Ra, ra, workplace wellness – but what happens about workplace illness?

Share this with the world
Dead girl on floor
Shouldn’t workplace wellness be more about avoiding illness?

Go round the mega-buck companies – the movers and shakers of the Fortune 500 – and workplace wellness is already the Next Big Thing. Must-have, sexy, feel-good for employees like never before.

Informal work spaces, laid-back management, on-site gym facilities, gourmet food round the clock, designer décor, therapeutic lighting, specialist ventilation, everything that opens and shuts.

The employee is Number One

Yeah, plus the stress goes with it. Only super-achievers get the full treatment. And super-achievers either super-achieve, or they’re on the next Lear jet out. Only the best of the best to keep the bottom line in the stratosphere.

Big bucks, big incentives, super-big on health and physical fitness – but nobody mentions the G-word.

Not possible, say the techno-geeks. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters in the air conditioning don’t allow it. Super-effective down to less than 2 microns, no germs can get through it.

And there – almost glossed over – is the dreaded G-word.

Germs.

Invisible in wellness guru vocabularies. Invisible on hands, clothing, surfaces and in the air. Our biggest threat to wellness, in the workplace or anywhere – disdained or in denial.

Germs? No, no, let’s stick to issues we can see, the latest sexy lycra, follow the wellness fashion. Big help, especially for our colleagues trapped by obesity – how condescending can we get?

Chubby, overweight staff, sitting for hours at computer screens? There’s workout  programmes and personal trainers to help them shift the lard.

Headaches and anxiety attacks from pressure of work? There’s psychiatric care and counselling  right there on the premises.

Not sexy

But a gut-wrenching tummy bug going round because some hot-desking hot-shot didn’t wash his hands before chowing down  on the company’s famous double-layer pizza?

Hey, these things happen – everybody gets sick sometime.

Not wellness though, is it?

And for all the fitness investment and feng shui environment, entirely preventable and unnecessary.

So what’s the deal in germ prevention with most workplace wellness setups?

Yeah, those wellness initiatives about health and wellbeing are all good – right across the whole leadership, alignment, relevance, accessibility, partnerships and communications thing.

But germs aren’t on the memo list and don’t understand them anyway.

Which means let iffy hygiene take hold in any office, and illness can run through those high-earning super-achievers like wildfire.

Yeah OK, the washroom facilities are the finest in the land. All infrared, no-touch, state-of-the art – except who’s using the stuff?

The hard facts are that while 99% of people claim to wash their hands after going to the loo, only 32% of men and 64% of women actually do.

And out of those who actually do wash, a whopping 95% of them don’t even do the job properly.

Looking cool, in hospital?

Because let’s face it, a few seconds waggling fingers under the tap is not going to stop experienced germs like clostridium difficile or escherichia coli for one second. Get them in the wrong place and it’s a week in hospital for sure.

All it takes is sticky fingers in the first dish of good improving carrot and celery crudités, and those germs are down the throat quick as a flash.

Give it four hours, eight, and the bill arrives. End-of-the-world cramps, violent howitzer vomiting, hell-fire diarrhoea and the over-powering wish to be dead.

Uh huh. Thousands spent on glitzy washrooms, daylight balanced lighting and fragranced air.

But a couple of tenners could put a fresh pack of hand-wipes on every desk every day – or sofa-side coffee table, if that’s the way people choose to work.

Standing open of course, to encourage use. The superstars might be in a rush getting away from the loo – but in-your-face all the time at their work station might swing it. You can lead a horse to water…

Clean hands of course, are only part of it.

Yeah, the HEPA filters do their job, but it’s a fact of life all of us are surrounded by an invisible cloud of billions of bacteria and micro body-waste – hair, dead skin cells, etc – our personal signature microbiome.

These personal germ IDs are so potent, they colonise and take over any room within hours, displacing the germ-clouds of anyone previously there. And of course they mingle and cross-exchange with the microbiomes of our other colleagues as well.

Everyday germ threshold

All these on top of the background colonies of billions of bacteria present throughout the room and on every surface anyway – a fact of life we’re never aware of. And off the radar for most wellness gurus as well.

A heck of an influence on every one of us though. Our own microbiomes don’t affect us of course, they’re our beneficial bacteria, inside and out. So many trillions of them that we’re more bacteria than human – all our body cells together are only 10% of who we are.

Most of the other germs are hostile though, kept at bay by our own bacteria – who either outnumber them to crowd them out, or attack and eat them.

Unless of course, those hostiles find a way into our bodies. Off a dirty table, a computer keypad, a lift call button, on documents, our own mobile – or picked up in the air, interacting with the microbiomes of others around us.

One man’s meat is another man’s poison, right?

The same with our personal bacteria. Especially when most of us have some underlying condition or other that is our weakness – asthma, IBS, muscular wasting – anything that makes us vulnerable to unfamiliar foreign pathogens.

Other people’s bacteria.

Avoiding illness

Which means forget spending a mint on inspirational colour schemes and murals to set off the walls. Rather spend a few hundred getting rid of all the germs every night, so the place is safe and sterile in the morning. Yes, it can be done – and all it takes is the touch of a button, how sexy is that?

Yeah sure, the germ clouds will come back as people arrive for work, so it will have to be done every night – a bit like cleaning our teeth. Well, we’re always eating right? So we need to brush against tooth decay, bad breath and yellow teeth.

Same thing with getting rid of our ambient workplace germs. To remove smells, infection threats and keep us healthy.

Which makes it the other side of workplace wellness.

The side nobody remembers because it’s out of sight and not sexy – but probably the most important side of all.

Keeping well by AVOIDING ILLNESS.

So easy – and a fraction of the cost of wow-factor surroundings.

Good clean living.

Now what workplace can be weller than that?

Picture Copyright: demian1975 / 123RF Stock Photo