Category Archives: Hygiene Focus

How all British businesses pay £319 billion a year for ghost staff

Accountant eyeing money
Better call Ghost Busters! £319 billion – on staff you never see and don’t even exist

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.

Shock, horror

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.

Loose cannons

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!

Exorcising ghosts

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.

Productivity risks

What sort of insurance company would give you cover if they realised that:

Or that in most business work environments:.

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.

Unnecessary losses

Unnecessary?

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.

Productivity: why you’re not getting your money’s worth (Part 1)

Rich exec
With everyone at full strength for 100% of the time, you’re laughing all the way to the bank

Always a worry isn’t it? You think you’re getting your money’s worth – but there are doubts.

Especially with productivity.

Why does everything have to be so difficult? Why does it take so long? Doesn’t anyone care what they’re doing?

And you can’t blame your team, or even think of it.

You hired them. They’re all professionals. Carefully motivated and they love working for you.

So is it Murphy’s Law that so many things go pear-shaped?

Don’t beat yourself up about it.

You’re a victim of presenteeism. Team members coming to work unwell.

Invisible black hole

A lot of businesses – mainly old school – reckon that’s a good thing. Everybody at their desks, you’re up to full strength. Optimum efficiency.

If only.

Because just think about the implications of being unwell at work. You’ve been there yourself, so you know what it’s like. How do you cope?

The short answer is, you don’t.

Yes, you can tough it out and put in the hours. But the lousy way you feel means the spark isn’t there.

It might be the most involving and satisfying job in the world – but you haven’t got the sharp edge. Performance is down and you know it. You might be the most brilliant MBA ever hired, but right now you’d struggle through Key Stage One SATS.

Which is what being unwell does.

The sweats, the swimmy head, the roiling guts, the wanting to throw up all the time.

It might be flu, food poisoning, meningitis, or whatever. Basically you’ve been exposed to germs  – and your productivity is down the tubes.

All very commendable, coming in to work, from a commitment point of view. The martyr fighting off demons, defiantly standing by your post.

Until you consider the cost.

Start counting

You’re an MBA, right? Or some equally commendable professional. With a salary north of £50K. An imbursement spread over 12 months a year and probably worth every penny.

But right now you don’t have MBA capabilities, do you? Or anywhere close.

You’re closer to flying your desk as a Key Stage One SATS, and not a very happy one at that.

Which means how good is the work you’re doing? How accurate? How professional?

Without meaning to, you could be doing a lot of damage. And because you’re a trusted high-level performer, any glitches you cause might not be picked up for months.

That’s not doing the business any favours – or yourself, come to that.

You should be resting up, at home in bed, or in hospital. Somewhere safe where you can shake it off and avoid infecting any of your colleagues. But sure, you’ve already used up your leave allocation – so here you are, hanging in there and pretending everything is normal.

And right there is why presenteeism is such a major liability – 10 times the cost of absenteeism , if not more. And according to at least one business study, most of us are like that 57.5 days a year – almost 3 working months.

Down the tubes

Which on your MBA package – and through no fault of your own – is £12.5K’s worth of productivity you’re NOT providing.

In reality you’re only worth £37.5K. But the business is committed to paying £50K – so what happens to the difference?

Only one answer – the business absorbs the cost. Your salary is £50K plus and that’s a given overhead – cast in bronze until the next wage review.

Nor is that the only way the business is out of pocket.

What about the value of all the work you do with your Key Stage One SATS capability?

Way below par, the business has to kick in to compensate. At best for sub-standard work – at worst for all the mistakes, oversights and omissions  you make, without ever meaning to.

OK, so now it’s magic wand time.

What if you never became unwell in the first place? If something stopped you from becoming sick? Some kind of prevention – to protect you and all your fellow team members.

Abracadabra

Suddenly that £12.5K isn’t money down the drain any more.

Instead of turbo-charging through 9 nine months and then spluttering through 3 – you’re on after-burners for the full year. Up and going for it with the bit between your teeth, seriously delivering your money’s worth.

So are your colleagues – because they’re human, they have the same 57.5 day handicap you do. But with no germs to catch and so no illness to feel, they’re delivering 12 months too.

Which means if there’s 10 of them on your team, that’s £125K worth of productivity suddenly laid on the line – the equivalent of another 2¼ of you. Not exactly peanuts!

So how’s it done, socking it to presenteeism – getting rid of all the germs so the problem goes away?

A lot easier than you think.

Washing your hands of it

By upping business hygiene levels and keeping them there.

We can’t see germs, so most of the time we don’t even think that they’re there. Plus, we associate germs with dirt – and if things don’t LOOK dirty, it never occurs to us that they’re there either.

Which why we should never judge by appearances.

Germs are always everywhere. We are constantly exposed to them – viruses, bacteria, fungi.

We’re  even half-bacteria ourselves. The good bacteria that colonise our bodies, handling digestion, creating proteins, even managing our immune system.

Unaware of all this, we take chances. Horrific risks that would appal us if we realised.

Simultaneous with that are the hazards we expose ourselves to:

To make matters worse, by reflex habit, most of us touch our face up to 3,000 times a day. Responding to an an itch, pausing in thought, rubbing our eyes – playing with the soft tissue that is germs’ No 1 way into the body.

Getting rid of germs

All of which means, if you do nothing else – just putting antibacterial wipes or gel on every desk every day will bring the odds down of catching anything.

Better still, it’s possible to eliminate germs from the workplace completely – by misting up the premises with germ-killing hydrogen peroxide.  A quick and easy addition to the evening cleaning routine.

In sterile conditions, germs can’t survive. No exposure, no illnesses to catch. Everyone’s safe – at least inside. Germ zero at the start of everyday – the only germs are the ones people bring in from outside.

Sounds expensive?

It is if you’re used to paying £12 an hour for cleaning and suddenly you’re sterilising the place.

Depending on the size of the place, £1K a month or more. Around the same money the business loses in productivity through your existing presenteeism – and that’s just for one of you!

All the way to the bank

But do the math yourself. 10 on your team losing £125K a year on productivity – against £12K a year eliminating germs and winning it all back again.

That’s getting your money’s worth, surely?

3 ways germs harm your business – unless you stop them

Disagreeing woman
Just because yoiu can’t see germs doesn’t mean you can’t take action

Yes, germs really can harm your business.

Every bit as much as fire, flood or financial meltdown.

They’re probably doing harm now, except you can’t see it.

Just like you can’t see germs themselves.

They’re too microscopically small – invisible.

And the harm they do is invisible too, disguised as something else.

Or so convincingly normal, the damage is not even recognised.

Take productivity.

Professional staff in place and working hard – as good as it gets, right?

Well…

As risky as any disaster

OK, some are on leave and some are off sick, so they’re not always at 100%.

Except the rest of them probably aren’t either.

They might look well and be at their desks – but don’t think you’re getting everything you pay for.

Ever heard of presenteeism?  Check out Russell Bowyer’s excellent In-Business Blog and prepare to be shocked.

It’s when staff are at work but they’re really not up to it. Going through the motions, doing their best – but often quite literally falling down on the job.

Why?

For the same reasons that they call in sick and stay home. Around a third with physical problems – aches, pains and long-term conditions. Another third with mental issues – from family crises, to financial worries to depression. And the remaining third from illness – infections and disease caused by germs.

Harm to productivity

Familiar territory because we all share it.

Unable to function properly because our back is killing us. Or our world is falling apart from death or divorce. Or it’s only a headache and two paracetamol should handle it.

And how capable can we be, trying to do our job and feeling like that? How on the ball professional? How alert to detail? How attuned to the sensitivities of customers?

Productivity goes for a loop, right? And according to a Global Corporate Challenge report (now Virgin Pulse), we’re like that for 57.5 days a year – almost three working months.

Not very productive, is it? The expectation is twelve months of professional expertise. But  reality is nine. And not nine smooth consecutive months either.  It’s all fits and starts – intermittent performance that’s hardly reliable.

A Benenden health study reveals why.

Every three days or so, we do ourselves a mischief, or something happens to us that throws us off-key. Five cuts, five cramps, and six upset stomachs on average. Along with the three sore throats, four heartburns and four cricked necks – to a total of 124 ill health incidents we suffer each year.

Rocket link

Harm to profits

So what harm does that do to profits?

Well, the CIPD’s Absence Management Report puts absence due to sickness costs at £522 per staff member per year (£834 in the public sector).

With presenteeism at 10 times more, that’s a further £5,220 – together with absenteeism, a total of £5,742 per staff member per year.

But don’t forget the knock-on.

What kind of mistakes, omissions or oversights does that staff member make, battling with the headache, tummy cramp or laboured breathing? And what are the cost implications?

On our simple cost calculator, a staff member on a modest  £21,750 a year could easily trigger costs of up to £33,000 –  their whole salary and half as much again.

All of which is already paid out as part of the business’s regular salary bill. Invisibly siphoned away – together with the glitches more or less absorbed as a cost of doing business.

Jobs take time, mistakes happen, bite the bullet.

Plus of course, being ill at work brings the risk of infecting colleagues. So it’s not just one staffer, it could be a whole team.

And worse, if those staff members had to interact with customers – face to face, or serving food – what are the ongoing liabilities likely to be?  According to one solicitor’s website, upwards of £40,000 per customer in severe cases.

So we’re up to £73,000 per staff member per year and counting – how many businesses can afford that?

Harm to prospects

Then there’s the harm to prospects.

The reputational risk posed by under-performing staff unwell at work.

Catching a tummy bug in a restaurant could be enough to crash the business. So could one phone call to an irritable sales person on the most important deal of the year. Or the delivery driver who has a dizzy spell and skids into a shopping mall.

All of which suggests it might be cheaper to pay staff to stay away than allow them to continue at work unwell.

Or better still, take steps to prevent illness in the first place.

Not all cases can be parried of course. The long term backache or heart condition is not going to go away.

But the risk of colds, flu, norovirus, e.coli and more serious bugs can be minimised or avoided altogether by upping workplace hygiene.

Antibacterial gel or wipes on every desk. The entire place sterilised with germ-killing hydrogen peroxide mist every night. No germs to catch, except the ones staffers bring in with them.

Productivity protected. Profits protected. Prospects protected.

No harm done

No harm done – at least as far as you are able to contain it.

And a lot of money to claw back if you’ve a mind to it.

All from just germs. Out of sight, out of mind. Just like the money you’ve been paying out without realising.

Makes you think, eh?

Germs and business – stop losing money to unwanted partners

Dismissed
Germs at work are the ultimate liability – show them the door

There’s nothing honest about germs. Underhand and sly, they’re your worst partners ever.

And of course, unwanted.

But you’ve got them, whether you like it or not. Every business has. And every person.

Once thought to be 10 times as many, around half our body cells are actually bacteria – the good guys that handle digestion, create proteins and even manage our immune systems.

The ten times number are the viruses – 10 for every bacterium – mostly passive, some benign and also part of our defences.

The good germs keep the bad germs out. Protecting us from infection – either by crowding harmful newcomers away, or ganging up on them and eating them. Getting rid of the unwanted.

Outside our bodies though, it’s a free-for-all.

Germs, germs, everywhere

Good and bad are all mixed up – filling the air and spread across every surface. So tiny they collect in the minutest cracks and crevices – almost impossible to get out.

Which makes them seriously bad for business throughout the workplace. The unwanted are in force – and there’s nothing to stop them.

Staff are exposed. They become ill. Their performance is impaired. And productivity nosedives.

Not so easy to concentrate with a pounding head or wrenching gut-ache.

Work slows, attention falters and accuracy goes for a loop. Jobs take twice as long, get snarled in hiccups, turn out second-best or worse.

None of which is staff’s fault.

The germs are just sitting there, invisible in the office, invisibly picked up.

Until staff very visibly start succumbing.

Moving around in the same space – touching the same objects, breathing the same air – they begin to infect each other. A mini epidemic. Losing out to the unwanted.

Usually not bad enough to send them home. But harmful enough to make them clumsy, give them two left feet, blundering through duties as a shadow of their real selves.

The walking wounded – with bad habits

Presenteeism it’s called.

Misguided martyrs who stay at work instead of booking off sick. More liabilities than assets. And costing money like you can’t believe – as this Germonomics calculator shows.

All happening invisibly because we can’t see germs.

No sign of dirt, everything looks clean, so we get careless. And how.

And not just us, our surroundings too.

With sloppy habits like that, the unwanted overrun us. We’re infested and don’t even know it. Until we run to the Doc for pills to keep us going – and the next few days are like hell.

Proactive protection

But prevention is better than cure. And a lot cheaper too – no mistakes or downtime to compensate for.

And prevention is push-button easy.

Because pressing a button is all it takes to mist up everywhere with germ-killing hydrogen peroxide – oxidising all germs to nothing. No bugs to catch, no sickness to suffer, no productivity to sabotage.

Which brings us back to making money, instead of losing it – moving forward, instead of drifting.

Bye, bye, germs.

Unwanted partners, who needs them?

Picture Copyright: BDS / 123RF Stock Photo

Aussie flu is coming – got your workplace defence ready?

Aussie flu threat
Aussie flu is a killer – and more than people, it kills productivity too – whole organisations taken down by a germ

Yes, workplace defence.

Because who can afford to be without it when Aussie flu actually strikes?

And not just because it’s a proven killer – 73 dead already and 170,000 cases reported.

Or how much you might pay out in sick leave.

Because it’s not just staff off ill, it’s the snowballing costs that happen when sick staff cannot, or will not, stay away.

Heroes that cost you money

There they are, all rugged up and sniffly – keeping to themselves and determinedly at their desks.

Yes, loyal. And yes, committed.

Which should immediately trigger two HR alarms.

What’s so urgent that they can’t take a few days off to get well? And are they so worried about job security they’re too scared there won’t be a job when they come back?

Organisational issues, both. Except they’re the least of your worries.

Because ask yourself, how good is the work anyone can do battling with the flu?

Difficult to concentrate, right? Can’t keep your mind focused.

Or keep aware of detail either. The thousand-and-one things that good professional reflexes cope with every day.

Which means glitches inevitably.

Productivity nosedive

Quality of work way below normal – or even acceptable.

Perhaps monumental mistakes made without meaning to. Expensive oversights like a misplaced decimal point. Or failsafe procedures completely forgotten and not implemented.

Reality is that staff unwell at work are loose cannons. Costing at least 10 times more than those off sick – and more besides.

They don’t know the damage they can do – or have done.  Liabilities, not assets.

On top of which, they’re highly contagious.

A threat to other staff as well.

So it’s not just individuals out of action, it’s potentially a whole team.

Awkward in the least with any special projects or tight deadlines on the go. A downside risk not worth taking.

OK, so the bug might have originated outside the office.

But what business is safe without an effective workplace defence to protect the whole investment and everybody in it?

Deceptive appearances

Sure, the office might LOOK safe – clean, tidy and non-threatening.

But you can’t see germs. And because we’re most of the time OK, we don’t take precautions.

Which is why our day-to-day hygiene is so iffy and makes us vulnerable.

Our track record is frankly  frightening:

Nor is it just personal. Again because everything LOOKS safe, we’re careless about our surroundings as well.

It gets worse.

Because shocking those these statistics are, they only deal with surface germs.  Viruses and bacteria on our skin, clothes and the objects we come in contact with.

It’s in the air

But 80% of any workplace is also air space. Room to move around in, room to breathe, room to stop us feeling claustrophobic.

And remember, Aussie flu is highly contagious. And ALL germs are airborne – difficult not to be when they weigh nothing and are only 2 microns across.

Which makes riding the air the major cause of how germs spread. A good many may only infect on contact, but they ALL disperse by being airborne. How else do new infections turn up out of nowhere for the very first time?

On top of which, we all drag our own personal cloud of germs around with us like a halo.

So it’s not just the exploding sneeze that spreads Aussie flu round the office. There’s millions more germ particles wafting around already. Waiting to infect their next victim unless there’s a workplace defence in place.

All of which says it’s not IF Aussie flu might strike in your workplace, but WHEN. And if not Aussie flu, then for certain something equally damaging to productivity, morale and physical wellbeing.

Effective defence

So what kind of workplace defence is effective?

You could do a lot worse than put bottles of antibacterial gel or hand-wipes  on every desk.

Our hands touch everything we use and work with. As well as our faces, which we subconsciously reach for several times a minute – as many as 2,000–3,000 times a day.  Bingo, unwashed hands on soft sensitive tissue around eyes and mouth are germs’ number one way into our bodies.

That still of course leaves the air – and all those un-get-at-able places that regular cleaning never reaches.

No problem. If germs can be airborne, so can your workplace defence system.

Which is what makes misting up the place with hydrogen peroxide so effective.

IONISED hydrogen peroxide that is. So it actively disperses everywhere – through the air and across all surfaces – reaching out and grabbing germs like magnets grab iron filings.

Sterile and safe

Result, the workplace is sterilised. No germs anywhere, they’re all completely oxidised. Nothing lingering anywhere, so no infection to catch – including Aussie flu.

Now all you have to do is make sure sick staff actually do stay away. You have an effective workplace defence now, don’t let unwell workaholics undo all the good work.

Good on yer, Bruce!

Picture Copyright: trustieee / 123RF Stock Photo

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 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

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.

Business reputations at risk in the wrong hands

Reputations at risk - soiled businesswoman
You do your best to keep up your reputation – but it’s got customer paw prints all over it – and then?

Even strong reputations are flimsy.

One negative happening, and the whole pack of cards comes tumbling down.

Everybody follows the rules, does everything right – then some dumbo comes along and ruins everything.

Usually the one person nobody can control.

Because of the myth that they’re always right.

Only this time they’re as wrong as it’s possible to be.

That all-powerful, untouchable king of business – the customer.

The one person who can shoot reputations to pieces better than anybody.

How?

The customer is always… dangerous

With dirty hands.

By leaving ugly paw prints all over everything.

Grab, fumble, tarnish – another reputation shot.

Greasy fingerprints on crystal glassware. Smears on polished bodywork. Dark stains on pristine linen.

And the ones you can’t see. Germs all over menus, cutlery and serving dishes – a food poisoning nightmare.

Next thing, it’s them – or other customers – complaining of stomach cramps, running to the loo, and barfing all over the carpet before they get there.

Nothing to do with you. It’s them.

The germs on their fingers are theirs – brought in after touching goodness knows what. Invisible, but dicey just the same. Possibly even deadly.

Always innocent – gets away clean

But guess who takes the hit?

Never them, the customer is king. Or more accurately in the food business, the customer is god.

So, taken ill after a night out – it can only be the restaurant. Dodgy ingredients, improperly prepared, sloppy personnel hygiene, dirty utensils – nobody has a leg to stand on. Solicitor on speed dial.

Yeah, right.

One finger accusing, three fingers pointing back.

Lost licence, closure, law suits, bank withdrawal, business collapse, HUGE money losses. And all because Fred Nurk didn’t wash his hands before eating. What kind of defence do you have against that?

And how many OTHER customers represent the same kind of risk?

The dirty truth

Pretty well all of them when you start looking.

Not good odds – ask the people who know.

They’re supposed to be on the ball, but how many actuaries would accept any eatery’s risk if they knew 88% of customers NEVER wash their hands before eating? Lots of rules for businesses to follow, none for customers. Where’s the justice?

And those are just the day-to-day instances – with nobody thinking about anything.

Then there’s the FAKE claims. The ones where the customer deliberately tries it on. Take a look at your newspaper – first Crete  – and now Turkey. The thin end of the wedge.

So how long will it be before it gets tried here at home? And how many reputations have gone down the tubes because some smart operators have got away with it already?

Reputations shot

Yeah, so Reputational Protection No 1.

Have your serving staff go round every table before handing out menus. Make a ceremony of it if necessary, but have them politely but firmly squirt antibacterial gel into the hands of everyone present.

Now at least your menus should be safe. And unless they go they go to the loo mid-meal, your customers should be safe from themselves for the evening.

Follow that up with Reputational Protection No 2.

Sterilise the whole place as often as possible – at least every night after closing. Which means mist it up with ionised hydrogen peroxide, so all viruses and bacteria are neutralised. No germs to catch, no tummy upsets to take away.

Do it. There’s too many business reputations already in the wrong hands – including yours. So it’s worth every penny to take it away from them and regain control for yourself.

Like we said, even strong reputations are fragile things.

No point running risks with them when you don’t have to.

Picture Copyright: polygraphus / 123RF Stock Photo and auremar 123RF Stock Photo

How safe is your Food Hygiene Rating against clients with unwashed hands?

Fingers crossed
You know YOUR hygiene is as good as it gets – but how about those people coming in through the door?

The short answer is, not very.

Even if your Food Hygiene Rating puts a “5” on your door, you’re up the creek at the slightest whisper of  “food poisoning”.

Especially if it gets in the media.

Superstar Michelin performers have had to close down to address those two words.

True or not, the public never seem to accept anything except negligence on your part.

So it’s the whole witch hunt.

Plummeting PR, lost revenue, the cost of deep cleaning, grilling staff over procedures, publicity for reopening – and the slow, agonising build up to repair your reputation.

Thousands and thousands.

And not necessarily anything to do with you at all.

Not YOUR hygiene – theirs

Because, ask yourself . How many of your clientele actually wash their hands before they sit down? Or if not then, before they pick up a knife and fork?

And who knows where they’ve been, or what they’ve been doing?

If they’ve been driving, there’s a good chance they’ve picked up staphylococcus or e.coli off their own steering wheel. Especially when car INTERIORS might only get cleaned every 3 months.

If they were on their mobile phone too, they’re likely to have been touching more faecal matter than a toilet seat.  The biggest trigger for norovirus – the Don’t Wash Hands Disease.

And these are the people who dare to suggest your procedures gave them food poisoning!

Iffy, iffy, iffy

It gets worse.

Because, top-drawer celebrity status notwithstanding, how many customers wash their hands EVER?

Your hands might be clean, but theirs aren’t. Check the record.

So that “5” Rating on your door is already under threat before you start.

Because you just know some hot-shot solicitor is going to make mincemeat of your case, no matter how meticulous you are.

Which means, “5” Rating or not, it’s worth investing in a little protection.

Protecting your interests – and reputation

OK, you can’t exactly demand they all hit the washroom before being shown to their table. They’ll never come back – and they’ll bad-mouth you to all their friends.

But you can protect hygiene levels AND offer a little courtesy – if you serve each guest with an individual hand-wipe or sachet of antimicrobial gel. Not as grand as steam-heated towels, but a lot more effective. Warm dampness in any case stimulates more bacteria than it kills.

On top of that, you also have the option to reassure clients that the whole place is sterile before opening for every session. Any germs previous guests might have left on chairs, table undersides, or condiment containers are eradicated without having to think about them.

And everywhere else as well. The drapes they might have touched. The carpets they might have tracked stuff in on. Not necessarily dog poo, but invisible germs. Plus harmful microbes lurking anywhere else. On menus, door handles, light switches, in the air itself.

One quick 40-minute session with ionised hydrogen peroxide mist  will remove all viruses and bacteria. Oxidised to nothing, so the whole place is safe, secure and sterile.

And your reputation is no longer at risk.

Well-earned status

Yes, sure – there might be the odd curmudgeon who refuses to co-operate. But how curmudgeonly do they have to be to refuse a pretty staffer personally offering an individually presented hand-wipe with your compliments?

A little insurance – and proof you’ve more than earned your “5” Rating.

Your customers are happy too.

Because how many of them will boast about the superior evening with PERSONAL hand hygiene – AND the place was specially sterilised before they got there?

A toast to you, then. May your business grow and prosper!

Picture Copyright: citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo