + Min Wkly Freq = Min Acc Target. Wishing you all the best, Dan

Tobias Silva

Hi Dan, The 3 hours magnet is one of the most valuable pieces of advice for running medium to large operations. It sounds straightforward, but after being in the industry for almost 25 years, let me tell you that it took a long time for my former employer to understand the fact of human nature. Now in my own company, I'm using the 3 hours magnet as an indispensable tool in estimating, pricing and managing all my accounts. I understand that is not for every business, but we also added the frequency to determine our minimum account target. 3HM + MIn Weekly Frequency = Min Acc Target. Thank you for the great work you do helping all of us. Btw, based on your advice work, we are planning to move to your software very soon. Regards,