Natural leaders Rhonda and Nakoa find friendship and purpose at Clean Force

Rhonda and Nakoa stand in their Clean Force Uniforms in a meeting room.

Re-entering the workforce after a long absence can be daunting.

For Clean Force employees Rhonda and Nakoa, standing in front of the 33-story Paramatta Square building on their first day of work in 30 and 10 years respectively, this is exactly how they felt.

As natural caregivers, Rhonda and Nakoa have each taken significant breaks from employment to focus their time on supporting their families and community. Proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and members of the AMES mentoring program, both women were introduced to Clean Force when NSW Operations Manager, Tony Daoud, was invited to speak to the group about the organisation and its unique hiring philosophy.

As a social enterprise with approximately 50% of employees diagnosed with a disability or disadvantaged, Tony highlighted that at Clean Force, the team are more interested in enthusiastic job seekers than prior work experience.

As Tony says, “If you show me you have a great attitude and appetite to work, I’ll give you a job”.

Inspired by Tony’s passion for the company, Rhonda reached out that very afternoon. Nakoa, who started that day unsure she even wanted to begin a new career, shortly followed.

Starting out as cleaners, Rhonda and Nakoa joined the team at Paramatta Square, keeping the environment clean and workable for the Department of Customer Service and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. Within weeks, Tony had recognised their leadership qualities and promoted them to supervisors. Being out of the workforce for so long, both were surprised to advance in the organisation in such a short time period.

“I always wanted to be a leader, however I didn’t think that it would happen so quickly. I didn’t believe in myself before starting this role but being a supervisor has given me a lot more self-esteem. I now realise I’m intelligent, confident and outspoken,” explained Rhonda.

Through COVID-19, Rhonda and Nakoa have not only had to navigate leading a team for the first time but also adapting to stringent new workplace hygiene standards. Focused on keeping the government workers and their own team safe, Rhonda and Nakoa have had to step up their cleaning duties – including ongoing sanitisation of each level throughout the day.

Josylin Saunders, Senior Manager of Workplace Services at the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, is extremely pleased with Rhonda and Nakoa’s work in the building. “Rhonda and Nakoa’s continued efforts during COVID-19 have provided peace of mind to all the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment employees at Parramatta Square, knowing that they are taking all measures to protect their health and safety.

“Nothing is ever too hard or is met with objection and they have both shown true dedication and support not only for our team but the Clean Force crew they lead on site” she said.

Coming from similar backgrounds and starting their roles around the same time, it was easy for Nakoa and Rhonda to form a strong professional relationship and friendship too. They’ve been able to support each other through the transition and are always ready for when a new challenge is thrown their way.

Nakoa says because of this, and their amazing team, coming to Paramatta Square doesn’t feel like work.

“I love everything about it! The building, staff and management are all really great. It’s lovely to come to work because the people are amazing. The staff see the great bond Rhonda and I have and it helps them know we’re approachable and always available when they need us.”

Tony has noticed the benefits of their friendship too. “Working together as a team so well, and with the whole cohort, they make my job a lot easier. They’re a real asset to the company.”

Lucie shines a light on living with OCD

While many people are experiencing stress around COVID-19, for some, this time is even harder. For Lucie, who battles with OCD, the constant hand-washing messaging has served as a challenge over the last few weeks.

Over the past 12 months, Lucie has experienced a flare up of constant handwashing, a common symptom of OCD. With the help of therapy and treatment, she has been making great strides to calm this compulsion.

Thankfully, her workplace understands the challenges that Lucie’s condition entails, and were able to put measures in place to make her more comfortable. Back in 2016, WISE helped Lucie secure work at Clean Force, a social enterprise with approximately 50% of employees diagnosed with a disability or disadvantaged.

Lucie works with Clean Force as an Administration Assistant – but they refer to her as the ‘The Gatekeeper’! Over the last four years, her responsibilities have included greeting people, answering phone calls and emails, data entry, invoicing and helping others with admin tasks.

Lucie loves her job, and the flexibility it offers with her health. She is proud that she has had far fewer sick days since embarking on her treatment, and is grateful that she can call her Manager and be honest about what she needs, however small.

Lucie’s employment consultant, Uliana, stays in touch with her regularly, and supports her if she has any issues. Lucie said “Uliana has helped me immensely over the years, she has a heart of gold and an empathetic listening ear. Without her, and WISE, I would have never accessed the treatment for my OCD”.

Recently, Uliana helped Lucie with some cotton gloves and moisturiser for under her latex gloves, to help her get through the day without over using hand sanitiser and handwashing excessively. She says the gloves have been a gamechanger for her hands over the past few weeks.

When COVID-19 hand washing messaging increased Lucie found it really exacerbated her compulsions. To help her get these under control Jim, her manager at Clean Force, offered Lucie a week off work. “We don’t have a problem offering time off if it helps our employees look after themselves – it’s part of the support we provide,” Jim explained.

Jim also ensures that the team do little things to make Lucie comfortable at work, like ensuring she can clean her own workspace.

His biggest piece of advice to other workplaces is to “make sure you and your team practice empathy, because that’s how you’re going to support employees with a disability”.

Lucie says her workplace is like a family, and they put a smile on her face every day. “Having a job means I can be independent, support myself and implement a healthy routine,” she says.

Although we’re not yet in the clear with COVID-19, Lucie is proud of the progress she has made in managing her condition. She is extremely grateful she can go to work each day knowing she has support from both Clean Force and WISE, especially during this challenging time.

Linda celebrates ten years with Clean Force

Linda celebrates ten years with Clean Force

In 1998 Linda was sadly involved in a car accident that left her with a brain injury and memory loss.

Linda, who likes to keep busy with activities such as painting, sewing and fishing; first came to Clean Force after extensive speech therapy and rehabilitation. Clean Force, a social enterprise that provides work for people with a disability through commercial cleaning services, gave Linda an opportunity to get back into the community.

Linda recently celebrated her ten-year work anniversary with Clean Force and has come a long way. Her interaction with colleagues and customers has helped improve her speech impediment and confidence, as well as letting her regain her independence.

“I love working. I am loyal to my customers and they are loyal to me; they look after me. I love talking to people in the offices where I clean. I have also met many other cleaners at Clean Force, we like to meet at head office and have cups of coffee and tea”.

One of the close and special bonds Linda has formed is with her supervisor Vickie. Linda checks in with Vickie weekly and her continued support has allowed Linda to open up with any challenges, fears and wins over the years.

“Linda is committed and loyal. She goes over and above on every job and has amazing attention to detail. She’s an independent cleaner and works her own timetable to balance her work with play. It’s been wonderful to see Linda flourish over the years, particularly with the major development in her speech. She is now a social butterfly!”, explained Vickie.

Linda’s love of cleaning and friendly nature has led to many customers retaining her services, with select businesses employing Linda for almost eight consecutive years. She’s developed a great rapport and positive relationships in every office she works in. Employment has enabled Linda to own her own vehicle, which she uses to get herself to and from her jobs with Clean Force supplying all the cleaning products.

Thanks to her supportive and loyal network at work, Linda is excited about what the future holds.