By Genevieve Jiang
No more bad backs and sore shoulders.
For housekeeping attendants at the Novotel Clarke Quay, an electronic device that lifts each bed to the attendant's waist level has helped them clean rooms more easily.
The device allows attendants to vacuum under the bed without straining their backs. It can also help move the bed away from the wall, to ease the changing of bedding.
Said Mr Heinz Javier Colby, the hotel's general manager: 'Changing the bedding is hard physical work because the staff previously had to manually pull out and lift up each king-sized mattress, which weighs between 80 and 90kg each.
'I've heard of staff who had suffered back and shoulder injuries as a result, especially among the older staff.'
The Novotel has 27 housekeeping staff, of which more than half are above 50. The device, introduced in June this year, works via remote control.
All the king-sized beds at the hotel - about 230 - have been fitted with the device. The hotel has a total of 520 beds, including queen-sized and twin beds, in 401 rooms. It cost about $100,000 to install, but Mr Colby feels it's worth every cent.
He said: 'We cannot measure the payback in dollars and cents, but it is a good way to keep staff healthy, happy, and instill staff loyalty.'
Novotel is not the first hotel here to introduce such a device.
The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport hotel introduced it this May, as part of an ongoing programme by the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to have jobs in various sectors re-designed so that older workers and housewives, among others, can be brought into the workforce.
For this initiative, WDA provides funding of 80 per cent of the costs, up to a maximum of $80,000.
The Novotel is among six hotels that had agreed to install the device by this year. The others are the Mandarin Oriental Singapore, Sentosa Resort and Spa, The Fairmont, Swissotel the Stamford, and Sheraton Towers Singapore,
The initiative is expected to benefit more than 200 mature workers here. The WDA also hopes to get 20 more hotels on board in one to two years.
Hotels here hire about 4,000 housekeeping attendants, who are paid about $1,000 each a month. According to the WDA, another 1,000 such workers will be needed in the next three years as more hotels are being built.
The benefits are already being felt at the Novotel.
Mr Colby said that previously, an average of about 10 to 15 staff members resign from the hotel every month.
But in the last three months, there have been only two staff members leaving every month.
And housekeeping staff are more productive with less time taken to make the beds, and fewer days of medical leave are taken.
Said Madam Susan Ann, 59, the hotel's executive housekeeper: 'Each attendant cleans 16 to 18 rooms a day. Previously, it would take about 10 minutes to clean a room whereas now, it takes half the time.
'Last year, we had an attendant in her 40s who took 10 days of MC after straining her back from tugging at the bed. Now, we don't hear of such reports anymore.'
Housekeeping attendant Chong Boy Lan, 52, added that it's now easier to retrieve items belonging to guests that roll under the bed.
This article was first published in The New Paper on September 03, 2008.