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Department of Geography

(In)visible work in the early mornings

Have you ever asked yourself why the dust on your desk or the dirty spots on your office floor have disappeared? Who is responsible for the clean toilets and the shiny stairs? I met Andrea Mendez and talked with her about the work she is doing as part of the cleaning team at GIUZ.

Marisol Keller: What is your work, what are you responsible for?

Andrea Mendez: I am part of the team that is responsible for cleaning all the rooms that belong to the department. We clean lecture halls, labs, stairs, elevators, the hallway and all the offices. Each of our team is responsible for three floors. Of course, if someone is sick or on holidays it could be that we get one or two floors more, we help each other.

For us, mainly sitting in the offices, it is difficult to imagine your everyday work. How does a typical working day look like?

I start at six in the morning. Because I don’t like stress in the morning I get up at 4 am every day. Once arrived at the campus I prepare my coffee and then start to work. Our aim is to get all the rooms that are needed for teaching at 8 am cleaned before the students arrive. We do have a break in the morning (20 minutes), one for lunch (30 minutes) and one in the afternoon (10 minutes). Mostly in the afternoon we take care of the labs, because they are more complicated to clean. The rest of the day we keep on doing our work, there is always something to do. I like the flexibility we have. You can decide yourself how you plan your tour on your floors. 

What do you like about your work at our department?

I work for the Department of Geography for 17 years now, so I mainly just like the atmosphere. The people are very nice and kind, we hardly get any complaints on our work. I like the different interactions with other people at the department. I see PhD’s coming and going and I like to celebrate their success at their “Apéros”. Further on, there are many people I can chat with in different languages. I speak Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese. I also really appreciate that people help each other out. When I applied for the Swiss citizenship, Karin (Schwiter) explained me all the political facts I needed to know to pass the exam. That was very helpful and very kind of her.

Andrea is a passionate cake baker.
Andrea is a passionate cake baker. With her unique creations, she even delights GIUZ staff and wins prizes in competitions.

How come that I hardly never see the person who is cleaning my office?

We want to disturb as little as possible. That’s why we observe how people move around the department. We know who comes at which time and when people usually leave. We do have the overview: “Ah, they are taking a break now.” “Ah, there is a seminar here at this time.” “Oh, they have a meeting now”. We always pay attention to things like that and clearly, by talking to people at the department about what's new and so on, we get to know. And if we see that there is a free place somewhere we take the opportunity and clean it. 

I imagine your day being finished in the afternoon as you started very early, what do you like to do after your work?

Oh, I do have a lot of hobbies. First, I love going to the ASVZ after work. Apart from that, I love excursions and travelling around. I have visited many cities in Europa. I love to hop on a train and visit some new places. Then, I also really like going out with my friends and enjoying a nice time together. When I have time left or at night, I love to bake. I create thematic cakes for friends and family and I like to decorate them in detail. Last week I participated in a cookies-contest which I won with an Argentinian specialty called Alfajores that I decorated.

What are your plans for the future?

I always see myself here, I like it very much.

Marisol Keller

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Who's who @ GIUZ

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