Got to be fraud, right? £319bn a year for ghost staff?
Highway robbery for sure.
But hang on.
Believe it or not, your organisation is already paying it, just like everybody else.
More inescapable than taxes.
Invisible too. You won’t see it in your books.
But you’re paying alright. And no, it’s not fraud.
Just the reality of productivity lost from staff being unwell.
We’re kidding, right? No way it can be that high.
Better sit down, this might come as a shock.
First off, business experts PwC put the cost of annual absenteeism at £29 billion a year.
That’s people off sick and out of action. Either with musculoskeletal problems – usually back and injury problems, or stress – emotional and mental issues, or infections caused by germs – anything from a heavy cold to full-blown life-threatening illnesses.
A lot of money. But the mind-boggling figure is the cost of presenteeism – calculated in a GCC report (now Virgin Pulse) at 10 times the cost of absenteeism – a monumental £290 billion.
To put that in perspective, that’s the cost of team members coming in to work unwell. Workaholics who can’t stay away, heroes not wanting to let colleagues down, people worried about job security, or any one of a thousand different reasons.
Thing is though, they might be at their desks, but what quality of work are they capable of?
We’ve all been there. How easy is to focus when your head is pounding or you keep running to the loo? You know you should be in bed, but you stagger in anyway, often doing yourself and the business more harm than good.
It gets worse.
According to the CIPD, most absentees are away for 6 days – at an average cost of £522 per team member.
But presenteeism for staff unwell at work averages out at 57.5 days per team member – almost 3 working months, at a cost of £5,220.
Actually, it’s usually more than that. Way more – easily running into thousands.
Because people unwell at work make mistakes, miss deadlines because they can’t concentrate, get ratty with customers and colleagues at the risk of losing sales, and generally fumble around like rookies, far from the slick professionals you originally hired.
Keep in mind too, that feeling off at work is seldom in continuous stretches. More likely in sporadic bursts – a day here, 2 days there, intermittent throughout the year. On average working out to some kind of “off-colour” experience every 3 days.
Ghosts in the machine
Put absenteeism and presenteeism together and you get the £319 billion we were jumping up and down about earlier. So where do we come with our mumbo-jumbo about ghost staff?
Look at it this way.
Your whole team were hired on 12 month salaries, but presenteeism cuts their productivity down to 9 months effectively. You read that right. You’re paying for 12 months, but you’re only getting 9. For every member of your team, yourself included, that’s 3 dead months you’re bankrolling.
Which means for every 3 team members working 9 months, there’s the equivalent of a 4th that you’re paying for over the same 9 months. Only this person doesn’t exist – not on the payroll, not anywhere. Not doing any work either.
OK, so working off the CIPD’s figures, if one person costs you £5,220 over 3 months, in the 9 months that they actually DO work, you’re stumping up £15,660. That’s how much productivity your money buys – on 20 days a working month, that’s 180 days worth in a year, not the 240 you actually thought you were getting.
Uh, huh. So THREE team members working 9 months is £46,980 – that’s the productivity you’re getting. But you’re actually paying for TWELVE months, which is £62,640, you sign the cheques yourself.
The other £15,660 goes to your not-so-friendly ghost . Productivity lost – all written off in your salaries account.
Well what else can you call it? A cost of doing business? Do us a favour!
If you knew up front you were only getting 9 months worth of productivity for every 12 you paid for, you wouldn’t have done the deal, would you? After all, you weren’t born yesterday. And what kind of a business person repeatedly closes deals for ONE THIRD more than they need to be?
Yet that’s what ALL businesses pay.
Because ask yourself, how many British businesses have plans to PREVENT staff becoming unwell?
Oh, there’s plenty with health promotion programmes and keep fit classes. With stop smoking and lose weight packages too.
But few if any to actually STOP PEOPLE GETTING SICK. To push hygiene as best practice, eliminate germs or protect staff from hazardous exposure.
Sure, well you can’t see germs – they’re out of sight, out of mind.
So it never crops up on the radar that your team could be at risk in an ordinary work environment on an ordinary working day. Which is how come the figures for being unwell at work are as horrendous as they are.
What sort of insurance company would give you cover if they realised that:
- 62% of men and 40% of women NEVER wash their hands after going to the toilet?
- 95% of people don’t even wash their hands properly?
- Only 12% of people wash their hands before eating?
Or that in most business work environments:.
- The average desk has over 10 million unseen bacteria – 400 times more than a toilet?
- A typical keyboard may have 7,500 organisms hiding on it?
- Only one in five of us ever cleans our desk before eating?
- At least two in three of us always eat lunch there?
Which suggests that the average workplace is in reality a serious health disaster waiting to happen. Trying to get cover would be basically fraud.
But even fraud never gets this calamitous. According to the CIPD, quoting the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies, the annual cost of fraud in the UK is £193 billion per year.
Stack that up against the £319 billion in lost productivity through unnecessary illness – and it’s more than 1½ times as much again.
You’d better believe it.
Which sort of suggests something about duty of care and prevailing business acumen, doesn’t it?
Except don’t beat yourself up about it. We’re all of us unaware of these issues – A) because we can’t see germs and B) because the cost is invisible anyway, all wrapped up and paid for in everybody’s salary package.
Yet for only a few hundred a month – probably less than you’re already paying for nightly cleaning – it’s possible to eliminate ALL germs completely.
Well at least as completely as 99.9999% – just 1 microorganism in a million. No viruses, no bacteria, no fungi – to a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level. As sterile or better than most hospital operating theatres.
How’s it done?
Get rid of the germs, get rid of the ghosts
As simply as misting the place up with germ-killing hydrogen peroxide after everybody’s gone home.
The stuff reaches everywhere, grabs germs and oxidises them to nothing – 40 minutes and everything is sterile. No germs to catch, no illnesses to suffer, no productivity to lose, you’re back in the money.
Not completely of course, there’s still the downside of musculoskeletal problems and stress to account for. Though if you’re a hot manager and show real care for your team, most of any stress issues can be minimised to niggles, so you’re still ahead of the game.
Especially since you don’t believe in ghosts – or ghost staff for that matter.