We’re talking thousands, maybe even tens of thousands.
It’s HR’s unexpected contribution to the bottom line. Maximising staff productivity up to a third more than you’re getting now – all on the same salary budget.
Easy-peasy too – by putting staff health in the cloud. An overnight bankroll from sickness costs.
Er, but it’s not the kind of cloud you might expect. Or the kind of virus.
Serious cloud, serious virus
This cloud is hydrogen peroxide, our own body’s natural killer of germs – rolling in all-penetrating mist through your workspace. Ionised so it reaches everywhere and grabbing with its electrostatic charge.
And the virus is biological – far more treacherous than any browser hacker or Trojan. One outbreak of norovirus could have your whole staff writhing with cramps for days. Spewing their guts out with projectile vomit- or ripping them apart with hell-fire diarrhoea.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mould – they none of them stand a chance.
Hmm, sterile – all germs knocked out, dead. No chance for anyone to catch a bug or infection, the workspace is safe.
Which means no-one going off sick from illness caught at work. No sick pay, no replacement staff costs – everyone’s at their desk working.
No unwell at work costs either. The price you pay for underpowered staff trying to do their jobs while they’re feeling like death. Taking ten times longer, making mistakes, snapping at customers, jeopardising business through sheer lack of concentration.
That’s where the thousands come in. Not so much the absences, more the soldiering on against all odds – and inevitably making a hash of it. Ten times more than ordinary sick costs if you add it up. Thousands and thousands – and tens of thousands.
All that expenditure – and it happens to every organisation and every employee, everywhere. Drip, drip, more and more unfulfilled salary resource, unstoppably down the drain, every day.
Except now HR can snatch it back – a bankroll present to you of one-third more staff productivity. More effort, more input, for the same money you’re already paying – because now your staff capabilities are fully realised.
Because your most valuable assets are properly protected. Shielded from every kind of bug – common colds and flu, respiratory infections, tummy upsets and various kinds of gastroenteritis. And the serious illnesses too – legionella, TB, or even worse.
Over to you
You provide the daily sterilising – piggy-backed with regular cleaning perhaps, or from your own Hypersteriliser machine (a press-button automatic jobbie that does the place in minutes).
Your staff just get on with the job. Unhackable by bacteria or viruses.
A productivity bankroll out of the blue – just by being in the cloud.
Poppycock, of course. If they were a school, there’d be a supply teacher in there without missing a beat – and paid for as an anticipated cost of doing business.
Which is one way round – throw money at it. And hope it doesn’t get worse.
So what happens if an airline pilot feels unwell, but flies anyway – playing hero against the schedules? Could be worse, could be disaster. How good is his judgement if he’s not 100%? Are his reflexes fast enough? Can he focus on the job without endangering his passengers?
It’s an issue all organisations face. Airlines, accountancy firms, supermarkets, fast food joints.
OK, so it’s not so life-threatening, flying a spreadsheet instead of an Airbus A380 – but the issues are the same. Unwell at work, same opportunities to make mistakes, forget key factors, gloss over vital requirements.
And depending on the outcome, the sky’s the limit in terms of costs to be compensated. On top of the predictable cost of salary paid for, but not returned in productivity. People staggering in to work unwell – and not being able to cope.
Avoidable because they’re picked up in the workplace. Lots of people in close quarters, working together – exposure to commonly shared germs is inevitable. Transferred on contact mostly, via high-touch fomites. Remember Kate Winslet in Contagion?
Everyday items like door handles, light switches, lift buttons, touch screens. Personal items like keys, money, credit cards, cosmetics – and most of all phones.
Whoa, whoa, hold it.
What are we, germophobes? Paranoid about germs and demanding everything scrubbed spotless?
Hygiene reality check
Allergic to unnecessary costs, more like. To bankrupting ourselves with needless expense and the wheel-spin that goes with it. Customer delays, underpowered service, missed opportunities, lost business and slowed momentum.
Which is why we keep flogging this Hypersteriliser machine we’re always banging on about. The thing that takes out all germs and makes the place sterile. No germs, no chance to be ill, where’s the problem?
131 million days are lost every year because we’re down with something – according to the Office of National Statistics – around 4.4 days per worker at a cost of £29 billion.
Not good if you’re a manager, or running your own business.
Not good for employees either.
Losing hand over fist
Staff off sick means having to double up. Overtime, yes – but not because you wanted it. Working with temps who are not up to speed. Less time to do your own stuff. More stress, stretched patience, being under pressure.
And of course, less to divvy out when it comes to bonus time.
4.4 days – almost a week.
But folks at the Sage Group reckon it’s far higher – and £100 billion too. More like 19 days for ill health, 23 for stress, depression and anxiety. And as the world’s third largest accounting software operation, they ought to know – most bean-counters want it accurate, down to the penny.
Which gets a little hairy when you do the sums.
Just to grab a perspective, say we’re a company of 20 people in an office, averaging between us around £20,000 a year each. Some kind of sales outfit, or maybe a call centre.
Allow 16 days each for colds, flu, tummy bugs and the usual suspects – and we’re looking at a monthly hit to the company’s bottom line of about £2,220 – more than the take-home for any of us. A deadweight overhead nobody ever sees.
Except it’s mostly preventable.
Because – not looking at injuries or long-term physical problems – all those ailments come from germs. Viruses or bacteria we either breathe in or eat – which trigger coughs, sniffles, headaches, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.
And all of which we pass easily from one to another- cooped up together in our open plan office the way we are. Breathing the same air, sharing the same things, touching the same objects and each other, eating at our desks and running the same risks.
Look closely and you’ll see why. Greasy finger marks on keyboards, phones and light switches – dust bunnies behind all those plasma screens. 10 million bacteria on the average desk that we’re working at with out bare hands.
And still sitting there tomorrow, because the average wipe-down doesn’t actually cover all those high touch surfaces. Vacuum the floors, empty the bins, wipe the desks – and that’s yer lot. No wonder sickie costs are £2,220 a month!
No doctor necessary
Now here’s the preventable bit.
To take down all the viruses and bacteria everywhere in the room – dark corners, cracks and crevices too – as well as the air, that 80% of moving-around space that never gets touched – annihilating germs completely.
All it takes is to press one button on a smart-looking machine – about the size of a small wheelie-bin. The Hypersteriliser.
Nifty device, this.
It fills the air with an ultra-fine mist of hydrogen peroxide – ionised, so it actively spreads away from itself. Reaching up and out – hard up against ceilings and walls, onto every surface. Behind, under and on top of filing cabinets, server consoles, copy machines, the works.
Next morning, the place is sterile. No viruses, no bacteria, no illnesses to bring anybody down – no pathogens to pass on to each other either.
And it’s like that every morning – day in, day out.
Safe, secure. With machine and misting solution on lease at just £420 a month – less than a quarter of sick leave costs. Costs that no longer have to be met. And work pressure nobody has to keep living with.
Of course, everything could stay the way it is and we all put up with it – cough, sniffle.
Two plus two equals..?
But, let’s see – that’s £2,220 less the £420 lease cost…
What business wouldn’t want to save £1,800 a month – AND have everybody well and smiling at their desks, all up to full horsepower?
Money talks, germs don’t. And the difference is one heck of a packet.
Ask any cruise ship passenger, this stomach-churning nasty strikes in warm weather as well as cold. Blue sky holiday? Holiday blues, more like.
Right now it’s on the rampage again. Sixty children out of action at a New Forest school last week. Another 32 off yesterday.
90 out of the school’s 350 total – a whole quarter absent and the place is still open!
It might not be an epidemic, but it’s pretty damn close. Because – highly contagious and a hardy survivor – norovirus never lets go.
Contagious is right – 1,000 times more virulent than any flu virus. And if you’ve ever seen how fast coughs and sneezes spread through a bunch of junior school kids, you’ll know what a runaway wildfire flu can be.
Plus norovirus takes 24 hours to happen. So infected kids can mingle with the healthy ones without anybody knowing. The slightest touch is enough to transfer it. Playing tag with stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
The hands have it
Then there’s the fomites. The things children touch that others touch too. Desks, chairs, pencils, pens, door handles, computer keyboards, gym equipment, toys, and everything in the lunch hall.
Norovirus can survive on surfaces without a human host for a week, ten days, or more. Any child touching them catches the bug and perpetuates the spread. Touching other surfaces and other kids, keeping the infection going.
Which is where the costs start snowballing.
Most norovirus outbreaks focus on medical issues. But the money side is just as bad.
In a people-intensive place like a junior school, it’s not just children who go off sick, it’s teachers too. But they have to be paid for, even though they’re not there. So do the supply teachers who come in to substitute for them – assuming the school remains open.
If it gets really serious, closing the school is another cost. The whole staff have to be paid, even though they’re doing nothing.
Piling on the pounds
Then there’s containment. No school can keep the books balanced if it’s closed. So specialist crews have to go in and disinfect the place. Crews that cost money.
They need to be thorough. Most “deep clean” procedures have little or no effect. The virus hangs on in cracks and crevices – even in the air itself. And if the contact time with bleach or whatever the purifying agent being used is too short, the infection bounces back again.
In 2002, the Holland America cruise liner Amsterdam suffered repeat outbreaks on four consecutive cruises, despite rigorous cleaning. A whole cruise liner aborting its mission, four times in a row. 1,380 passengers at a time. 1,380 refunds, 1,380 grumpy complaints to friends who chose other cruise lines.
Plenty, plenty lost revenue.
The deep cleans didn’t work. So the only thing was to take the ship out of commission and disinfect thoroughly – a major income-earning unit off-line for more than a week. With expensive hand treatment right down to the fomites of bedding, TV remotes, bibles – and all the poker chips and currency in the casino.
Not good enough
The New Forest school could easily be the same. Germ-killing bleach is fine if it gets everywhere, but normal wipe-clean methods never do. The virus lives on, under, behind, or on top of things. In inaccessible places, clinging to the walls, the ceilings, the light fittings.
Which means JAM (Just Add Money) and the school remains closed. Because the job has to be done again. And again. Until it’s either fumigated properly, or so long passes that the virus dies out.
Meanwhile, the infected children are all at home. Not in isolation either, there’s other family. Mums running ragged, probably with other children to worry about too. And Dads, escaping to the office, but not immune either. All at risk, because who of any of them ever remembers to keep washing their hands?
So businesses in Southampton, Bournemouth – and all around south Hampshire where these Dads work – start having norovirus outbreaks as well. Key staff off sick and not producing. Work projects stalled, orders not being filled, revenue not coming in.
Suddenly, a price tag that could run into millions. And misery – financial and otherwise – for thousands of people along the South Coast.
All because little Jimmy, or Kieron, or Sally-Anne, or Marguerite did not wash their hands – nine times out of ten, the way norovirus starts in the first place – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.
Can it all be avoided? The outbreak contained? All these costs controlled? Life return to normal?
It could be a long process – and a lot of pounds down the drain before anything happens.
To the rescue
Unless of course, Hypersterilisers are brought into play – not just for health’s sake, but to protect everybody’s bank balance.
These deceptively innocent-looking machines destroy ALL viruses and bacteria in a room in around forty minutes. Their super-fine spray of ionised hydrogen peroxide plasma is electrically charged to reach into every remote corner and crevice, grabbing and oxidising germs to oblivion as it does so.
It might take a while to do a whole school – overnight perhaps, running each machine from one room to the next. But once it’s done, the whole place is sterile – no germs of any kind – totally safe.
Of course, once the children come back, they bring their germs with them. Most of the time, OK – assuming they’ve recovered – but often carrying others. Flu, other tummy bugs, MRSA – all kinds of bugs that can’t be detected, because they’re too small to see.
And they’re there alright. Each of us trails a bio-cloud of germs with us wherever we go – and leaves traces behind, wherever we’ve been.
First, a rigorous drive to get everyone to wash their hands – always after the loo, always before food. Next, nightly treatment with a Hypersteriliser to clobber any germs.
Next morning, back to safe again. No more costs – and bank balances as healthy as the kids.
People taking chances, skiving days off. Like, unless they’re in hospital, it’s all stitch up, yeah?
Productivity down the tubes because somebody has a sore toe.
Not an issue, except for staff discipline.
Show them you’re soft and they’ll take you for everything. All it needs is a little tightening up.
Beyond sick leave
Yes, sick leave is an issue. But small in the great scheme of things. A blip alongside the multi-million pound deals where the real action is.
The size that germs are when they take you down. You, or any of your staff – we’re all human. When infection strikes, we’re all of us out of commission – real pain, real fever, real life threat if it gets out of hand.
Which is why sick leave.
Time out to get better. Quarantine to avoid taking other staff down too.
Side issue, yes – except it’s human assets that are at hazard. Productive only when the body is working well. Dodgy, dead risky, or downright dangerous when not 100%.
Yes, so somebody slopes off a day extra after a cold or flu. A small price against having the whole office out with the same thing. No hands when they’re most needed, so things start looking iffy.
Or riskier still, how about they DON’T take time off? Or not all the time they’re supposed to. So they’re working at half power, unwell at work, dragging everybody down with them. Screwing up left, right and centre because their minds are wet putty.
Paying that never stops
Costa Brava con job? Get ready for Costa Plenty.
Like how about the airline captain who lifts off for a long-haul flight with tummy cramps? £500 million worth of Airbus A380, 360 passengers – and lawyers lined up to infinity and beyond if anything goes wrong.
And if the worst happens, who’s going to fly with that airline ever again? What happens to their licence? Is there any way back from such negative PR?
Can’t happen in your business?
Hey, when sick leave issues go pear-shaped, nobody is immune.
Like Mex-food restaurant chain, Chipotle. Staff recalled from sick leave early – still contagious. 133 customers down with food poisoning, share price drops 12%. And this on top off previous health incidents – only a bumpy ride back.
You see, sick leave itself is easy. Expensive, yes – business gurus PwC put yearly UK sick leave costs at £29 billion.
The hard part is the knock-ons. An average ten times normal sick leave cost for regular Tom, Dick and Harriets who struggle back to their desks as martyrs – an eye-watering £290 billion.
And then there’s the damage control. What do those sick staff do when they’re not functioning and out of their heads, basically sitting there trying to stay alive? What can they cost with their mistakes and falling around? Double their salary? Triple? Check out the hairy possible Germonomics.
The mind boggles.
All of which says, don’t catch a cold. Treat sick leave seriously. Over-indulge if you have to. A few extra days off is chicken-feed alongside crashing the whole company.
Besides, what better motivation can you have for staff? You show you care and you’re thinking about them. Your ace in the hole. They might not volunteer the extra mile – but they’re sure to be OK with giving it, if you ask.
Which means profits are safe, staff are safe, everybody’s happy.