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