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Who Says Laundry Work Can’t Be Fun?

Eric Frederick |

Day after day, the bad economic news keeps coming. I hear statements about this being the worst economy the country has ever faced, worse even than the Great Depression. Reporters are trying to outdo each other by using new adjectives to describe the economy. The government is going on the largest, single spending spree in our country’s history.
This constant stream of bad news can only serve to make the economic conditions worse and cast a feeling of depression over the entire country.
My 401(k) has lost some net present value, and I would lose money if I were to sell the stocks and mutual funds in my portfolio and turn them into cash. I have a minimum of eight years left before I retire and therefore the drop in value doesn’t bother me. I still have the same number of shares as I had last year. In fact, I’m excited because everything I invest in is on sale and my contributions to my 401(k) buy more than they did a year ago.
There is nothing glamorous about the laundry business. No matter what you call it, you’re collecting soiled product, washing it, finishing it and redistributing it for an additional use. Our employees work hard to make this happen, and they deserve a little fun while they do it. But how can we make our employees’ lives a little better and their work experience a little more enjoyable in these dark economic times?
The first thing I recommend is a little book my management staff has been reading called Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Produce Results by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. It deals with ideas implemented at Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market. The owner and staff have found a way to make a nasty job fun and their customers happy.
How can you make the process of sorting, washing, conditioning, ironing, folding and packaging fun? All you need is a little creative thinking and imagination.
You can start by creating fun names for each work area. What sounds better: the blanket folder or the blanket blaster?
When I worked in Milwaukee, our blanket folding system was painted green and gold (Green Bay Packers colors) and had several magnetic Packer helmets attached to the side of the machine. We called it the Blanket Packer, and the employees really enjoyed using this unique piece of equipment.
We purchased a new sheet feeder for the ironer and had it painted red and white, the colors of the University of Wisconsin. Bucky the Badger (the school mascot) stickers covered the machine that we affectionately called the Sheet Badger. It’s harder to feel depressed when you’re working on equipment with cool-sounding names. I left before I could buy a small-piece folder, paint it black with orange pinstripes, and call it the Harley-Davidson machine.
We’ve thought about allowing employees to decorate their work area and rewarding their great performance with helium-filled balloons that can be tied to their workstation.
Every year, we give our employees company T-shirts featuring funny slogans. The first year, the slogan read “It All Comes Out in the Wash.” The second year, it was “We Iron Out Your Problems.” Last year, we played on the popularity of the Survivor TV show with “Out Sort, Out Wash, Out Deliver.” This year’s shirt will feature a picture of the world wrapped with the phrase “World Class Laundry.”
We’re still trying to improve upon ways to make work more enjoyable. We readily acknowledge that what we do every day is serious business and that our customers depend on us for their linen (textile) needs. But nothing in my belief system says taking your job seriously means you can’t have fun. With all the bad economic news coming at us, the only fun our employees may have is while they’re on the job.
 

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at efrederick@carilion.com.

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