'It's more than just cleaning floors,' says Morning Edition's newest Employee of the Week

Richard Li has been cleaning the floors at Regina General Hospital for more than a decade. The 58-year-old is the Morning Edition's newest employee of the week.

Cleaner at Regina General Hospital preaches power of positivity

Richard Li says a big smile means he is approachable to people who may need help navigating the halls at Regina General Hospital. (Nichole Huck CBC )

"It's not just a dead-end job. You've got to go beyond. It's more than just cleaning the floors."

Richard Li gets emotional when he talks about his job. 

"Oh, I love my job. It's not just [the] challenge of the job itself; I have a chance to interact with people," said the 58-year-old, who has been cleaning the floors of the Regina General Hospital for more than a decade.

'I admire Richard'

During that time he's polished his way into the hearts of many of his co-workers. 

It's not just a dead-end job. You've got to go beyond. It's more than just cleaning the floors.- Richard Li 

"I admire Richard and how he impacts everybody," said Selena Hamilton, Li's boss and supervisor with environmental services.

Hamilton admits environmental services is often forgotten in the health-care field because it's more of a behind-the-scenes job. That's why she said it was remarkable when Li and his former co-worker, Yemane Emaha, were recognized by the former CEO in his farewell speech.

Hamilton said Li's positive attitude is contagious.

"If I'm feeling sick and Richard teases me and makes me laugh, then I go down the ward and do the same thing."

Li compares the floor cleaning machine he drives to sitting on a huge neon sign. "The noise, the attention, all eyes on you."

Li moved to Canada from Hong Kong 30 years ago. Before working at the hospital he honed his customer service skills at various other jobs. 

"First off, you have to have a smile on your face — make them feel like you are a person who is approachable," said Li, who is often approached by people who are in need of help navigating the busy hallways. 

Li said he'll often hop off his cleaning machine and escort someone to their appointment.

"I never abandon them."

Power of positivity

Li is keenly aware that a hospital is a very stressful place. People are often dealing with emergencies, and many of the people he passes in the halls are either sick or worrying about sick family members or loved ones. 

Li offers some advice for dealing with a stressful work environment: "When you are under stress, smile, laugh, think about something dumb. Then you'll find yourself mellowed out."

If everyone of us can do three or four good deeds in a day that is easily over ten thousand good deeds, right?- Richard Li 

There are nearly 3,500 people who work at the Regina General Hospital and Li says it's an opportunity to make a massive difference.

"If every one of us can do three or four good deeds in a day, that is easily over ten thousand good deeds, right?"

Above and beyond

Li said that he tries to do a few good deeds everyday, from something as small as opening the door for someone pushing equipment to providing support to people with sick family members.

He recalled a time when he and his former partner, Emaha, came across a father crying outside his son's operating room. The duo stayed with the man, bought him a drink from the vending machine and reassured him that everything would be OK.

When they went back to work, they gave him their number so he could call them if he needed anything else. 

Yemane Emaha worked with Li for nearly nine years. "When people come in, we give them big smiles. People they are happy, they say, 'You guys make my day.' " (Nichole Huck CBC )

The hunt for the next Morning Edition Employee of the Week

Richard Li is The Morning Edition's newest employee of the week, as nominated by one of his colleagues. If you know someone who goes above and beyond at their job and deserves to be recognized, you can nominate them. 
Email morningedition@cbc.ca or call 1-800-661-7540. 

About the Author

Nichole Huck


Nichole has three children under the age of eight. This series is an attempt to share some of the wisdom she has gleaned from other parents as she navigates the "beautiful mess" of parenthood. If you have feedback or suggestions for topics you'd like to see e-mail: nichole.huck@cbc.ca