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A day in the life of...Kate Cama, House Manager at Greenlands

Kate Cama

Kate Cama, House Manager at Greelands

'I walk so far along the corridors and around the site every day that I get through at least six pairs of work shoes every year!'

As House Manager at Greenlands, our campus in Henley, Kate Cama is responsible for managing the cleaning of the whole site, which is no mean feat as there are 100 bedrooms, 11 conference rooms, 40 syndicate rooms and 40 washroom areas, as well as various reception and public spaces and numerous offices.

How long have you worked here at Greenlands?

I was the Deputy House Manager for six years and have worked in my current role as House Manager for the past three years.

What's your background?

I worked with children as a nursery nurse until I was 32, when I decided to leave the education system. I then went to university in North London to study International Hospitality Management. I learned Spanish as part of the course, which then helped me to get my first role here, as the majority of the cleaning staff at the time were Spanish and Portuguese and couldn't speak much English.

What does your job entail?

My role is essentially to manage the cleaning of the whole Greenlands site; however this isn't as simple as it may sound, and there are many other things that fall into my remit.

I would say that what I do is 60% reactive and only 40% proactive. I am constantly reacting to problems or issues that can arise throughout the day, particularly with overnight guests.

Can you describe a typical day in the life of the House Manager at Greenlands?

To begin with, as soon as I get into work, I turn my walkie-talkie on - this is then permanently attached to me for the whole day so that people can contact me from all around the site.

6.55 - either myself, my deputy or supervisor ensures all the cleaners have arrived for work and have everything they need. Rotas for the rest of the day are prepared. One member of the cleaning staff will have started at 6.00 in order to get the chef's whites, cloths and mops organised.

6.55-8.45 - my staff (15 in total) get on with collecting and removing rubbish, cleaning and maintaining standards in the conference and syndicate rooms and public areas (including resetting furniture etc.).

8.45-9.00 - everyone is informed of their workload for the rest of the day.

9.00-3.30 - the team usually complete between 12 and 14 bedrooms during this time; my colleagues and I then spot-check a few of these to make sure they are up to standard before allowing staff to self-check their other rooms.

I have various meetings throughout the week, including diary meetings where we go through all of the events and room bookings for the week, and team and managers meetings. I also sit on an environmental action group, so ensure that we keep up to date with the latest 'green' initiatives.

It's hard to give specific times and tasks as every day is so different! But other things I do include: dealing with feedback cards, finance, ordering stock, HR paperwork, resolving any issues clients may have, and helping staff if they are having problems due to language barriers.

There have been some recent refurbishments at Greenlands - did you have a say in any of the design aspect, as it is your team who have to keep them looking fresh and new?

Yes I did, which was fantastic, as I have been able to ensure that all the fabrics that were used for cushions, throws etc. were made from machine washable material, so that we are able to easily keep them clean.

I'm currently looking into soap and shampoo dispensers for the en suite bathrooms, as the small bottles we use at the moment are having a negative impact on our green credentials. We need to go for something more sustainable and environmentally friendly, whilst maintaining the high quality that our guests come to expect when they come and stay at Greenlands.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the surroundings here at Greenlands. If I'm ever having a tough day all I have to do is step outside and take a look around the beautiful campus - it puts things into perspective and makes me remember how lucky I am to be able to work here. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's true!

I also love working with people, and that's really what this job is all about. No one day is ever the same!

Are there any particular challenges you face?

One of the challenges I face is the language barrier with some of my staff. It can be very difficult at first when they arrive, as some can barely speak a word of English. However, over time, they gradually pick up words and phrases, and I find the fact that I end up helping people to learn English to be very fulfilling. We have a low staff turnover, which has its positives and negatives. The most important thing is laughter - that's the key to success with my job and team!

But I see every day as a challenge - both physically and mentally. I walk so far along the corridors and around the site every day that I get through at least six pairs of work shoes every year!

You must have seen some interesting things in your time...!

Well we have a lost property area filled with a variety of interesting objects...and I have often knocked on bedroom doors, entered, and then immediately wished I hadn't. I've decided that one day I'm going to write a book about all the things I've seen in this job!

Also one of my colleagues swore she saw a kangaroo bouncing around the grounds one day, amongst the cows. We all thought she had gone mad, but then we found out that there is actually a wallaby that lives round here, who escaped from the McAlpine's estate.

What's been your most memorable moment so far?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to Greenlands a few years ago to launch the Scholarship Programme for Ethical Leadership in his name. That was very memorable for us as I and some of the team with other members of staff had gone over to watch him arrive. We stood slightly round a corner so as not to get in the way. But when he spotted us he joked that we were hiding from him and encouraged us to take photos! He was very friendly and made quite an impression on the Business School that day.

Also last year's snow fiasco was rather memorable, as we only had three staff in to clean the entire site, and I was hobbling around on crutches. Everything still needed to be done so we just had to get on with it!

[I asked some of Kate's colleagues about her and what she does...]

Well...you can always hear when Kate's coming up the corridor - she whizzes along at a rate of knots, always rushing off to the next room she has to check, or problem she has to deal with. That pretty much sums up Kate!

If there is someone you would like us to talk to in our regular 'A day in the life' feature please email us at communications@reading.ac.uk.

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