Category Archives: Issues

Boost productivity by up to a third – without investing millions

Exec pondering millions in invesment
Millions for the future – by recovering millions from the present

Yes, yes, British productivity is lagging. We have to up our game – millions for infrastructure, millions for digital technology.

Which is great, if we’ve got millions. But what if we haven’t?

What if, like a lot of businesses, things are just scraping by, productivity is down and it’s slowing everything further?

Hold that thought, slowing everything down.

Held back and handicapped

Like things are dragging, wheels locked and brakes full on.

Because that’s exactly what’s happening.

We’re all working harder and longer, going the extra mile – slaving an extra 29 days every year according to reports, with one in 10 of us working the equivalent of 15 months a year

And still our productivity trails 18 points behind other G7 nations.

How come we work more and produce less – compared with the Germans, who work less (35 hours a week average) and produce more?

It’s not like we’re stupid or lazy. Our brightest minds are world leaders, and lazy people could never stomach the hours most of us put in.

So however much we splurge on the latest bells and whistles, we might at best still find ourselves level pegging with the other G7. While the Germans motor past us, laughing all the way to the bank.

Millions and millions and millions.

Breaking the shackles

But driving things forward has never been our problem – it’s breaking the shackles that hold us back.

OK, a lot of businesses are starting to recognise this – and revising the ways they value their human capital. They’re not machines, they need looking after. Inspiration, engagement and involvement are the new watchwords – and wellbeing is the new game.

Lots of positive thinking – which is why nobody ever addresses the negative. It’s treating symptoms, not cause. Exploring remedies before isolating what ails us.

What ails us – meet the elephant in the room.

What makes us sick is seldom on anybody’s radar – including the sufferer’s. We get sick, we get sick – it happens, and most of us just accept it.

Accept and keep schtum.

Because sick is what most of us are, a lot of the time at work.

The stiff upper lip

But we don’t let on, in case it gets us fired. Replaced by somebody younger and hungrier. Or in case our colleagues feel let down. Forced into double tasking without a by your leave. Or because we’re too damned responsible for our own good and can’t relinquish the work load.

It’s the curse of presenteeism – and we’re all party to it. The British stiff upper lip.

Being unwell at work, but carrying on anyway. Slogging onwards with head pounding and guts heaving, hoping nobody will notice. Desk-pounding when we should be home in bed with antibiotics and a hot water bottle, keeping our germs away from colleagues.

57.5 days a year, we’re like that – almost three working months. Stressed out like crazy because we know we’re not performing. And shockingly ignorant that a lot of the time, we’re ill from sloppy hygiene at work.

And sloppy is being kind, most of the time it’s disgusting. Because we can’t see germs, we don’t even think of the danger, let alone trying to avoid it.

But germs can, and do, kill. Or do us permanent damage. Even the smallest infection can trigger life-threatening consequences, ten or twenty years down the line.

For hygiene, read logiene

Meanwhile, our workplace preventive measures are almost non-existent.

On the personal level, we’re even worse – as if we have a death wish:

Which is why, for nearly three months of the year, the work we’re capable of is sometimes barely competent. Everything has to be done twice, and is invariably late when it gets there. Nobody can concentrate when they’re not themselves – though we like to kid ourselves that we can.

Millions in germonomics

But look at the economics of that – or should we say, the germonomics.

Three months of the year, the team are basically out of action – at their desks yes, but really just going through the motions. Effectively that means they only work nine months of the year, not twelve. Nowhere near as productive as we’d like to think.

Now suppose with just a little investment in health protection, you could remove germs from the workplace entirely. Make the place sterile – no viruses, no bacteria, no fungi, no nothing. Yes, it can be done – and yes, the technology exists now.

Get rid of the germs and 57.5 days a year of being unwell at work melt into the distant past. Out of the blue, three extra working months become available, alongside the nine months worth of work currently – productivity up a third.

The self-funding future

Better still, it’s already paid for.

Salaries stay the same, at a full twelve months worth. Only now the business is getting its full money’s worth – three months up on the minimal nine months possible previously. The end of a three months handicap – no wonder productivity was down!

Which means unlike investing millions in a digital future, the business saves millions from the existing present. Millions, which if then invested in technology, are like setting the afterburners to warp speed.

Them Germans had better watch out – laughing all the way to the bank indeed.

Hans, was ist los?

About this blog

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi. Achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. The only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Ban lunch at your desk, rescue lost productivity

Burger at desk
54% of office people eat lunch at their desks – and take one hell of achance doing it

Here it comes, the usual blah about talking a break, you need to get out more. Actually, just lift your keyboard and lunch is there – from yesterday, or the day before, or maybe last week.

Not all of it, of course. You ate that.

But there’s plenty of crumbs and bits. Along with grit, dust bunnies and other yuck. Maybe not enough for a mouse or cockroach – but great for a whole colony of bacteria. A few million e.coli for instance, or rampant staphylococcus – a legend in its own lunch time.

That’s right, germs.

Just sitting there, waiting for you to touch them – and put your fingers in your mouth ten minutes later.

Because that’s what we do, you know. Touch our mouth, eyes and nose every few minutes, sometimes 3,000 times a day.

One touch is all it takes

Exactly how that cold, flu or tummy bug starts – or whatever nasty it is that starts at the office.

Because you haven’t washed your hands, have you? Maybe not since you left home. During which time you’ve handled gloves, keys, money, your handbag or wallet, door handles, lift buttons, grab handles on the bus, the push button at a pedestrian crossing, and loads of others.

All things we know and use every day. But when you think about it, never get cleaned or wiped from one year to the next. Not unless some accident happens, like salad dressing from your sandwich squidges all over them.

Clean hands are a start – way fewer germs. Except they stop being clean as soon as you touch something. Because what are the chances the thing you touch isn’t covered in germs too?

Blowing off the dust won’t crack it. Neither will a once-over with a damp rag. An antibacterial will do better – except you still can’t get all the nooks and crannies. Specially in that tangle of wires at the back of your computer.

Bad bugs, waiting for you

Hardly surprising. The average desk for instance, has 10 million germs on it. Gets a wipe-down every night when the swamp-out team do the place. Which basically transfers all the germs from the next desk to yours and around the whole office.

Nary a deep clean, except maybe once a year. Which also tends to be a wipe-down, only this time with bleach. Not too strong though, because of the smell. And not for too long either, that stuff eats plastic and corrodes metal. So actual contact time to kill germs is pretty minimal.

And you want to each your lunch there?

Helps to explain how it is that each of us has something wrong with us every few days or so. An infected cut, headache, acid reflux or simply feeling lousy. Around every three days, according to research.

And we still expect ourselves to be 100% on-the-ball, alert and fully focused? Who are we kidding that our work is up to scratch feeling like that? Like it or not, we’re making mistakes, missing detail and taking way longer than we should to do stuff.

Unwell at work, stress, not a good lunch

That’s a lot of time, money and anguish down the drain, from trying to be a hero at our desks. 57.5 days a year, we struggle like that. Unwell at work almost three working months.

Work in an open plan office and those numbers just multiply. More people with more germs – spread around by sharing the same space, touching the same things and the ever-helpful air con stirring the atmosphere.

Bring back dog-box offices, take your lap-top to the coffee shop – or better still, work from home!

On top of which is the stress of knowing we should stay home, we’re contagious – but not wanting to call in sick. Worried about job security or being labelled a wimp. Colleagues blaming us for leaving them in a lurch. Being left out of the loop. Or accused of skiving off.

All from germs on your desk – and multiplied several times over by eating lunch there.

OK, so you go out for lunch. You were trying to save money, but at least you’ll avoid the germs.

Germs everywhere

Until you come back.

Because the germs don’t just come from food. They’re on everything and everywhere, held in check only by our body’s immune system.

Well, yes – because when DO you wash your hands?

Galloping through the day, such basic hygiene isn’t even on our radar. More like “logiene”, because:

Can’t win, can we?

Go out to avoid germs, wash our hands – we catch them anyway.

Unless the place is treated so there aren’t any – by an effective health protection system. Rendered germ-free, so we arrive in the morning and it’s sterilised. No germs to catch, nothing contagious – we’re safe.

Zero germs, zero illness

Yeah, sure – we bring in germs from outside, on our skin and our clothing, we can’t avoid that.

Meanwhile the germ threshold is zero, we’re less likely to come down with anything.

Our colleagues too. Three working months per person snatched from the jaws of lost productivity. Fewer mistakes, better concentration, less stress, jobs finished on time – no need to work late.

You wouldn’t have to ban lunch at your desk either – though the crumbs and stuff will still happen.

How you handle that is your problem. Wipes and hand gel would be good.

No worries if you forget though.

The health protection system’s got your back – and you can get away with it.

About this blog

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi. Achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. The only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

 

Our £319 BILLION productivity ball and chain

The £319 billion ball and chain
Unseen and unrecognised: the £319 billion unwellness issues holding productivity back

Why does British productivity keep dragging its heels? Because £319 billion of health issues are holding us back.

All the other things – lagging investment, ageing infrastructure, accelerating technology, diminishing experience and ever-younger staff – they’re all fixable, usually by throwing money at them.

But an unwell work force is not even on management radar.

Workers’ wellbeing yes, fitness packages, health advice and feelgood incentives are all over the place.

£319 billion of wheelspin

But £319 billion of unwell costs? Is anybody looking? Do they even know it exists?

Because that kind of money is not chickenfeed. More like ten times our defence budget. Three times the Brexit get-out bill. Two-and-a-half times the NHS budget.

And still nobody’s twigging it.

Management, government and consultants are all gung-ho, demanding full throttle. Meanwhile we’re still shackled to the wall, brakes hard on and going nowhere – the least performing economy among leading G7 countries. Lots of noise, but just wheelspin.

You see, £319 billion is the all-up cost of being unwell among work staff.  £29 billion for absenteeism. And £290 billion of presenteeism – people not well, but going to work anyway, a growing measure of wonky job security.

Wonky?

Oh yes.

Since 2008 and the financial crash, absenteeism has been falling steadily, down around 20%. Good, right?

We wish.

Rising costs

Presenteeism however, already 10 times greater – is on the increase.  Exactly how much is hard to calculate. Staff are reluctant to admit they have a condition, even to themselves . Many are convinced showing weakness could cost their jobs. So they tough it out, pretending otherwise.

We’ve all been there, to some level or other. Choosing to go to work with a cold, instead of staying home. We won’t get paid and it could be a black mark. Better than finding a replacement’s been hired while you weren’t at your desk.

So we go to work anyway, dosed up to the eyeballs. Day Nurse or something like it – so concentration is a bit loopy, there’s maybe a headache, blurred vision, ringing in the ears and we’re irritable as all hell.

Brains not working

Not exactly the best way to ensure proper service and attention to detail. A trap  for making mistakes or oversights too. And isn’t it a drag that everything takes so long?

Oh, and yes. We sneeze and throw tissues around, so our colleagues come down with it too. Or failing that, the HVAC system stirs our germs, upholding equal opportunity.

Or maybe it’s not a cold, but something worse. Flu, or a tummy bug, picked up from one of those high-touch surfaces around the office – door handle or light switch, or the START button on the photocopier.

Out of order minds

You can see it, can’t you? We’re not ourselves when we’re not well.  And most of us wind up with some kind of issue – minor injury, sprain, cut, infection, or food reaction every three days.

Hardly surprising either , when you realise how lax workplace hygiene can be:

Our personal hygiene is pretty lax too – we can’t see germs, so we think we’re OK. Meanwhile:

All of which is how come presenteeism is as high as it is – an average of 57.5 days a year, almost three working months. A quarter of a year lost to unfocused and non-concentrating minds – some ball and chain!

Which of course is why productivity is continually as low as it is. Businesses are paying for a full twelve months’ performance, but staff are only capable of delivering nine.

Knock-on effect

On top of that is the knock-on effect from errors and omissions made while unwell at work. A lot of money and a lot of time, with often below-standard levels of quality.

One heck of an issue not to be aware of – and one heck a lot of money to lose without realising it. The elephant is in the room, but nobody has recognised it yet – all £319 billion of it.

And fixing is just as invisible. Getting rid of germs is push-button easy for around the same cost as daily charring – a demonstration to staff that management actively cares  for their health AND wellbeing.

But it needs an attitude shift to capitalise on it.

Stay away

The workplace might be germ-free and sterile, but it has to be kept that way. If staff pick up an illness from outside, no matter how small, they should be encouraged to stay away. Because they spread germs that colleagues can catch. And because in their germified state, they contaminate everything they touch.

Encouraging a stay-away reassures staff, protects colleagues and promotes goodwill all round. And anyway, with flexible working, being out of the office is no longer as critical as it was. If staff REALLY have to participate, they can log on remotely from home. Though the understanding should be that if they’re not well, they’re not well – and being released from work responsibility is a function of getting better.

Starting engagement

Understanding and sympathising  with staff is in any case, a crucial component of engaging with them. They could equally be working from home because of a bus strike, or handling a personal issue – children’s needs at school, handling a home breakdown, going to a funeral.

Because germs are only one of the reasons staff are unwell at work. Stress is another, all too often also unaddressed by management. But getting rid of germs buys a lot of time – remember the default is nine months’ productivity instead of twelve – management can afford to be accommodating.

Time changes everything

Which is exactly what stress needs – time. Time to listen and time to interact.

Much of the anguish of stress at work is relieved by voluntarily giving an audience – listening to problems, complaints and suggestions before they become issues. They might not be big in the scheme of things, but in the head of the staff member troubled by them, they can be monsters.

And time is there to buy good will. No longer refused or grudgingly granted just this once. Now it’s possible to give away without loss – reclaimed from the missing 3 months productivity forgotten  and unrecognised until now. And all started by pressing a button to get rid of germs.

No holding back now, productivity should be free to advance however is required. Bye-bye ball and chain. Oh, and no more £319 billion price tag either.

As we said in a previous post, watch out world!

About this blog

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi. Achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. The only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Boosting productivity: how to work harder by taking it easy

Sofa work
Ever noticed productivity goes up when it’s easy?

Productivity, productivity, how staff must hate that word. Working longer, working harder, always going the extra mile. No easy way out.

Faster, faster! Seems there’s no escape from having to work MORE, just to stay in the same place.

Yeah sure, not so bad if there’s extra money and longer holidays up for grabs. Though neither can lessen the pain.

All those hours lost, families fragmented, personal life down the tubes – where’s the magic?

Enjoyment vs resentment

Carrot and stick, see? Working late like everybody else does.

Because that’s what it takes to still have a job. Nobody WANTS to slave. But everybody HAS to. With brooding resentment every step of the way.

Which is one hell of a way to run a railroad – or anything else for that matter. Nineteenth Century sweatshop thinking. Head-on into everything and coming unstuck.

Much simpler to go with the flow. Bending with challenges and shaping around them. Making them work FOR you and not AGAINST.

Working harder by taking it easy.

Advanced technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence), for instance. Finishing in seconds where us humans take days or weeks.

Fast, yes – but not necessarily smart. Great for industry and automated business. Not so hot in the real world, where the business is satisfying people. Customers of course – and those amazing people called staff. The ones who make it all happen.

The very same who are always working those extra hours.

And what do they get for it? Tired, worn-out, nervous, irritable and depressed.

The productivity puzzle

Unwell of course with it, but unable to stay away. Jobs are few, nobody gets paid sick leave, and there might not even be a job to come back to afterwards.

Exactly why British productivity is down the tubes. The productivity puzzle they call it, though a solution is within reach – just by taking it easy.

Experts agree the puzzle started in 2008, with the financial crash. Redundancies, cutbacks, firms going belly up – kind of inevitable productivity took a dip.

But surprise, surprise, absenteeism took a dip too. With jobs thin on the ground, it was not the time to stay away from work if you were sick. Ten to one if you did, there’d be a junior in your place at half the salary. Bargain basement work quality, but money was tight.

Check the records. From 163.2 million days lost in 2007 just before the recession, absenteeism plunged 20% to 132.4 million days lost in 2011 – with only marginal recovery since.

Loud warning bells, right there.

People don’t suddenly stop getting sick. And germs don’t suddenly stop attacking us – after four billion years as the most successful life forms, they’ve learned to never give up. Reality check: in the whole history of the world, there’s never been such a thing as a get-well epidemic.

So if they didn’t take off sick, what were these people doing?

Unwell-at-work syndrome

Going to work unwell, of course. Toughing it out and pretending they were OK. And reality check again: hiding it as best they could from colleagues and employers. Whatever their numbers look like, the true picture is far worse.

And the truth is that since 2008, presenteeism – that’s people unwell at work – has increased steadily.  There are no official figures, as the issue is largely invisible. But with the all-pervasive culture of long hours now firmly established, it’s not unreasonable to suggest they’ve doubled.

And productivity in the meantime?

Down 15% on other G7 countries. 27% less than the Germans  and 31% less than the French. Hence the Euro-joke that it takes the Brits an extra day to do a week’s work.

Well, yes. For so many of us, it’s doing the job with one hand tied behind our backs.

Exactly what it’s like trying to work when you’re not well.

Hard to focus when your body’s out of balance. Just keeping your mind on the job becomes a mission. Mistakes get made, deadlines get missed, business flies out the window. Get really unlucky, and the whole company could crash.

OK, so in easy steps, how do we turn things around?

Prevention is better than cure

Prevention is better than cure – remember that one?

Eliminate germs that cause illness, and the problem turns around.

Because make no mistake, the germs are there – in their billions, just like normal. Too small to see so they’re not on our radar – but we are certainly on theirs. And because we not aware of them, we leave ourselves wide open to attack, particularly in the workplace.

For instance, as we’ve pointed out many times:

Again, because we can’t see germs, our personal hygiene is not much better.

From germ-free to engagement

Getting rid of germs therefore is like saving us from ourselves.

And it’s easier than we might think. A nightly mist-up with ionised hydrogen peroxide takes out ALL germs in the air and across all surfaces to make the place sterile.  As simple as pressing a button, it makes workplaces safe and secure for around £30 a day – probably less than the existing office cleaning bill.

It’s a proactive step too.

More positive than pretty well all staff wellness programmes. In their excellent Absence Management report, the CIPD list TWO PAGES of popular wellbeing options – from counselling, to gym membership, to healthcare packages – but not one addresses health protection.

But if there’s no germs, there are no illnesses to catch. A big impact from any staff point of view. Effectively demonstrating with actions not words that management is concerned for their welfare. That keeping them well and healthy is a top-level priority, and a major gesture at encouraging engagement. How’s that for effective motivation and retention?

A major boost to work quality too – without any demands on staff commitment. No longer hours to work, no extra mile to go, staff can give fully of themselves without being impeded by health issues.

So, with the ball rolling – and a boost to staff output capability now climbing by up to a third – productivity should be well on the upswing.

Productivity by involvement

Continuing staff engagement maintains this momentum. Dialogue to gain their involvement, listening sessions to ease their anguish. The easy but crucial step, from old-style Us & Them conflict, to useful two-way partnership.

Involvement, yes – because Beryl from Accounts knows more about VLookups in Excel than the IT consultant about to commit thousands on yet another system upgrade. The consultant might never touch Excel, but Beryl uses it daily.

And anguish, because everybody feels some – which could be stress, emotional strain, relationship issues or financial worries. Except a problem shared is a problem halved, especially if the boss is sympathetic – an engagement landmark and another notch up for recovering productivity.

On the road again

See? All of them easy steps, all of them key to everyone working better, enjoying what they do, feeling mutual respect and sharing their commitment to get on with the job.

Smarter, right?

A quantum leap from the Dark Ages of harder, faster, stronger.

So easy does it. Smarter, friendlier, healthier.

Productivity up and on the road again.

Picture Composite: Jordon Whitfield and Neonbrand on Unsplash

How a microscopic bug from the Middle Ages can rubbish your productivity in 24 hours

Plague at work
Last seen 700 years ago and now only at the other end of the world – not a threat till a colleague comes back from holiday with it

Only 0.0015mm long, it’s a devastating killer.

Claiming the lives of 25 million people in the Middle Ages.

Today it’s back – and already 120 are dead.

Cut down in less than a day by a bug they breathed in.

Black Death – otherwise known as The Plague.

Back with a vengeance – from the Middle Ages

Right now it’s running riot in Toamasina and Antananarivo, both cities on the popular holiday island of Madagascar. It’s spread to the nearby Seychelles islands too – triggering alarm bells in neighbouring Reunion, Mauritius and Comoros.

Also at risk are the mainland countries of  Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa – all of which have received alerts from the World Health Organization.

And this time it’s not the bubonic version, which rode into Middle Ages Europe carried by fleas on the backs of rats. This is the more virulent and airborne pneumonic type, spread by coughs and sneezes and simply breathing in infected air.

A plague outbreak in faraway Africa – the other end of the world.

Can it happen here?

Can’t affect us here, can it? Nothing to worry about.

Until you realise that an Airbus A340 can get here from Nairobi in 8 hours and 50 minutes with 14 flights a day. Or from Cape Town in 11 hours and 35 minutes with 25 flights. Or from Johannesburg in 11 hours with 30 flights.  Or from Dar es Salaam in …

You get the picture.

All places a lot of Brits have just come from after the half term break.

Possibly colleagues in the same office – or their friends.

Sneezing and coughing like always after a long flight. Dried out sinuses, “aeroplane flu” or something more serious?

Thing is, the pneumonic form of Yersinia pestis (as The Plague is properly known) comes on so fast you could be seriously ill by the time you’ve swallowed your first paracetamol.  Yes, antibiotics can stop it – the Doc will probably put you on tetracycline or doxycycline and you should be OK.

Colleagues at risk

But until you’re isolated, you’re contagious. Breathing the same air as your colleagues – exposing them to the same 670-year-old killer that took out a third of the population of London. Not nice, the Middle Ages.

And you don’t have to cough or sneeze to spread it. Every exhale is sucked up and swirled around by the office HVAC system – now cranked up as the days get colder, spreading to everyone.

Don’t think that the system’s HEPA filter will take out the bug either. High Efficiency Particulate Air filters are only efficient down to 3 microns – and at 1.5 by 0.75 microns, Yersinia pestis is only half that.

Sickies linkSo if you’re one of those company heroes who insist on coming to work even though you’ve got a cold, you could be putting the whole office at risk. Even cause it to shut down before the end of the day tomorrow. Productivity zero.

Just as it would be if the office came down with any other bug. Mild ones like colds and ordinary flu. Or serious threats like the Aussie A (H3N2) virus, MERS, SARS, e.coli – or any one of a thousand lethal hazards all the way to cholera and typhoid.

Unless you deploy a defence. Send home anyone who looks suspect immediately – because all the symptoms look the same ion the early stages. Then protect the whole office from ALL germs altogether.

Fighting back – effective protection

Sterilising the office is the easiest way. Misting the place up after work with ionised hydrogen peroxide that reaches everywhere and oxidises all germs to nothing.

Next morning, the whole place is sterile. No germs anywhere except what people bring in on their skin sand clothing. A germ-free clean sheet to start the day – with a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level.

Worth doing anyway on a nightly basis – we’re all of us off-colour with some minor bug or other every 3 days. And with so many of us working on top of each other all grouped together, the office is a sure place to pick them up.

Off our phones, keyboards, light switches, door handles, and lift buttons – or simply from the documents we keep handing around.

Plus on our desks and coffee cups – while we work through our lunch break. Chomping away on a chicken salad wrap, oblivious to the germs in the grit and dust bunnies we don’t always wipe off before we start noshing.

Restoring full productivity

A long way from the Middle Ages, yes.

But with Twenty-First Century protection like hydrogen peroxide, we can afford to be.

Our full 100% selves all of the time – not out of it 57.5 days a year like we usually are, sitting at our desks and struggling with yet another bug.

Productivity plus – with the feelgood that goes with it.

You can’t get much more efficient than that.

Why productivity is ALWAYS worse than you pay for – and how to fix it

Our special thanks to business experts PwC for perspective in this article.

Stunned accountant
Why productivity is worse. Paying for germs – costs you don’t see that mount up every day

You’ve got the best people with the best skills for the best salary deals ever –  yet productivity continues to perform worse than you expect.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

You’ve called in the top consultants, put in the latest technology, deployed every efficiency trick in the book – and still, like most businesses in the country, your productivity is always dragging it’s heels.

Oh sure, the experts will tell you it’s “lack of exposure to global best practices and low competitive intensity”. And that these are caused by “low capital investment and poor skills stemming from trade restrictions, price constraints, and land use regulations.”

Whatever that means.

Cut to the chase

Frankly, and in practical terms, your team should perform better – but don’t.

That’s right, it’s a people thing.

And improving your people productivity means that you and your people work harder, better and faster.

Which suggests maybe you should forget all the theory and focus on them.

They are, after all, your main asset, without whom productivity would be zero. Start with them and everything should click into place.

Like, how are they doing?

And not as production units, but as people?

How do they feel about what they’re doing, the people around them, the environment in which they’re working?

And how do you show them that you give a damn?

According to business gurus PwC, 83% of workers feel that their wellbeing influences productivity.

OK, so you took that on board when you hired them. Which is why the swish offices, the stylish décor, the extensive wellbeing package –  fitness programmes, diet counselling, medical consultancy, the works.

And they give it back to you in spades. Always at their desks, never a day off, midnight oil junkies – and weekends too – they just love the place and live on its adrenalin.

All well and good, but human bodies don’t function like that.

And not because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Actually, that flesh is an amazing miracle. Putting up with the all-hours workload, the lack of sleep and intermittent meals.

And a whole lot more that you can’t see.

Don’t mess with stress

Like stress – not from burnout, but from depression.

Financial worry for instance, is the largest single cause of stress in the UK, which in turn is the largest cause of absenteeism. The house, the car, the daughter’s special care treatment – or worse, the gambling debts, the divorce settlement, or the shares that went belly-up.

Relationships too, are a major unhappy trigger – especially work-related. Maybe even caused by you.

Like, how good a boss are you actually? At handling people and making them feel wanted? Do you give them space and recognition, putting them at their ease?

Worse, what about the boo-boos? The ones guaranteed to make people cringe – or burst into tears when no-one’s looking? The feeling you don’t  trust them, don’t want to give direction, vent your frustrations on them, break promises, fail to support them or take all the credit for yourself.

OK, so you get tough with yourself and fix all that. So why is productivity still down through the floorboards?

Go back to the same question you asked the team before – how are they feeling?

And not how hyped up they are – how are they doing physically?

Protecting the body

Your own body can give you an answer.

Because like all of us, you have something going on every 3 days or so that make you feel less than perfect.

Septic cuts, cramps, upset stomachs, headaches. And we haven’t even got to the running cold yet. Or the flu, raging vomit sessions and diarrhoea, the laboured breathing, the chest pains that make you panic and head for A&E, or the dread when the Doc tells you you’ve got e.coli.

That’s right, illness caused by germs.

Which because your team are all fired up and enthusiastic, they try to take in their stride.

Except how well can you work when your head’s like boiled knitting and even opening your mouth to talk is an effort?

It’s the unwell-at-work syndrome and we all have it. Trying to be heroes when our insides are like custard. Forcing the issue, though we know we’re not up to it. How much worse can things be?

Presenteeism it’s called – and on average, it hits each of us 57.5 days a year, almost three working months.

And there’s your productivity gap, right there.

Unwell at work – £290 billion a year

Everybody might work for a full 12 months. But effectively, they’re only capable for 9. Which is why presenteeism costs 10 times more than absenteeism – itself costed by PwC at £29 billion back in 2012, so way more than that now. As you can calculate here.

So how to fix it?

Easier than you think.

If germs are the cause – then get rid of them, and you’re away.

Rocket link

Which is where the amazingness of the human body comes in. Because we’re constantly surrounded by billions and billions of germs. Our own bodies are even 50% bacteria – a benign partnership that looks after digestion, creates proteins, manages our immune systems, and thousands of others.

But get germs in the wrong place and we’re in big trouble.  This year’s A (H3N2) Aussie flu virus for instance has already killed 73 and hospitalised 133,000.

And how prone we are to infections caused by germs – living 90% of our time indoors the way we do? Working together, sharing the same space, breathing the same air, touching the same things? With germs coming at us non-stop, every single second?

Exorcising germs

Until we say, enough, that’s it – and get rid of them all.

Easily done by sterilising our workplace so there’s no germs at at. No viruses, no bacteria, no fungi, no nothing. All press-button easy with ionised hydrogen peroxide mist – gone in 60 minutes.

And of course with no germs, there’s no reason to be unwell. Plus you’ve solved the worry problems – which means,  for the first time, your team can function at a full 100%.

12 months instead of 9 – how’s that for productivity?

Productivity’s catch 22: what sort of wellness programme does NOT prevent germs?

Baited trap
So there’s this wonderful wellness programme with gym membership – but loads of germs in the gym

What catch 22? Wellness programmes work, right?

Big companies point to them as big success. Team members who’ve quit smoking, inactive ones taking more exercise, high blood pressure down, social and mental health on the up, big savings on health care costs.

Nice to have if you can afford it – either directly or through insurance plans. A whole basket of feelgood grabbers for your team – everything from premium discounts to cash rewards, gym memberships, and other incentives.

Fitness – not the same as keeping well

All of them basically geared to promote team health and fitness – typically to stop smoking, manage diabetes, lose weight, or check for problems through health screenings. And that’s on top of ergonomic work stations, pleasing colour schemes, beneficial lighting and feng shui décor. Anything and everything, as this gung ho wellness guide shows.

But prevent germs?

Not generally on the radar – unless you count company flu jabs. Yeah OK, protect staff  – an afterthought jab of corporate conscience.

What’s really in play is enhancing performance – healthier team members mean greater work capacity, more bang for the buck, better productivity.

More output, efficiency – faster, faster!

Yep, you got that right – it’s all about money.

And because business is always about money, that’s the language decision-makers best understand.

Golden handcuffs, deadly threats

Which is how they understand wellness programmes. Golden handcuffs for top-performing staff – carrots to work harder. A glittering El Dorado to stop trained team members taking a walk down the road to the competition.

Germs don’t come into it, despite exposure in the workplace to billions and billions of them every day. Every moment we breath, move, touch something or swallow we’re exposed to more.

And the only protection on offer?

A flu jab – with already iffy effectiveness against this year’s strain of Aussie A (H3N2) virus.

Yet right in many workplaces, waiting to pounce, is another far more lethal health threat most decision-takers know nothing about. Even though every business manager is personally responsible for seeing teams are properly protected. And is liable to a £5,000 fine, a further company fine, and possibly a custodial sentence for 18 months if they’re not.

Legionella is a pneumonia-related bacterium that breeds in water systems. Still-standing water, like in office air-con cooling systems, or the showerheads in the washroom. It spreads by air, so you breathe it in.

And it’s so deadly, the Health & Safety people throw the book at you if it’s discovered on your watch.  A £1 million fine for JTF Wholesale after two men died.  £1.8 million for G4S Cash Solutions – for putting over 200 people at risk and dragging their heels for 3 years over fixing it.

Stick or carrot

Fail to protect staff and it’s big stick time.

But to keep things on a business footing, preventing team illnesses is also big carrot time. Not so much catch 22 – more like common sense.

What does it cost in gym membership, medical check ups, keep fit classes, stop smoking clinics and fresh fruit in reception to have an impressive-looking wellness package on place?

As much as 25% of your salary bill?

Because that’s how much is lost every year from team members under-performing at their desks.

And that’s on top of the 6 days absenteeism most businesses have for every staff member – at an average £522 per head.

You read that right, under-performing at their desks. And that’s the catch 22.

It’s called presenteeism and we all do it – drag ourselves into work when we’re not feeling well. And kidding ourselves we’re up to the job, even though the room’s going round, figures look all blurry and a pounding head makes any communication impossible.

57.5 days a year we’re like that – every one of us.  Almost three working months.

Every 3 days

That’s not continuous time either. It’s all in fits and starts, something throwing us off our game roughly every 3 days. A day out of it, another day bouncing back – then starting all over again. Three working months plus.

Which means, do the math. Right now you’re paying everyone 12 months salary, but they’re only giving you 9 months worth of value. The rest is fumbling around, going through the motions and quite possibly counter-productive.

But take away THE CAUSE of being unwell and you up productivity by one third – from the 9 months you get now, plus a reclaimed 3 months  – bringing you back to a full 12 month year.

OK, it’s not all caused by germs.

People have long-standing conditions, disabilities, physical injuries and musculoskeletal pain.

They’re also stressed. Worried about relationships, finances and job security. All three of which can be job related, MAKING them depressed and prone to illness. Or in turn, being the driving motive to come to work, even though they’re so unwell they feel like death. A catch 22 of their own.

Germs, germs, germs

Which makes the major chunk of everything germs. Exposure to germs in the workplace – where lots of people work closely together, sharing the same space, touching the same things, breathing the same air. Infecting themselves and contagious to each other – all stirred around by highly efficient HVAC systems.

Sloppy hygiene doesn’t help. Because we can’t see germs, we don’t see there’s a problem.

So we take chances. A few unsavoury facts:

For the same reasons, our surroundings are no safer:

But take away the germs, and all these issues go away too. A REAL wellness programme that PREVENTS GERMS – with a boost to productivity that makes others look like chicken feed.

And it’s so easily done.

REAL wellness – and no catch 22

Antibacterial wipes or gel on every desk to reduce the personal risk. And a nightly sterilising regime on top of the regular cleaning schedule.

Quick and simple like misting the place up with germ-killing hydrogen peroxide. ALL germs eliminated to a 6-log Sterility Assurance Level, safe every morning when staff come in fresh.

Forget the golden handcuffs, this way everybody wins.

It’s not rocket science either. Simply a wellness programme that keeps people well.

No catch 22 about it. And isn’t that wellness programmes are supposed to be?

Picture Copyright: dr911 / 123RF Stock Photo

Productivity: why you’re not getting your money’s worth (Part 2)

Assertive woman boss
Getting your money’s worth means showing you’re a human being too

Hot on the heels of our previous blog, here’s another stab at why you’re not getting your money’s worth in the productivity stakes.

So far we’ve looked at absenteeism and presenteeism, both major productivity issues that chomp through as much as 25% of your all-up salary bill.

It’s not money you see on any balance sheet because it’s already committed. You pay full-whack 12-month salaries, end of story.

Though you’re only getting 9 months’  worth of value.

Thanks to germs taking the edge off performance, even super-stars wind up delivering more like beginners.

A big ouch that you don’t feel because you’ve already paid the money. And if all your hot-shot top performers are visibly at their desks, it’s kind of unthinkable that they wouldn’t ever perform at less than their full capabilities.

Wellness programmes – go-faster stripes

All you know is, it costs an arm and a leg to get things done. Efficiency is not what it should be, so you start looking at ways to jump-start it.

So sure, you look at performance. Not because it’s under-powered from health issues, but because you want to boost it and make it more than it is.

Instead of putting the brakes on to STOP illnesses, you’re pedal to the metal trying to ACCELERATE your talent into going faster.

Which is where wellness programmes come it.

You care for your team, right?

So a wellness programme is your way of showing it.

Like promoting fitness and healthy living.

Which has you looking at sponsored gym membership, sessions with dieticians, even medical advice on living healthy.

In other words, dangling a big carrot.

You want the team to go the extra mile, here’s a bribe.

Double-edged

A double-edged sword, this.

Yes, staff might feel more motivated and inspired to do more.

But hang on, more?

Is that over and above what they’re doing already, or compensating for not reaching objectives already in place?

Sure, gym membership is a nice-to-have,  but it’s not essential for business, is it?

Fit in body, fit in mind is a principle that does work. But if you’re looking for extra, doesn’t that point to a system inadequacy that it’s at all necessary?

Instead of asking for extra effort, maybe you should be appointing extra staff.

Because if the team can’t get through the wortkload in the time you’ve budgeted, there’s something wrong with your planning.

They’re not machines, after all. They need their rest and leisure time. They need to recharge and revitalise with life outside work. Advance their relationships and feed the spirit that drives them both through life and for you.

Which suggests any kind of wellness package might be more luxury than necessity. You’ve managed without it before now. If you can afford it, go for it. Just don’t expect a visible and measurable contribution to productivity, feelgood does not always equate into loyalty.

You wouldn’t be alone with such doubts. There’s plenty of businesses out there beginning to wonder if wellness programmes are all they’re cracked up to be.

More healthy, or less ill? It’s a trade-off.

So if productivity is still a worry, maybe you should invest in something closer to team needs.

Duty of care

Like compassion.

As much as a third of absenteeism and presenteeism causes are down to emotional and mental pressures. Stress, finding the strength to cope.

Allowed to fester, stress very quickly snowballs into physical issues – and productivity seriously takes a jolt. Headaches, the shakes, upset tummies, ulcers – all the things that worry and depression  can cause to drag down being able to work properly.

Expose any of these conditions to germs and they can only get worse. Double trouble when you could perhaps have stepped in and eased everything away.

Not an area where British managers have a shining track record.

Because it involves time, the ability to listen – and yes, sometimes money.

Professional team members rarely show what they’re feeling – precisely why they’re professional.  People seldom know of the mother dying of cancer,  the bullied daughter, the financial worries with the house, or just the confidence challenges of holding down a high-powered job.

Worry keeping them awake at night, self-doubt, broken-hearted despair – they’re all things that directly impact job performance, pulling down productivity.

And a lot of the time, all they need is a sympathetic ear, time-off snatches to deal with outside situations, a shoulder to lean on and some encouraging words.

Worth every penny – and every second

A lot less expensive than a high-powered wellness programme. But a better way of demonstrating that you care, that you’re on their side and really have their interests at heart.

Much more getting your money’s worth.

Because now when the extra mile is crucial to sudden opportunities, you know you can count on them. You’ve invested in their person, not their physical condition – and the dividends will last a lifetime.

Makes sense when you think about it. Because it’s not the quantity of work that boosts productivity, it’s the quality.

And how much better can quality be when a team member is fully motivated and going for it? Inspired because they want to be, stimulated by work, enjoying every second – so it isn’t really a job, it’s a way of life?

You want your money’s worth, you need to give of yourself. Just as your team are giving themselves to you.

Get this right and you should see productivity rocket.

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?

How many other health protection systems keep paying your money back, over and over again?

Exultant businessman
Not a system that costs, a system that PAYS – and how much better can that be?

Actually, how many other health protection systems do you know about, at all?

Health protection?

Like stop illnesses before they start?

Exactly that.

Prevention is always better than cure.

Anyway, who wants to get sick, feel like death, rush off to the doctor, get medicine and be out of circulation for a few days?

Much better to avoid it altogether, don’t you think?

Which is what health protection is all about.

And to blow our own trumpet, we think the one we’re associated with is the best in the world.

Because it works, is why.

Where the germs are

It gets rid of harmful germs – even when clean-up teams have had go after go at doing it already – deep clean with bleach, steam, the lot.

Kinda important when it comes to keeping your workplace safe. Keeping staff healthy and at full performance levels – bright, alert, going for it and enjoying their jobs.

Which doesn’t happen if they’re off sick.

And gets even worse if they insist on toughing it out and coming to work anyway. Check our calculator.

Because who can concentrate when their bodies are giving them grief? Pounding head, runny nose, twisting gut ache – just getting through the day is a challenge, let alone getting any work done.

There’s the quality of that work, too.

How good is it? How mistake-free? How on-time?

Is the customer feelgood still there, or has irritability from feeling unwell given them the brush off?

You wouldn’t hire dummies to work for you. But that’s often reality when staff try to cut it when they’re not up to it.

It’s not their fault, of course – they’re ill. They should be safely out of it, resting up and getting better.

Instead of which, they’re doing you no favours, blundering around like a loose cannon – unintentionally doing what kind of damage?

Money, money, money

Could cost a bomb, right? Thousands and thousands and thousands.

Especially if you lose a deal, or get hit for negligence, or miss out money-making opportunities.

None of which happens with a health protection system in place.

And we mean health protection, not wellness programmes. Actively intervening to stop illnesses happening – not bribing staff to perform with gym membership, medical consultations, feng sui décor and fresh fruit in reception.

And like we said, we think the health protection system we’re associated with is the best in the world.

Because it gets rid of ALL germs in the workplace. Makes the place sterile in around 40 minutes.

No germs to catch, no illnesses to come down with. Simples.

It’s easy to see why too.

The system we’re on about tackles the air as well as surfaces. And if you think about it, air is around 80% of any room space.

Yet most cleaning and disinfecting processes only focus on surfaces. Clean the floors, wipe down the walls, scrub the surfaces – that’s yer lot, mate.

Getting the real job done

Plus, to kill germs, whatever disinfectant is being used has to make minimum contact time to be effective. Not exactly achieved with a wipe-on, wipe-off rag.

And anyway, bleach needs around 30 minutes to kill germs. At full concentration too – not diluted to a weakened version because people can’t stand the smell.

Then there’s making sure the stuff gets everywhere – because that’s where the germs are. Microscopically small and light, they can float anywhere and lodge deep in cracks – untouchable with normal methods.

Ah, but the system we’re on about is not normal.

Misting up the air is not normal, but that’s how this particular health protection system works. Like germs it floats anywhere, including deep into cracks.

Because it’s forced to, is why.

First off, it works with hydrogen peroxide – the same stuff our own bodies produce to fight infection. Sprayed out as mist, it’s ionised at the last second, charging each of its particles electrostatically.

All charged with the same charge, they jostle around, trying to get away from each other. Unlike squirting an aerosol air freshener, these particles actively power themselves away in all directions. They cram up all the air space and fetch hard up against every surface, pushing to go further,

Which is how they’re forced into all cracks and crevices – exactly where germs escape from normal disinfecting.

Bye-bye germs

And those germs’ worst nightmare is just beginning, because ionising supercharges the hydrogen peroxide particles to make them more powerful. And the electrostatic charge yanks germs towards them like a magnet.

It’s a death-clutch  with no escape – the stuff takes just two minutes to oxidise germs to nothing. Cell walls ripped apart by oxygen atoms, a one-way ticket to oblivion.

Like we said – no germs, the place is sterile.

And the system does all this for around £3.40 an average-sized room . Push button easy. A few hundred a month to keep all germs at bay. Slightly better than the few thousands a month most businesses are unwittingly writing off to staff unwell at work.

They are, you know. But hopefully that doesn’t include you. Because that’s what being unwell at work does.

The usual sign is that productivity is not as good as it should be. That jobs take longer and everything is wheel-spin without knowing why. Hard to understand when you know your team are all hand-picked professionals. What’s wrong with them?

They’re not well is what – but they’re struggling to support you . Meanwhile you carry on, wondering why it’s so expensive to get anything done. Not easy when for 57.5 days a year – almost three working months – staff are not themselves for some reason or another.

So you write it all off – or more likely, assign it elsewhere – a cost of doing business. Money down the tubes, but what can you do?

Get an effective health protection system is what.

And start getting some of that money back.

Because if everybody’s happy, healthy and well, productivity is on the up.

You might even be looking to pay bonuses.