How many staff wellness plans actually prevent illness?

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There’s on heck of a difference between real staff wellness and staff lifestyle management. Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Most staff wellness plans are anything but.

They might promote staff wellness – and certainly a lot of feelgood. So as staff reward programmes they have their place.

Trouble is, they tend to work on the Pareto principle – that 80% of employees justify only 20% of the costs.  And the costs, particularly in the US, are eye-watering – over $6bn (£3.74bn) annually and 70% of Fortune 500 companies have them in place.

Staff wellness and staff wellness

But there’s wellness plans and wellness plans. Most staff are already well and reasonably healthy. So that “wellness” in reality means “lifestyle management” – diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes aimed at keeping them healthy.

Not active intervention to prevent them becoming ill.

The rest of the workforce most probably do have a problem. Usually a chronic condition that employers have already compensated for, such as wheelchair access. Either that or management and staffer recognise some kind of impaired performance and make allowances.

There is an issue though, that most staff are already well and reasonably healthy. MOST of the time yes, but not all of it.

It’s not that they are sick and have to be absent. But pretty well all of us are aware that every so often we are not ourselves and struggle to get through the day.

Every three days

Every so often happens more often than we think. Around every three days according to research by Benenden Healthcare Society. Usually nothing serious, perhaps a cold or flu, a stomach upset, headache or muscle injury.

Enough to affect our performance though.

How well we know that things takes twice as long when we can’t concentrate. That figures never seem to add up the way we want them to. And that every single detail is ten times more complicated than it is normally.

Presenteeism, it’s called. People coming to work unwell and trying to do their jobs underpowered – to a greater or lesser capability, EVERY THREE DAYS.

Already experts calculate UK absenteeism costs at £29 billion at an average of 6.6 days off for each employee annually.  But presenteeism is estimated at ten times more than that – £290 billion and 57.5 days a year, almost three working months.

Three working months

Three working months is a major chunk of lost productivity – a condition that ALL businesses have to accept, usually without realising it.

Assuming full time attendance, managements pay out annual salary packages to a Full Time Equivalent (FTE) of 2,080 hours – ie, 8-hour days at 5 days a week.

That’s not what they’re getting though. Thanks to varying degrees of illness, stress and pain, their actual FTEs are closer to 1,620 hours spread over the full 12 months.

460 hours are gone missing, never to come back. That’s worse than the average 31 hours a month lost in meetings (372 hours annually), or 520 hours a year lost in recovering from distractions.

Hold up, though. Meetings and distractions, it’s possible to do something about. Minimise them, or don’t have them at all.

But presenteeism is about the health of bodies – downers that affect human unit performances. With 460 hours gone missing, effectively 25% of all salaries are paid out to achieve zip.

Which is why most staff wellness plans achieve zip too. How can a package geared to diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes possibly address the more serious challenges of illness, stress and pain?

A pain in the…

OK, pain is difficult to counter. Perhaps ergonomics can soften the impact – a kneeler stool for backache, support panels, extra cushions. Visiting or in-house massage facilities can also help. Failing these, management and staffer have to accept a mutual level of reduced performance.

How about the rest?

Well stress, mental illness, call it what you will, needs time more than anything else.

Time for listening, time for being aware – and time to address possible resolutions.

Tick, tick

Already time, or not enough of it, is a major cause of workplace stress and anguish. Not enough hours in the day, always working late, weekends down the tubes, holidays cut short.

Add not enough sleep, and the always-on syndrome of emails and social networks intruding everywhere – and it’s hardly surprising emotional outbursts and irritable flare-ups suddenly happen.

Time also solves worry. The insidious feeling that eats up one’s insides and even triggers illness. Worries about relationships, finances, children, home issues, schooling, image and self-worth. Anguish about bereavements and self-confidence through the floorboards.

Give them time to be looked at, understood and shared. Time to be resolved between conflicting parties. Or simply time off to go and sort an issue – talk to the bank, consult a child’s teacher, visit a loved one in hospital.

Above all, cut the wheelspin – time lost after-hours because things aren’t organised to happen within the proper working day. If people are always working late, either something’s wrong, or there aren’t enough staff. Fix it.

Not feeling so good?

Which leaves illness. Being unwell at work – where most of the missing 460 hours are lost.

Expensive time this, multiplied by the number of employees. Yet amazingly, the least expensive to do anything about – and almost entirely recoverable.

How come?

Take a look at the typical workplace. Everybody all in the same place, right? Often open-plan, to unify them as a team, so they’re all right there on-the-spot, to network and inter-relate immediately.

Which is how so many illnesses happen. Because, like it or not, the average workplace is anything but a healthy environment to spend 8 hours a day in.

Everyday health hazard

Our own personal hygiene is not much better.

You’ve got it. A major cause of workplace illness is the workplace itself. Human assets unprotected from the germs that lurk there.

No germs, no problems

Which means take away the germs, and people can’t get ill any more. Not at work, at any rate. And with no germs around, it’s less easy to pick up bugs from each other too. With zero germ-level, viruses and bacteria have to work twice as hard to infect anybody.

And with no illnesses, the business gets most of its 460 hours back. Time already paid for, but now ready to finance relieving the pressures of stress and anguish.

Which where a decent staff wellness plan really scores.

By protecting staff health, effective FTEs increase from 1,620 hours back to a full 2,080.

Productivity for every employee UP BY NEARLY A THIRD.

And the price tag?

Well, what are you currently spending on office cleaning? £30 a day, £50?

Double that and you can sterilise the entire place every night. £30 a day for a return of – how many staff do you have? At a third of how many salaries? You do the math.

Oh, and if you feel sick about the figures, better sort out your staff wellness plan sharpish, before you come down with something worse.

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.

Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.