Among the lyrics nay-sayers are objecting to in the new Do they know it’s Christmas song just released by Bob Geldof & Co is “Where a kiss of love can kill you…”
It’s a heart-breaking reality for the people of West Africa, whose love and compassion is denied them by the highly contagious infect-on-contact nature of the virus.
The dignity of dying
It’s been much reported that the custom of touching and kissing the dying and the dead is a major cause of spreading this dreadful affliction.
How dare we be so heartless and uncaring!
We would all be better people for demonstrating such humanity. To show love to the dying is one of the greatest gifts of all. Unfortunately, with Ebola around, it will kill you.
Except maybe we’re not that uncaring – just misplaced in our thinking and unobservant of the ways of others. And maybe a little insensitive.
Here to help
This week, more volunteers flew into Sierra Leone – thirty NHS professionals, advance guard of over 1,000 highly motivated and committed young people.
As trained medics, it will be ingrained in them that patients must be isolated and contact restricted to professionals wearing proper protection. Not wrong, but itself adding to the crisis.
To locals they are the “spacemen” who take loved ones away, denying them the care and support of their family when they need it most. To avoid such heartbreak, they hide sick family members from them, stealing into the jungle to even more remote havens.
But unfortunately not they’re havens at all. How ever far they run, Ebola will kill them for their love. Giving and loving is not on the agenda.
Where’s the love?
That makes it a bleak Christmas for everyone. As a celebration of love and compassion it belongs to the world – for Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Hindus every bit as much as Christians. Love and compassion are qualities we all seek to show in our actions, 365 days a year.
In fitting tribute, in Germany, Japan and several other places round the world there are shops devoted to Christmas all year round. Such glitz and razzmatazz might overpower the underlying love, but the motive is still there. We care, we need to show it, Happy Christmas.
Which brings us back to Sierra Leone. If we need to show compassion anywhere, it’s here.
Yes, it’s amazing what’s happening. Professionals from around the world – particularly Britain – giving of themselves and risking their lives to be there. Money and resources can buy a lot of compassion.
But where is the love the locals need to show their own?
Well-meaning but insensitive
With our Western ways and perceptions, we steal it away from them just as surely as Ebola does. They can’t touch, feel, kiss, or be together. We rip them apart without knowing we are doing so. No wonder they flee to the jungle.
How would we feel if we were denied access to our own? Our own children, soul mate or parents taken away from us – as if we have committed a crime?
This is the REAL Ebola crisis, isn’t it?
How to let people show love.
And how to be genuine about it.
So a bunch of pop stars get together to make a fund-raising song – they waive their fee but generate more publicity for themselves than they might otherwise have got on their own.
So the concerned among us make donations – dumping the guilt bucket and wallowing in feelgood.
So the gung-ho professionals arrive in West Africa – troops, medicos, nurses, gofers – boots on the ground, determined to stomp out this terrible virus once and for all.
But where’s the Christmas?
Where do the people of Sierra Leone get to show their love for the family who are suffering and dying? How do they show their love and respect for the dead?
Can we solve it with pastors, imams, rabbis and priests?
The hurt is in the heart
Have we any idea how hard it is to ask those people to let go? To get them to accept that it’s out of their hands, those lives are gone – unless by some lucky chance the medical professionals can bring them back again?
All we can do is think of them and try in every way we can. Recognise they all face the long good-bye and try to put ourselves in their position.
Because unlike them, we’re not good with dead bodies. They scare us, even when they’re our own family. A throwback maybe to 350 years ago, when we ourselves were faced with The Plague and in our ignorance we thought the slightest touch could do for us.
Be kind to these people, they’re humans just like us. Take them to your heart and love them in your own way. If the world shows love, maybe losing a loved one may not be so heart-breaking.
Love is the greatest gift of all and Ebola can’t have it.
Don’t believe all the City doom and gloom, it’s a lot easier to turn productivity around than you think.
Oh sure, UK productivity lags behind the major economies.
But there’s a reason for our stunted performance – a penalty we all pay without realising it.
Because it’s not that we’re less productive. More that we’re not actually productive ALL of the time. Far from it.
In fact, without our knowledge, something is holding us back for almost three working months every year. 57.5 days on average.
The price we pay in lost productivity by coming to work unwell.
And right there is the shortfall.
Lowest productivity in Europe
For every 12 months of salary paid out, the best we Brits can deliver most of the time is only 9 months worth of work at full capability.
In the missing 3 months we’re gobbling down tablets to ease crippling back ache or muscle pain. Trying to ignore the near-fever of flu or norovirus that turns our guts to jelly and our minds to boiled knitting. Or grappling with monsters of worry or dread, sometimes bursting into tears with the stress of it all – men as well as women.
“Presenteeism” the HR people call it. When we’re smitten with unwellness that saps our skills and ability to think – but no so bad that we have to take time off for it.
Or perhaps we’re so worried about job security, we come to work anyway. Not wanting to get fired, feeling like death, with a dread of being found wanting.
Three months of the year, we’re like that.
Every one of us, the top brass too.
At work and battling with some kind of physical or mental issue every three days or so.
Think of how an ordinary cold drags on for days and weeks. Hardly worth pulling a sickie, but slowing us down in ways that could unknowingly hurt our job. Like staying fully focused when attention to detail is critical – reviewing figures for a bid, or brainstorming a new strategy – and then getting them wrong.
Same thing with mental challenges – a death in the family or worrying about finances. We’re not actually ill, but emotional and psychological pressures can drive us into it. Giving ourselves ulcers is all too familiar – so is the lost feeling at the edge of a breakdown.
Because we’re not machines, we’re human. Our lives go up and down – happy times, tragedies, unexpected illnesses, accidents – and just to be at our desks can be an effort, let alone deliver 100%.
Which is why on balance, most of us are only capable of 75%.
Low productivity: the antidote
So how do we turn it around?
Not by grabbing for the latest business must-have. Even with the latest technology, our own performance would still be less than we’d like. 75% of the advanced version is still only 75%.
Better deal with the issues that stunted us in the first place. If we really want to turn productivity around, delivering 100% of ourselves has got to be the goal.
Start with the quick fix, clobbering whatever it is that make us ill.
Reality is that they’re around us all the time, we’re even half bacteria ourselves. On top of which, every one of us carries our own personal germ cloud floating in the air around us – our own bio-signature, as unique as a fingerprint or retina scan.
And, wait for it.
Unhealthy = unproductive
Nowhere is probably more laden with germs than our own workplace.
Just lift your keyboard and look underneath. All those dust bunnies and detritus are the things we CAN see – so just imagine the germs that we can’t.
You get the picture. No matter how clean and tidy your workplace might be, chances are inevitable it’s crawling with germs. An increasing aggregate of germs too. If the place has never been treated, it’s likely bacteria, viruses and fungi have been breeding there since the year dot.
An investment in efficiency
This is where the £30 comes in. The business end of how you turn productivity around. And probably not much more than you’re already paying for your daily cleaning service.
That’s all it takes to get yourself a whole health protection system to eliminate all germs. And you read that right – ALL GERMS.
Cutting to the chase, your £30 a day buys you the whole kit and caboodle to do it. Germ-killing biocide, dispersing machine, accessories, training to use it, finance to acquire it – and the only insurance policy of its kind in the world to cover your use of it.
You put the machine into action every night when your team are gone. When it releases an ultra fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide that reaches everywhere and oxidises all germs to oblivion. To a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level.
OK, so you can’t protect your team from picking up germs outside.
But in the workplace – the space they all share, work in, move around in, breathe in and generate money in – the entire surroundings are sterile. No germs to catch, no illness to succumb to, no under-performing at 75%. Your team feel healthy and good with it, the first step to turn productivity around.
So what has it brought you?
More bang for your buck in the salaries that you pay people. Still the same wages, but more of your money’s worth. Closer to full power performance.
And time, of course.
Time to fix stress
Un-stunted by illness, the same people can do their jobs better, faster, with fewer delays.
Which gives you time to apply in your next step to turn productivity around, alleviating stress.
Let’s face it, if any of your team were your son or daughter, you would be sympathetic to the pressures they were under – and indulgent with how you handled them. Feelings are sensitive things, and can make or break the strongest relationships.
Hold that thought.
Because your team are human, just like your kids are. They need sympathy and indulgence too – or better still, compassion. If you value them, they need to know they are not machines.
So you give them time. And you can afford to.
You’ve just won a whole load back by getting rid of germs, now spend it wisely to de-stress your team.
Come to that, it’s time that can de-stress a lot of things.
The always-on black hole
Take the accepted Twenty-First Century culture we have drifted into of always-on involvement. A stress-maker if ever there was one. Team members feeling pressured that they never get time to disengage. On edge always to check their emails far into the evening and weekends.
And only a skip from there, working hours late at the office like everybody else. Having to prove commitment over and over again. No wonder they get sleepless nights. And no wonder their energy flags when they’re back on deck in the morning.
So yes, time.
Take a walk round the office at 5.30 and see who’s there. Ask what’s wrong and how you can help.
Well there must be something wrong if they’re still there after hours. Isn’t the work designed to be accomplished in the time allocated? So what glitch has happened to make them work late?
Besides, your team need their own time to recharge and revitalise for you. To go home and engage with their own lives, so they’re ready, fresh and motivated for you in the morning. Likewise weekends and public holidays. Make them take them, it’s to your advantage and takes the pressure away.
People versus people
Then there’s other issues.
Relationships to sort out – people being side-lined by cliques, disagreements with a line manager’s protégé, defusing favouritism, even coping with bullying.
Yes, they all take time to discuss and resolve. But time is a substance you can afford with healthier staff – and it’s not the work that’s important, it’s the people who enable it to happen successfully. People issues SHOULD come first.
So you CAN take time out to consult and discuss. You CAN afford to listen. You CAN take time to show that you care, that you value your people and WANT them to work for you. Just as, by handling them right, you persuade them that they WANT to work for you. And how much stress could that ease?
You may not come to work every morning on the 7.25 to Waterloo. But it would be useful if you did.
Jammed in tight as always, you’re surrounded by shapes with the saddest body language in the country. Sagging, tired and exhausted before they’ve even started, there’s no motivation, these are people who resent going to work.
They are angry, bitter, scared, brow-beaten, already impatient for the day to be over. Nobody has invested enough time in their aspirations to make them WANT to be there. What stress will they go through? What will they do to compensate?
Some will pull sickies. Some will get drunk every night. All of them will clock-watch. All of them will be so stressed they’ll moan like a drain to anyone who will listen.
With good reason. Nobody TOOK THE TIME to show they cared.
Like son and daughter
There’s more you can do with time too – like you would with your son or daughter.
Allow team members time off when they DO feel ill, poor work could be more damaging than none. Time off too when other issues crowd out their ability to concentrate. To see the bank about a loan, get a pregnancy check, sort out child care, go to a funeral, or get ready for a wedding. You care, they pay it back – in effort.
Time is the pressure that stampedes stress, but with a healthy team you’ve got plenty of it. Fewer absences at home, fewer absences staring at their desks– and anyway productivity is up, so reinvesting time can only pay dividends.
Which works for the people in pain too – the ones with the killer back aches or the foot they can barely walk on. But they’re yours, and they’re good, and you need to show that you value them.
So give them time like they’re most important people in the world. Which they are – human assets working for you. Give them time to get down the corridor to the conference room, time to see the specialist, time for their physiotherapy. To turn productivity around, it’s worth it.
Getting your money’s worth
All of which is a lot for your £30 a day. And a lot cheaper than the next generation IT system you might have been considering. Or the wellness package you might have considered as a bribe – gym membership, medical consultancy, keep fit classes, stop smoking clinics…
Why pay extra for them to do their job? Will they do it any better? And wouldn’t they rather have a raise anyway?
Need further convincing?
Well according to the CIPD, absenteeism costs around £87 a day. And according to GCC (now Virgin Pulse), presenteeism costs 10 times more – around £5K per team member per year.
Can any business afford to keep making losses like that? For £30 a day, you don’t have to.
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.
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
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.
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.
Accusing headlines still roll – long after the Mid Staffs disaster.
Sloppy hygiene, indifferent care, patients maltreated and sidelined.
Will nothing save the NHS from self-destruction?
Once more with feeling
It’s from reports like these that the Compassion in Practice programme was begun – a nation-wide initiative led by Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England.
Compassion is so sadly lacking that a special drive is necessary to put it in place. To recognise that patients are human beings, not numbers. That feelings and sensitivities are involved.
All very laudable – but in reality, just another top-down knee-jerk from the rah-rah top dogs. To make it look like some moral responsibility is happening.
Yes, it’s an important project and the people involved in it are obviously committed to the hilt. It’s also doomed to token responses and indifference across the board.
Because though its focus is compassion, in the misguided real world we’ve created for ourselves, our culture no longer includes kindness.
We have become mean, selfish and bad-tempered in ways that would shock our parents. The product of our go-faster, results-driven, material-grabbing society.
And strong though it is, the Compassion in Practice programme is no match for our ingrained reflex of only looking out for Number One.
Its very credo demonstrates the background from which it has sprung: Care, Compassion, Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment.
Take out “Compassion” and it could be any double-speak marketing plan from selling life insurance to toothpaste. Our sales teams care, we bring you the best through Competence, Communication, Courage and Commitment.
You’ve been a customer. You’ve heard it before.
All those invisible words strung together to be saluted while the company hymn is sung. Meaningless promises of nothing from their overuse. Right over the heads of patients and medical staff alike.
A real issue
Which is a crying shame because it IS important. Compassion, that is.
People ARE lying in hospital and suffering unnecessarily.
Ignored, unattended and forgotten because that is the way we treat everything in our online, mobile-obsessed, narcissistic society.