Yearly Archives: 2017

Why you always wind up catching every bug around

Out of it in Oxford Street
Bugs are like buses – nothing for a long time, then five come along together

Cough, splutter – every bug around.

Seems you can’t help yourself.

And as soon as you’re over the first, the next one’s on the way.

Blame it on your hectic lifestyle.

Always on the go, no time to stop. Rushed meals, not enough sleep, too much happening at once.

Stress. Yes, that’s it.

Your body’s immune system is down  because of stress – and catching every bug is paying the price.

What a load of old tosh.

Germ reality check

Oh sure, you’re catching every bug. Because your body’s in a state the germs find easy to get in.

But not stressed.

More like undefended.

Those germs are coming at you all the time – just like they do for all of us – and you’re doing nothing to stop them.

Colds, flu, norovirus, UTI, e.coli – your list of absences reads like a calendar, every month of the year.

Yes, but if that was stress, you’d be out of circulation by now – permanently surrounded by a crowd of worried consultants in white coats.

In the meantime, you’re still catching every bug.

OK, let’s ask you a question.

You’re always one the move, with no time for yourself – can’t even remember breakfast it was so long ago, if you didn’t skip it altogether…  So when was the last time you properly washed your hands? The real thing with soap and hot water, having a good old scrub?

Can’t remember?

Come on in, door’s open

Not surprising.

Because chances are you’ve gone through the whole morning without any chance of getting to the washroom. And now you’re grabbing a quick salad wrap al desko, gulping down it quick so you’re ready for those heavyweight clients this afternoon.

And during all this time you’ve handled your keys, money, phone, the railings in the street, grab-handle on the bus and again in the Underground, lift button, door handle, security keypad and a whole stack of documents.

So inside or outside, whatever germs are on them, your hands have picked them up too.

And because ALL of us touch our face repeatedly throughout the day, those germs have easy continuous access through the soft tissue round your eyes, nose and mouth. Or are hitching a free ride down your throat with every mouthful of salad wrap.

Open doors, see. And without soap and water – or a wipe-down with antibacterial gel – you’re letting them in without checking their boarding pass. No permit, no visa, they’re on their way to create mayhem and you’re just letting them.

Which is why you’re always coming down with every bug around.

So it’s not stress, it’s forgotten hygiene.

Pushed out of the way by a busy lifestyle. And the illusion that most of the time your hands LOOK clean.

Deceptive though, because germs are so small, they’re invisible.  Microscopic. You could have 3 million on your little finger and never know. Very iffy when it only takes 10 to come down with norovirus.

Germ soup

It’s not just your hands either. It’s everything. We think we’re in clean, clear air – but reality is we’re constantly swimming around in a germ soup.

Take a look in a fish tank – one of those jobs with a light in the top, so you can see the fish.

See all that stuff in suspension? Algae. They’re microbes too. Like bacteria and viruses. Tiny particles catching the light – just floating there, not rising or sinking. Exactly like germs are in the air around us.

Which means they’re on your desk, your skin, your clothes and everything you touch. So even if you clean your hands, they’re instantly covered in germs again as soon as you touch anything that hasn’t also been cleaned.

Plus of course they’re always there in the air itself – germs floating and swirling around, just like in the fish tank.

Except just like most of us never clean our hands, we never clean the air either. And anyway, how do you take a scrubbing brush to a handful of nothing?

Scrubbing the air

So sitting in your office with your colleagues around you, all those germs, all those open doors – is it any wonder you catch every bug around?

They can be stopped though. Eliminated completely by sterilising the place every night  when everybody’s gone home. Easy-peasy with one of those ionised air-misting jobbies.

Oh sure, a whole lot more come in from outside when people arrive in the morning. But at least the pace is germ-free to start with. None on any surface, or in the air – the place is safe.

Now at least, you stand a fighting chance. Make hands clean as often as you can – and keep everything clean around you – germs get less of a look in.

No more days off sick.

Or more likely with colds and tummy twinges – because you can’t take time off so easily when you’re half-sick – sitting at your desk feeling like grim death.

But that’s not you any more. With no germs around, there’s no sick to feel.

So you’re up and running, full of the joys of spring. And every bug around is somewhere else.

And the very best of health to you!

Picture Copyright: deryaduzen / 123RF Stock Photo

How well does your staff wellness plan shape against this year’s killer Aussie flu?

Woman on phone against fire
Get on the hotline. There’s only incomplete defence against A/H3N2 – unless you clobber it first

Make no error, this year’s latest from Oz is a killer.

73 dead already and counting.

Which means don’t play games, get protection in place now, before the worst happens.

You’re prepared of course.

Ready with flu jabs for the whole staff. No exceptions.

If one goes down, they all go down – it’s that kind of killer.

Because it mutates, see? Like all viruses and bacteria, it evolves an immunity from generation to generation. Survival of the fittest – and most lethal.

Dodgy virus, dodgy defence

Doubly dangerous this year, because the vaccine is less effective than usual.

Always a dodgy issue because it’s a guessing game. Before any outbreak happens, top World Health Organization medics have to choose which formula to use against which way they think new virus strains will develop.

Like spin the bottle to stop an epidemic.

Most of the time, they get it sort of right.

But viruses are unpredictable anyway – often flying off at a tangent.

Which is what they’ve done this year. Mutating into a new – and for the moment unconquerable – strain.

Which is why influenza A/H3N2 is not to be trusted – despite being  tracked, mapped and closely documented  since first appearing in 1968.

Hear the warning bells?

You might have everybody lined up for a flu jab. But there’s no guarantee it’s going to work – or even half-work.

So what’s your Plan B?

Because, impressive though they may be – all those free gym memberships, medical consultations, diet advice sessions, stop smoking clinics, feng shui décor options and ergonomic work stations are not going to work against this proven killer.

Only full-on germ elimination will do that.

And yes, there’s germs aplenty in every office. It’s just that they’re so small, they’re totally invisible to us. So we kid ourselves we’re all clear.

Russian roulette

In reality, we’re playing Russian roulette.

Because we don’t see, we don’t notice. And most workplaces are crawling.

For instance:

Our personal hygiene is not much better:

A killer is coming – and we’re unconsciously sitting right in the firing line.

Standing up to A/H3N2 needs at least everyone to wash their hands before and after doing anything.  Not very practical, but doable with antiseptic wipes and gel placed ready on every desk.

Still it’s not enough.

Air: life-giving and deadly

All those surfaces are still contaminated – the nightly go with a vacuum cleaner and wipe-down with a damp rag is way inadequate. Plus the air itself is full of germs too.

We think of it as oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon dioxide – and yes, it is.

It’s also dust, smoke, oil and exhaust fumes, toxic emissions and germs too. A full house of them – colds, flu, norovirus, MRSA, e. coli, salmonella, TB, c. difficile and at least 1,800 other  viruses, bacteria and fungi .

Plus any day now, A/H3N2.

Our only defence apart from soap and water – the HEPA filters in our air-con system. If we have them. But they’re only good for particles down to 3 microns – and A/H3N2 is less than 2 microns.

Not good odds against a known and virulent killer.

Total elimination

Unless we take all germs  out completely. Sterilise the whole place – desks, walls, ceiling, floor, every item of furniture and objects around it – plus of course, the air itself.

So it’s germ-free, safe and secure when we step in each morning.

And there’s only one way to do that with any certainty. Mist up everything every evening with ionised hydrogen peroxide. All germs are oxidised to nothing – including A/H3N2.

What? You don’t have regular hydrogen peroxide treatment as part of your wellness plan?

Better move fast, before the coughs and splutters start.

You don’t want your plan to look like window dressing.

How to get staff working 13 months a year for the same money

Office sprinter
Ready and raring to go. When staff are well and healthy, productivity can go through the roof

13 months a year? There’s got to be a catch.

12 months is demanding enough – who would want to work 13?

Which of course, exactly IS the catch.

Because though they might be at work for a full 12 months, staff don’t actually deliver 12 months’ productivity.

They deliver 11.

Sure thing, you’re paying for 12. But 11 is what you get, even in the most motivated organisations.

And in reality, it’s closer 9. Which means a whole three months of input you’re losing out on.

Time lost to what HR people call presenteeism. Like absenteeism, only it happens in the workplace. Staff inability to do stuff because they’re feeling unwell. Right there at their desks, but out of it.

The cost of unwellness at work

A growing headache for businesses, presenteeism.

Absenteeism most bosses can understand. Staff feel ill, they take time off – easy enough to budget for.

6 days per staff member per year for the average organisation. All taken care of, unless they’re goofing off – except we’re not talking disciplinary issues here.

OK, so time off for being sick. Across the country, that’s an eye-watering cost of £29 billion a year according to a four-year-old survey by business gurus PwC. Inevitably way more than that now.

Totally dwarfed though, alongside presenteeism – a massive productivity loss of 10 times more. A monumental  cost to the country of £290 billion. That’s per Global Corporate Challenge (now Virgin Pulse), in a 2016 study validated against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Workplace Health and Productivity Questionnaire.

The Harvard Business Review agrees. So does America’s leading supplier of workplace wellness equipment.

57.5 days per year on average, lost to presenteeism – staff unwell at work and unable to perform at full capacity.

Fixing the problem

OK, roughly a third of this is difficult to do anything about.  It’s mechanical stuff, problems with bones and muscles – the back pain that refuses to go away, recurring cramps and spasms.

Stressed out staff are another issue, though execs might not like the implications. These are a further third who are depressed, fretting about performance or relationships at work, struggling with family issues and bereavements.

Not helped by UK bosses’ lousy management reputation  and even worse behaviour towards staff.

The final third is staff brought down by illness. Physical distress caused by infection – anything from minor ailments to life-threatening diseases. A major problem yes, but the one sector that management CAN do something about.

That’s because there’s one generic cause that can be pretty well eliminated from the workplace.

Germs.

It’s a fact of life that germs surround us all of the time. We’re even made of germs ourselves – 50% of our bodies are our own good bacteria handling digestion, creating proteins, managing our immune systems and plenty more.

The invisible threat

Germs are tiny, so we never see them.

But they’re everywhere – on every surface, filling the air. Everything we touch, everything we breathe is another exposure to potentially harmful viruses, bacteria and fungi determined to have a go at us.

Except we never see them, so we never think about them. Which explains why our own personal hygiene is a potentially serious risk:

Doesn’t look dirty, so doesn’t get attention.

Get rid of the germs

Staring us in the face, isn’t it?

Take away the germs and you take away office infections.

No more constant exposure and struggling to cope with a headache, tummy twinge or rasping cough every three days – which most of us suffer on average. Staff can focus on the job in hand, apply 100% of themselves, exert maximum productivity.

And all it takes is the touch of a button.

The one on the front panel of a Hypersteriliser mist generator.  That distributes germ-killing hydrogen peroxide in all directions and deep into cracks and crevices. That oxidises ALL germs to oblivion in around 40 minutes, so the whole place is sterile.

Lucky 13

And there’s your 13 months, right there. One third of your 57.5 days of presenteeism neutralised – a whole working month.

You’re paying for 12. And getting another one free, gratis, and for nothing, just by talking out germs.

Cashing in on bonuses too  – from the feelgood.

Staff feeling healthy and motivated. WANTING to go the extra mile – because their bodies tell them they can. Keen to show they’re the champions and better than anyone else. A bulge in your bank balance you never even knew could be there.

All invisibly caused of course, you can’t see germs when they’re dead either.

A complete productivity turnaround – and how it’s done is your secret.

Your lucky 13.

Picture Copyright: lightwave / 123RF Stock Photo

Breathe easy, Japanese fungus – candida auris – can be beaten

Yoga breathing
Relax, no fungus here – the air is germ-free and safe to breathe

That’s right, breathe.

Easy lungfuls, nice and deep.

That Japanese fungus can’t get you. Nor can any other viruses, bacteria or fungi.

Because there aren’t any.

They’ve all been oxidised by hydrogen peroxide mist. Ripped to shreds and annihilated. Not ever coming back.

Which is good news for all those hospitals having a problem with it.

No more new cases of candida auris, they can go back to normal.

Except of course for those patients already under treatment. A continuing problem with a fungus so persistently drug-resistant. Not so easy to fix once infection has taken hold.

But easy enough to PREVENT in the first place – just by pushing a button.

Deep cleans that don’t

Oh sure, there have been plenty deep cleans – they just seldom seem to be effective. Bleach, steam, ammonium quats – nothing wants to work.

That’s because 80% of affected areas haven’t been touched.

No, we’re not being critical, just addressing the reality.

All that rub and scrub – often with quite toxic chemicals. Phew the smell!

But that’s only applied to surfaces – floors, walls, furniture, drapery. The air itself is untouched – and that’s 80% of the room space. Waiting for someone to breathe.

And we’re talking fungus here, which means lots of spores.

AIRBORNE spores, floating around all over the place. Because that’s what spores do. It’s how fungi reproduce and spread – riding every little waft and draught, looking for new homes.

Like the skin of a hospital patient, or their bedclothes. Or getting breathed in, along with oxygen, dust  particles and other microbes. Or swallowed with food.

It’s what they do – small enough and light enough to dissipate everywhere. Yes, some of it settles and the deep clean gets it – but what about the stuff that doesn’t?

Down and dirty

And what about the fungus itself? Where it gathers and likes to breed?

Warmth and damp are what it likes – which immediately raises difficulties.

Cleaning down surfaces is easy enough, but what about those un-get-at-able places? Behind the drippy pipes and in the damp around sinks and basins? Or in the cracks between tiles, where even a good go with a toothbrush won’t reach?

Impossible to get to when your target is less than 2 microns across.

So that’s the air space – and all the cracks – that those totally thorough deep cleans have missed. No wonder so many hospitals are having a problem. And all of us at home too, a fungus isn’t picky.

Sayonara candida

OK, so press the button. Make the problem go away.

The one that says “Start” on the front panel of a Hypersteriliser machine.

After a delay to give yourself time to get clear, a super-fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide takes to the air, spreading in all directions.

Mist, right? So it fills the air, super-small particles of hydrogen peroxide lighter than any microbe. And ionised too. Made more potent by changing into a plasma – thousands of times more powerful with the release of other antimicrobials.

So it does two things.

Rush and grab

One, its electrostatically-charged particles actively seek to escape from each other, forcibly dispersing themselves away as far as they can get. Through the air and deep into cracks – less than 2 microns in width.

Two, that same electrostatic charge actively reaches out and grabs oppositely-charged microbes. Bacteria, viruses, fungi – they all get clamped in a death-grip and ripped apart by oxygen atoms.

Two seconds contact time is all it needs – but 40 minutes is the time usually set on the machine. More than enough to generate, disperse, locate and terminate everything in an average-sized room.

Safe, sterile and secure

Result, the place is sterile. Through the air, on every surface – under, behind and on top of every object.

No germs anywhere – INCLUDING candida auris.

Which is how come you can breathe easy.

No chance of any infection – not even coughs and sniffles.

That Japanese fungus is gone with our best ninja yell.

Hiya!

Picture Copyright: ammentorp / 123RF Stock Photo

Antibiotics Armageddon: as deadly as the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs – and already on the way

Dinosaur Armageddon
The end of the world as we know it? Except it won’t be quick and sudden – get ready for a long and painful slide

Better believe it, we’re going the way of the dinosaurs.

Billions of us wiped out.

Gone.

And it’s already happening.

Except in slo-mo, not in an exploding fireball instant.

Ten, twenty years and more. No rush. Not taken out in a split-second asteroid flash.

But shoving us towards extinction just as surely as the dinosaurs.

Pushed by antibiotics.

Killer wonder-drugs

Yes, the very same wonder-drugs we’ve come to rely on as life-savers. Miracle rescue medicines to save us from every infection – so universally prescribed, we chomp them like sweets.

Yet even now doctors are worried these drugs are being overwhelmed by antimicrobial resistance. Mutating bacteria, immune to anything we throw at them.

Increasingly, our miracle antibiotics don’t work. And the day is fast approaching when none of them will.

Devastating, yes. But that’s not the direction the fireball is coming from.

And we cannot escape because it’s in every mouthful of the food we eat – every swallow of the liquids we drink.

No, not from any deadly bacteria – even though our defence is weakening against them.

It’s our own bacteria-killers that are doing the job. The ones the bugs are immune to. Those very same antibiotics that are supposed to protect us.

All you can eat and more

You see, antibiotics aren’t just prescribed as medicines. Beyond miracle germ killers, they’re miracle growth boosters too. Administered to animals and plants to make them, grow bigger, fatter, faster. 240,000 tons of them shovelled in every year.

And that’s where the Armageddon comes in. Accelerated by our own dinosaur thinking.

And our own numbers.

Since antibiotics were first started as growth boosters, the world’s population has multiplied three times over. From 2½ billion in the 1950s to 7½ billion today.

And without antibiotics to boost growth for food production, we wouldn’t be able to exist.

There’s antibiotics in feedstuff for beef cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry, fish – you name it. And they’re fed to plants to improve yield – cereals, grain crops, fruit and vegetables. Either directly as injections or additives. Or indirectly, from the manure of the animals fed antibiotics in the first place.

Which means antibiotics are in the soil too, leached in from the manure – down into the water table and out into our streams and rivers. Turn on your tap for a glass of water  and there’s traces of antibiotics right there.

Big, like the dinosaurs we are becoming

Result, every mouthful, every swallow, we  are ingesting more of the most efficient growth booster the world has ever known. And like the animals, we too grow bigger, fatter, faster. Not helped by too little exercise, a couch potato lifestyle and an increasing appetite for more and more food.

Look around and the proof is everywhere. Two thirds of adults are already overweight or obese – and one third of our kids. And we’re going to keep getting bigger – with everything that obesity brings: diabetes, cancer, heart disease – unless we get off antibiotics.

OK, but that means getting the animals off too. Which we can’t do because modern intensive farming systems are so intensified that regular antibiotics are necessary just to keep them alive.

Which itself is a Catch 22 – because just as antibiotics stop working against germs in humans, they stop working against germs in animals too. Like us, they are no longer protected.

But they have to be fed antibiotics anyway or they won’t grow fast enough and big enough to sustain the food supply.

Back to the Dark Ages

So we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Both us and the animals.

The antibiotics don’t kill germs anymore, so we’re more at risk than ever. And the animals we eat are at risk too. Less and less of them are going to survive, which means less and less for us to eat.

Like it or not, we’re going back to how it was before antibiotics ever existed.

Which means no growth boosters in the food chain – and only enough animals to support 2½ billion people.

Uh huh. A shortfall of 5 billion.

So if we don’t succumb to the slow onset of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and all the other dangers of serious obesity, we’re going to go hungry.

5 billion people wiped out at a stroke. Just like the dinosaurs. And every bit as devastating as our poor Earth getting hit by a 1 kilometre sized piece of rock out of the blue.

Oops.

Picture Copyright: elenaphotos21 / 123RF Stock Photo

Would you risk your whole company for a few days of sick leave?

Worried Manager
It’s not having no staff you have to worry about, it’s having no company at all

Sick leave is sick leave, right?

People taking chances, skiving days off. Like, unless they’re in hospital, it’s all stitch up, yeah?

Productivity down the tubes because somebody has a sore toe.

Not an issue, except for staff discipline.

Show them you’re soft and they’ll take you for everything. All it needs is a little tightening up.

As if.

Beyond sick leave

Yes, sick leave is an issue. But small in the great scheme of things. A blip alongside the multi-million pound deals where the real action is.

Small, huh?

Try microscopic.

The size that germs are when they take you down. You, or any of your staff – we’re all human. When infection strikes, we’re all of us out of commission – real pain, real fever, real life threat if it gets out of hand.

Which is why sick leave.

Time out to get better. Quarantine to avoid taking other staff down too.

Side issue, yes – except it’s human assets that are at hazard. Productive only when the body is working well. Dodgy, dead risky, or downright dangerous when not 100%.

Yes, so somebody slopes off a day extra after a cold or flu. A small price against having the whole office out with the same thing. No hands when they’re most needed, so things start looking iffy.

“Nice take on this!” – Washington Post

Or riskier still, how about they DON’T take time off? Or not all the time they’re supposed to. So they’re working at half power, unwell at work, dragging everybody down with them. Screwing up left, right and centre because their minds are wet putty.

Paying that never stops

Costa Brava con job? Get ready for Costa Plenty.

Like how about the airline captain who lifts off for a long-haul flight with tummy cramps? £500 million worth of Airbus A380, 360 passengers – and lawyers lined up to infinity and beyond if anything goes wrong.

And if the worst happens, who’s going to fly with that airline ever again? What happens to their licence?  Is there any way back from such negative PR?

Can’t happen in your business?

Hey, when sick leave issues go pear-shaped, nobody is immune.

Like Mex-food restaurant chain, Chipotle. Staff recalled from sick leave early – still contagious. 133 customers down with food poisoning, share price drops 12%. And this on top off previous health incidents – only a bumpy ride back.

You see, sick leave itself is easy. Expensive, yes – business gurus PwC put yearly UK sick leave costs at £29 billion.

The hard part is the knock-ons. An average ten times normal sick leave cost for regular Tom, Dick and Harriets who struggle back to their desks as martyrs – an eye-watering £290 billion.

Damage control

And then there’s the damage control. What do those sick staff do when they’re not functioning and out of their heads, basically sitting there trying to stay alive? What can they cost with their mistakes and falling around? Double their salary? Triple? Check out the hairy possible Germonomics.

The mind boggles.

All of which says, don’t catch a cold. Treat sick leave seriously. Over-indulge if you have to. A few extra days off is chicken-feed alongside crashing the whole company.

Besides, what better motivation can you have for staff? You show you care and you’re thinking about them. Your ace in the hole. They might not volunteer the extra mile – but they’re sure to be OK with giving it, if you ask.

Which means profits are safe, staff are safe, everybody’s happy.

Can’t do better than that.

Picture Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

First UNEQUAL pay, now TOO MUCH sick leave – how misreading women makes business losses snowball

Unfair to women
Being sick at work is bad enough, no wonder women are sick of the attitude

Women are right to be furious. Because what is British business becoming, a misogynists’ bean-feast?

Hard on the scandal of unequal pay for women come fingers pointing at disproportionate sick leave.

“An additional 2.8 million days of absenteeism more than men in the past three months alone, ” according to a report. 19.8 million days lost, versus  17 million.

How shocking. How disgraceful.

Unequal everything

You can feel the prejudices kicking in, can’t you?

All those clichés about headaches, period pains and emotional upsets. Easy to misread when your own most regular health distress is likely to be a hangover.

Oh sure, some issues are serious.

A gastric attack like norovirus is no joke. Neither is flu, especially the H1N1 variety – hovering at the edge of pneumonia and just waiting to do you in.

Yeah, men can suffer these too. But never any of the other anguish that comes from being a woman.

Which puts management understanding of women’s wellbeing about on a par with that hangover. A minor issue to be suffered in silence against the unbreakable discipline of being at one’s desk.

Uh huh.

And does management ever consider the QUALITY of such work with a pounding head or churning stomach? How good that might be for business?

Multiply that hangover several times over for period pain – especially if accompanied by dysmenorrhoea, the days of spasms experienced by many women on both sides of it.

Boiled knitting syndrome

Now try to give full attention to that sales meeting. Or input that critical figure with the decimal point in the right place. Or respond to that crucial client request so easily glossed over in a telephone call.

Just a few hours being unwell at one’s desk can cost thousands. Far more than the salary days lost staying at home in bed. A whole million pound contract and more – down the tubes with a phone call, a missing staple, a misstyped computer key.

So what kind of a manager allows a staff member to influence business when they’re not capable? As long as everybody’s at their desk, who’s going to notice that productivity’s gone for a ball of chalk?

Sod’s Law, isn’t it? Everything drags its heels. Processing gets continually stuck in the works. A job that should take five days takes ten. The wheels keep coming off.

And all because they’re women. Look, that one there, holding her head.

Sure, she has a string of degrees as long as your arm, passed out top of her class at business school – but what kind of asset can ANYBODY  be when their brain is like boiled knitting?

Take off – it’s better for business

So OK, women have to take off more days than men.

Let them do it. Insist on it.

Because yes, it’s scary that absenteeism costs the country £29 billion a year.

What’s even scarier is that the cost of presenteeism – being unwell at work – is TEN TIMES HIGHER. As you can work out for yourself in your own business, here.

You see, though the bean counter’s perspective is that staff assets are supposed to perform according to their salary package 100% of the time – reality is that they’re off-colour for 25% of it, experiencing pain or nagging discomfort roughly every three days.

And that’s men as well as women. Except men tough it out more often – increasing the opportunity for mistakes and oversights. Women know better.

Which makes paying for sick leave the easy bit.

Nobody imagines picking up the tab for a string of omissions, errors or misdeals. But that’s what most businesses do, every day of the year. Written off as inevitable – when it’s unthinking management that is really to blame.

Pilots and bus drivers aren’t allowed to fly or drive drunk. But that’s what staff do when they try to function while ill at work. And management encourage it instead of sending them home.

Paying for mistakes, how smart is that?

OK, so the business may not crash and burn like a 747. But unaware and unseen, profitability takes a hit out of all proportion to the perceived economy of insisting staff are all at work all the time.

Especially with women.

Naturally more caring and sympathetic than men – more customer responsive and sensitive to needs. Biologically built that way.

And management wants to pay them less?

AND penalise them for days off because of who they are?

Like we said, a misogynists’ bean-feast.

Lets hope for sake of all of us that more women get through that glass ceiling soon.

Penny-pinching bosses incur massive losses with hard-line back-to-work rules

Businessman facing loss
Invisible money-drain: penny-pinching on staff health protection can cost a fortune

That old advice, penny wise, pound foolish, never felt truer.

Sick or not, most managers aren’t happy unless all workers are full-time at their desks, getting on with the job.

Most staff know this. So despite being sick, do their damnedest to get back to work ASAP. There might not be a job if they don’t.

Which means staying at home two days instead of three. Getting back to work only half-recovered. And stressing about under-performance once they’re back.

The downside of penny-pinching

Hold that thought – under-performance.

About what happens when ANYONE is unwell at work.

Impaired competence. Not up to the mark. Not really doing their job properly.

Unsurprising really. How well CAN you perform when your guts are on fire, your head pounds like a pile-driver  and your thoughts are all over the place?

Uh huh.

And the boss is happy to pay for this deficiency?

That jobs take longer, important issues get missed and key clients feel neglected?

Has the price tag ever been calculated?

OK, according to CIPD figures, the average employee costs £522 per year in sick leave.  Six days out of circulation at around £87 a day.  Or as business experts PwC calculate it, an all-up cost to the country of £29 billion a year.

Not chicken-feed, so the average boss tries everything to avoid it.

Usually with stick, not carrot. Psychological mind games and bullying. The emotional blackmail of letting colleagues down.  Real or imagined threats to job security.

Yeah right, a saving of £87 per person, per day.

£174 if pressured into coming back two days early instead of one. Big deal.

False economy

Meanwhile, as businesses are beginning to find, being unwell at work costs 10 times more than being booked off sick.

Save £87 – and lose £870. Penny-pinching gone mad.

And that’s just for starters.

Coming back early, those staffers could be contagious. Bringing back germs to infect others. A domino effect going round the office. More sick days, more expense – and more under-performance for everyone coming back early.

Make that under-performance, de luxe.

Because how motivated is anyone pressured into being at work when it’s a challenge just to be there? How committed? How prepared to go the extra mile?

Which is where the price tag gets scary – applied “germonomics”.

Over and above the cost of being booked off sick – how does it work, being unwell at your desk?

What’s the cost of opportunities not followed up? Orders mislaid or lost? Delay penalties on late finishing work? Cost overruns from lack of supervision? Loss of goodwill? Or the cost of extra time and temp staff hired to meet deadlines?

Kinda makes nonsense out of strong-arming staff back to work, doesn’t it?

Or paying them an incentive to do so. Good money after bad.

And how about the fact that a lot of the time, it’s not being unwell that’s the issue? How about that most of us FREQUENTLY feel off colour and not completely ourselves? That somehow we feel pain or physical discomfort around every three days?

Invisible costs

No wonder that under-performance is as expensive as it is.

Expensive and invisible. Often as much as a whole year’s salary per staff member eaten up in unnecessary overheads – a double salary bill.

Mistakenly accepted as things taking longer than expected, unforeseen setbacks and problems with productivity. All hazily explained away as a “cost of doing business”.

Yet how many bosses ever do anything to prevent it?

Not with bribes or misplaced back-to-work incentives, but a real investment in protecting staff health?

Because it can be done. Actively protecting staff health so they don’t get ill in the first place. At least, not in their working area.

All it takes is regular treatment to eradicate germs. Make the place sterile once a week, or even daily. No germs, people can’t get sick. All that money rescued.

Adding it to normal cleaning procedures will do it. A few hundred quid extra to mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide – to oxidise all viruses and bacteria and be totally germ-free.

Not penny-pinching, but pound-grabbing.

Visible dividends

And a lot extra besides.

How much better will staff feel, knowing that THEIR interests are at heart, that THEIR health is deliberately protected?

How about commitment now? Staff loyalty? Capability and performance? Going the extra mile? Productivity and efficiency? Or the company bank balance?

The costs might be invisible, but the dividends aren’t.

A lot better than penny-pinching, surely.

Picture Copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

Antibiotics: we got them wrong like Fleming said – and now we’ve totally blown it

Doc with bugs
All this worrying with antibiotics resistance neglects the even bigger killer of obesity

Miracle lifesavers, antibiotics. But like Fleming predicted back in the 50s, a double-edged sword.

Because yes, antibiotics did what that they said on the tin – kill bacteria. Except they bounced back if you didn’t kill enough of them.

A bit like bombing an ants’ nest, which all the pest control guys can tell you about. Make sure you get ALL the ants – because if there’s any survivors, they’ll be back.

Not only that, they’ll be uglier and tougher – better able to withstand the next bomb you chuck them. Tougher resistance, a new strength to breed into all future generations.

Exactly like bacteria – which develop antimicrobial resistance if not clobbered hard enough. Mutating to a new superbug that antibiotics can’t kill.

And because bacteria can interact with each other, passing on their immunity to other bacteria types. Antibiotic resistance out of nowhere, even though never exposed to them.

Wrong and wronger

All of which is now rubbished by new research just published in the British Medical Journal – that antibiotics should be used sparingly – until the patient is better and not necessarily until the fully prescribed course runs out.

Yeah, right.

Like swallowing only one paracetamol capsule for that thumping headache instead of two – so there’s more left when it’s needed. How does that work?

Frankly if there’s bacteria giving you grief and you’re at death’s door, common sense says keep going to make sure you get rid of all of them. No pussy-footing round with half-measures that let your symptoms recur.

Exactly like if you’re painting a floor, you buy enough to cover the whole thing – not just a small tin that does half of it.

Yeah, but – the research boffins are going to say. There’s no evidence to suggest that under-dosing  causes antibiotic resistance.

Sure guys, whatever.

Growth boosters

But there’s a MONUMENTAL stack of evidence that under-dosing DOES boost body growth. Fleming and his team came across that from the get-go. A phenomenon that farmers have been relying on for the last 50 years – to produce enough food to support the nearly THREE TIMES population explosion the world has had since.

OK, good – so there’s enough food. Achieved by making animals grow bigger, faster.

But now the tail’s wagging the dog.

Because the boffins haven’t twigged it yet, but it’s staring us in the face.

With antibiotics already being gobbled up by animals, that means there’s antibiotics in everything we eat. Not big doses, meant to kill bacteria. But little drip-drip doses, deliberately used to make bodies grow fatter.

In other words, ours. Because – surprise, surprise – we’re animals too.

So behold the “overfat” girls of the UK and the US – the fattest in the world.

Better include Australia, Canada and all of Western Europe too – it’s become an epidemic. Because fact: two thirds of British adults are already seriously overweight or obese – and so are one third of our kids.

Uh huh, the writing’s on the wall, so listen up BMJ readers  – antibiotics cause obesity.

Obesity epidemic

It starts with childhood, where the first antibiotics we get trigger infant obesity.  Followed up by steady antibiotics throughout adolescence, so that by the time a teenager reaches 20, they’ve been exposed to antibiotics at least SEVENTEEN TIMES.

And all the time we’re all getting drip-drip under-doses of antibiotics every day. In the meat we eat. In the vegetables grown with manure from the same animals, or in soil enriched from the same source. They’re even in our water supply, leached in through the soil to our streams and rivers.

Right now the medics are worried about antibiotic resistance and that 700,000 people will die.

But obesity leads to… Fleming would turn in his grave.

Take your pick from asthma, diabetes, limb amputation, heart disease or cancer – a long, slow death for 30 MILLION people – almost half the population of UK.

30 MILLION people – how wrong do you want to get?

And it’s not going to stop, because antibiotics are essential to sustain food production for the 7½ billion people that inhabit the planet today. Pull the plug, and food levels go back to the 1950s and 5 BILLION people will die.

Like we said, how wrong do you want to get?

Not short-term lifesavers, but long-term killers.

Fleming was right, we’d get antibiotic resistance.

Except that’s not the problem any more. It’s the obesity epidemic.

But instead of searching round for an ALTERNATIVE, like bacteriophages – all our top medics blame SUGAR and look the other way.

Any excuse to avoid reality, hey?

Sick on holiday: fake claim or genuine, why it’s usually your fault

Fake travel sickness
Yes, we can be unlucky – but with food poisoning we’re most of us red-handed

Fake claims are in the news lately.

Food poisoning, mostly.

Massive demands that backfire as travel firms put up a fight. Big penalties too.

£25K for a woman in Wales.

An upcoming dispute already topping £52K for a family in Liverpool.

Not the holiday bonanza anyone was hoping for. And bad for all of us, fake claims like these are on the rise.

Yeah well, with in-your-face “ambulance-chasers” tempting us to make get-rich-quick claims right there on our sun-loungers, we ought to expect hotels and travel companies to play hardball.

Sure, being ill on holiday is the pits and feels like the end of the world. But if it’s really genuine and LOOKS LIKE IT, as long as we get medical help and advise our accommodation people immediately, there should be no problem.

Fake claim, false blame

It is after all, not easy to fake high temperature, body sweats, continuous vomiting and diarrhoea.

That said though, there’s still the awkward reality that it’s most likely our own fault.

Why?

Because food poisoning is basically all about contamination. We ingest germs with whatever we eat, our bodies react, we get sick.

And our own hands – which go everywhere and do everything – are the most contaminated of all.

Not that we want to accept that.

When food poisoning strikes, we usually blame (or our solicitors do):

  • Kitchen staff not washing THEIR hands in preparing food
  • Dirty kitchen utensils
  • Mix-ups of raw and cooked meat
  • Food prepared in a dirty environment
  • Hazardous chemicals (like cleaning agents) contaminating food
Hygiene from hell

But we’re not so goody-goody ourselves. Even when we’re at home, our hygiene record is scary.

On holiday, it’s even worse.

Because, think about it – we’re out and about, doing stuff. Who wants to stop and wash hands?

On the go all the time, we’re trying to maximise our experience. In a few days, we’ll have to fly home again.

So we’re up at sparrow’s tweet and never let up. Rushing here, cruising there – no chance to even think of washing hands. And often with nowhere to do so, even if we wanted to.

Uh huh.

So whatever it is, lunch or dinner, there’s often a whole day in front of sitting down at table. And our hands have touched everything imaginable on the way.

Down the hatch – oooh!

And guess what?

Few of us are in the 12% of hand washers, so we just sit there and scoff.

And because it’s holiday, odds are likely that we’re eating straight with our hands.

Burgers, pizza, wraps, sandwiches, fish and chips, kebabs, ice creams – they’re all feelgood holiday favourites we can’t get enough of.

So it’s down the hatch and licking our fingers, with nary a thought about clean anything – unless our hands are VISIBLY dirty. Fake confidence.

Four hours later – ooh, I don’t feel so good.

Now whatever it is kicks in and ruins the holiday.

Norovirus, salmonella, campylobacter, e.coli, c.difficile – they all give us the runs and have us spewing our guts out.

But don’t worry. That nice man at the poolside said just get a chemist’s receipt for Imodium and you can claim it all back – EasyJet, care hire, the hotel, everything.

Reputation management

Yeah, right.

One finger pointing, three others pointing back.

For a hotel or restaurant to fall down on hygiene is bad news – even in darkest Peru.

There’s reputation at stake, a licence to lose, a whole livelihood to go down the tubes.

Which means sure, slip-ups happen. But they’re not the norm.

Unless we’ve lucked onto a place teeming with cockroaches and unlikely to pass ANY inspection short of a shutdown, it’s usually our own fault.

Which is dumb when you think about it, because it’s the easiest thing in the world to carry antibacterial wipes or gel. In our handbag or pocket, it goes where we go – our hands can always be safe from germs.

Plus before  we start pointing fingers, most food places are pretty strict about their own standards of hygiene. Tourists bring money, so you can bet everything that can be cleaned will be. Wiped down with bleach, swept, polished and vacuumed within an inch of its life.

In some places, even clobbered with hydrogen peroxide mist to take out ALL the germs. No chance we can fake our way out of that.

Walk in there and the whole place is sterilised. Any hint of food poisoning and they’d probably string us up.

OK, we’re getting itchy feet. Already packed for next week. Passports and boarding passes at the ready.

Got the hand wipes and the gel?

No need to fake anything, just have a good time.