Its first recorded use meaning "caretaker of a building, man employed to see that rooms are kept clean" was in 1708.
Most of the work performed by janitors and building cleaners is indoors. Office buildings are usually cleaned when they are vacant, so most of the office janitorial staff work during the evening. The work can be physically taxing and sometimes dirty and unpleasant.
General janitor duties often include the following tasks:
Unlocking and locking buildings at the beginning and end of the day
Operation of building systems (turning on and off lights, setting thermostats, etc.) In some places, this may include testing/maintaining/setting building safety/security systems (fire alarms, burglar alarms, surveillance cameras, etc.)
Room and event setups (tables and chairs, audio video equipment, etc.) (college/schools, etc.)
Raising and lowering flags (schools)
Removing graffiti or other forms of vandalism
Minor maintenance work, such as: changing light bulbs and filters, replacing ceiling tiles, doing small repairs, fixing small leaks, performing testing and monitoring of building equipment, etc. In some places, other people may do these maintenance tasks.
Outdoor work, such as: cleaning walkways, litter pickup, mowing lawns, tending to landscape plantings, leaf cleanup, snow removal, etc. In some places, groundskeepers or a separate company may do outdoor work.
Porterage (internal deliveries; movement of equipment or people in hospitals, colleges, etc.)
In 2010, the median pay of a janitor working in the US was $10.68 per hour. The yearly salary could grow by 11% according to the statistics of 2010.
Office cleaning staff perform many of the same duties as janitors. However the tasks are divided among different members. Additional tasks include:
watering plants (pruning as well)
cleaning sinks, refrigerators, microwaves and toasters in office kitchens; clearing recycling and garbage bins
dusting furniture and computer equipment (monitors and desk area, but excluding keyboards) and tables
Cleaning is one of the most commonly outsourced services. Some of the reasons for this include:
Basic cleaning tasks are standardised, with little variation among different enterprises.
The nature of the job and required standard of performance can be clearly defined and specified in a contract, unlike more technical or professional jobs for which such specification is harder to develop.
Some organizations prefer to outsource work unrelated to their core business in order to save additional salaries and benefits required to manage the work.
Some organizations may feel uncomfortable dealing with labour relations related to low wage employees; by outsourcing, these labor relations issues are transferred to a contractor whose staff are comfortable and experienced in dealing with these issues, and their approach can benefit from economies of scale.
If a janitor is unavailable due to sickness or leave, a contractor which employs many janitors can easily assign a substitute. A small organisation which employs one or a few janitors directly will have much more trouble with this.
Between 17% and 23% of the total undocumented immigrant population living in the United States work in the cleaning industry (and growing at a rate of 1/2% to 1/3% percent per year). In addition to this population offering an abundant source of inexpensive labor, janitorial work is mostly undertaken at night, making it an appealing option for janitorial companies to employ undocumented workers seeking clandestine employment.
In the Netherlands, the number of cleaning companies grew from 5,000 in 2003 to 8,000 in 2008.
^Data from the employers' organisation in The Netherlands provided by EU-OSHA's Focal Point Literature review - The occupational safety and health of cleaning workers EU-OSHA - European Agency for Safety and Health at Work