Tag Archives: engagement

Unwell at work means temporarily disabled – incapable, unproductive, severely handicapped

Temporarily disabled - Unwell at work
Unwell at work, you’re temporarily disabled from doing your job properly – until you get better

Disabled is the only way to describe it.

Because, come down with the mother and father of all colds and no-one’s capable of anything.

So why hang around at work, pretending?

Head like boiled knitting, concentration shot to pieces, miserable as sin, and highly infectious.

Sounds like disabled to us.

Disabled and incapable

And that’s just for a cold. Much worse with shigella, e.coli or a staph infection. Or really serious illnesses like meningitis, bronchitis or pneumonia.

They all feel the same when they start – lousy all over, temperature, splitting head, nausea. Exactly what’s needed in a high-powered sales meeting, or a customer query on the phone.

Possibly doing more damage in ten seconds than most business calamities. A million miles away from the slick professional who usually handles the job.

So yes, every bit as disabled as anyone confined to a wheelchair.

Only worse, because at least wheelchair people know their limitations – and there’s seldom anything wrong with their brain. They’re more motivated too, more aware of critical scrutiny and any threat to job security.

But able-bodied people unwell at work are avoiding reality – for themselves as well as you. Kidding themselves that they ARE up to the mark. Everyone else is at their desk, putting in the hours, they’re not going to be found wanting.

Except by their very actions they are – dragging themselves into the office, sitting there suffering while they go through the motions. Your hottest assets, suddenly instant liabilities.

Which means – even though he was talking through his hat – the Chancellor was right in saying that disabled people impact productivity measurements. He just had the WRONG disabled people.

Three months lost, every year

And there’s plenty of evidence.

In last year’s Insight report by Global Corporate Challenge (now Virgin Pulse) – a study involving nearly 2,000 employees and validated against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Workplace Health and Productivity Questionnaire (HPQ) – workers confessed to being unproductive on the job for 57.5 days each – almost three working months.

Woh!

So the average employee is only productive nine months of the year, not twelve. For the remaining three months they’re disabled at their desks, not delivering the skills and expertise they were hired for. Determined, but still soldiering on. Living demonstration of how productivity goes for a loop.

And what’s the price of this disabled work?

Possibly too enormous to calculate, though here’s a good try. Mistakes are not always minor and omissions not always easy to excuse. One unguarded moment by a key team member can mean absolute disaster – productivity zero, and the end of the business.

Engagement and duty of care

All of which suggests it’s time for a serious look for how management values human capital. And the realism with which Britain looks at the productivity puzzle. Future investment is one thing – but what are we doing about illnesses that RETARD three month’s worth of our productivity every year – at a cost of £319 billion?

If nothing else, flexible working is an immediate fix, achievable right now, today.

Job One for any management is duty of care to staff. Of which a top priority by law is protecting them from hazards to their health – including biological agents (bacteria and other micro-organisms)… if the exposure is incidental to the work. Official recognition that coughs and sneezes spread diseases.

So never mind what the policy or discipline issues are – if staff aren’t well, SEND THEM HOME.

Flexible working is the right of every employee, which includes working from home – a good quarantine defence for the rest of the team from the one who’s ailing. And these days, with everyone connected by laptop or tablet, does it really make a difference if they’re not at their desks anyway?

Handling illness and stress

That is of course, if the team member is capable of working – not disabled by whatever bug has triggered the issue in the first place. With most jobs needing a high degree of focus and concentration, it’s best to think in black and white. Either they’re well enough to do their job, or they’re not.

There’s no place for grey – what organisation can afford the mistakes a temporarily disabled person inevitably is going to make? Not well means not well – and they are better off out of it – grounded from work until they are better.

Flexible working in any case solves other issues that may stress staff into being disabled – easing the image of disciplinarian bosses who don’t give a damn and penalise staff for not being in attendance.

Most staff are dedicated enough, but it’s hard to show commitment when life’s daily challenges get in the way. Juggling them against the job easily causes worry which impacts productivity – disabled by stress when flexible working could solve it.

Train delays for instance, are a fact of life in the South East. It could be a strike, leaves on the line or the wrong kind of sunshine – being repeatedly late for work piles up unnecessary black marks, so easily remedied by logging in remotely on the days when they happen.

Worth their weight in gold

Likewise, time off to sort family and personal issues.

Frowned at by strict management, but worth their weight in gold to grateful staff who stress about them. Going to the doctor, confronting a child’s school about bullying, getting the car fixed, sorting out finances. Who cares if staff log on at two in the morning, as long as the work gets done on time?

Worth their weight in gold to management too – as the accounting and legal sector demonstrate. Flexible working contributes to their productivity being the highest in the country. Calculated by the ONS at an output of £68.10 per hour – more than double the national average of £32.20.

Meanwhile, how about the CAUSE of temporarily disabled staff so seriously retarding productivity?

Being unwell at work is one thing – a bug can be picked up anywhere. But with most staff working together and sharing the same space upwards of eight hours a day, becoming unwell at work is a much more likely possibility.

Sharing the same space, breathing the same air, touching the same things. And all the time exposed to each other’s germs, and the germs riding around every one of us. As out of sight and invisible as the air they float in, sound waves, ideas – and modern day intangibles like cryptocurrency.

1½ days less than the Germans

Get rid of the germs, and Britain’s productivity jumps from nine months a year to a full twelve – a thundering boost out of the blue of 33%. What other country in the world can match that achievement – not by pressing on the accelerator, but by simply releasing the brakes?

And it’s easy too. Right now, any organisation can eliminate all germs daily in as little as 40 minutes. No germs means no more infections, no more unwell at work, no more temporarily disabled staff.

Forget British workers taking an extra day to match the Germans for weekly productivity. Press the sterilising button and we’ll be finished in 1½ days LESS.

So there Klaus, stick that in your haffenpfaffenpfeife and smoke it!

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. Achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. The only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Our £319 BILLION productivity ball and chain

The £319 billion ball and chain
Unseen and unrecognised: the £319 billion unwellness issues holding productivity back

Why does British productivity keep dragging its heels? Because £319 billion of health issues are holding us back.

All the other things – lagging investment, ageing infrastructure, accelerating technology, diminishing experience and ever-younger staff – they’re all fixable, usually by throwing money at them.

But an unwell work force is not even on management radar.

Workers’ wellbeing yes, fitness packages, health advice and feelgood incentives are all over the place.

£319 billion of wheelspin

But £319 billion of unwell costs? Is anybody looking? Do they even know it exists?

Because that kind of money is not chickenfeed. More like ten times our defence budget. Three times the Brexit get-out bill. Two-and-a-half times the NHS budget.

And still nobody’s twigging it.

Management, government and consultants are all gung-ho, demanding full throttle. Meanwhile we’re still shackled to the wall, brakes hard on and going nowhere – the least performing economy among leading G7 countries. Lots of noise, but just wheelspin.

You see, £319 billion is the all-up cost of being unwell among work staff.  £29 billion for absenteeism. And £290 billion of presenteeism – people not well, but going to work anyway, a growing measure of wonky job security.

Wonky?

Oh yes.

Since 2008 and the financial crash, absenteeism has been falling steadily, down around 20%. Good, right?

We wish.

Rising costs

Presenteeism however, already 10 times greater – is on the increase.  Exactly how much is hard to calculate. Staff are reluctant to admit they have a condition, even to themselves . Many are convinced showing weakness could cost their jobs. So they tough it out, pretending otherwise.

We’ve all been there, to some level or other. Choosing to go to work with a cold, instead of staying home. We won’t get paid and it could be a black mark. Better than finding a replacement’s been hired while you weren’t at your desk.

So we go to work anyway, dosed up to the eyeballs. Day Nurse or something like it – so concentration is a bit loopy, there’s maybe a headache, blurred vision, ringing in the ears and we’re irritable as all hell.

Brains not working

Not exactly the best way to ensure proper service and attention to detail. A trap  for making mistakes or oversights too. And isn’t it a drag that everything takes so long?

Oh, and yes. We sneeze and throw tissues around, so our colleagues come down with it too. Or failing that, the HVAC system stirs our germs, upholding equal opportunity.

Or maybe it’s not a cold, but something worse. Flu, or a tummy bug, picked up from one of those high-touch surfaces around the office – door handle or light switch, or the START button on the photocopier.

Out of order minds

You can see it, can’t you? We’re not ourselves when we’re not well.  And most of us wind up with some kind of issue – minor injury, sprain, cut, infection, or food reaction every three days.

Hardly surprising either , when you realise how lax workplace hygiene can be:

Our personal hygiene is pretty lax too – we can’t see germs, so we think we’re OK. Meanwhile:

All of which is how come presenteeism is as high as it is – an average of 57.5 days a year, almost three working months. A quarter of a year lost to unfocused and non-concentrating minds – some ball and chain!

Which of course is why productivity is continually as low as it is. Businesses are paying for a full twelve months’ performance, but staff are only capable of delivering nine.

Knock-on effect

On top of that is the knock-on effect from errors and omissions made while unwell at work. A lot of money and a lot of time, with often below-standard levels of quality.

One heck of an issue not to be aware of – and one heck a lot of money to lose without realising it. The elephant is in the room, but nobody has recognised it yet – all £319 billion of it.

And fixing is just as invisible. Getting rid of germs is push-button easy for around the same cost as daily charring – a demonstration to staff that management actively cares  for their health AND wellbeing.

But it needs an attitude shift to capitalise on it.

Stay away

The workplace might be germ-free and sterile, but it has to be kept that way. If staff pick up an illness from outside, no matter how small, they should be encouraged to stay away. Because they spread germs that colleagues can catch. And because in their germified state, they contaminate everything they touch.

Encouraging a stay-away reassures staff, protects colleagues and promotes goodwill all round. And anyway, with flexible working, being out of the office is no longer as critical as it was. If staff REALLY have to participate, they can log on remotely from home. Though the understanding should be that if they’re not well, they’re not well – and being released from work responsibility is a function of getting better.

Starting engagement

Understanding and sympathising  with staff is in any case, a crucial component of engaging with them. They could equally be working from home because of a bus strike, or handling a personal issue – children’s needs at school, handling a home breakdown, going to a funeral.

Because germs are only one of the reasons staff are unwell at work. Stress is another, all too often also unaddressed by management. But getting rid of germs buys a lot of time – remember the default is nine months’ productivity instead of twelve – management can afford to be accommodating.

Time changes everything

Which is exactly what stress needs – time. Time to listen and time to interact.

Much of the anguish of stress at work is relieved by voluntarily giving an audience – listening to problems, complaints and suggestions before they become issues. They might not be big in the scheme of things, but in the head of the staff member troubled by them, they can be monsters.

And time is there to buy good will. No longer refused or grudgingly granted just this once. Now it’s possible to give away without loss – reclaimed from the missing 3 months productivity forgotten  and unrecognised until now. And all started by pressing a button to get rid of germs.

No holding back now, productivity should be free to advance however is required. Bye-bye ball and chain. Oh, and no more £319 billion price tag either.

As we said in a previous post, watch out world!

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. Achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. The only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Boosting productivity: how to work harder by taking it easy

Sofa work
Ever noticed productivity goes up when it’s easy?

Productivity, productivity, how staff must hate that word. Working longer, working harder, always going the extra mile. No easy way out.

Faster, faster! Seems there’s no escape from having to work MORE, just to stay in the same place.

Yeah sure, not so bad if there’s extra money and longer holidays up for grabs. Though neither can lessen the pain.

All those hours lost, families fragmented, personal life down the tubes – where’s the magic?

Enjoyment vs resentment

Carrot and stick, see? Working late like everybody else does.

Because that’s what it takes to still have a job. Nobody WANTS to slave. But everybody HAS to. With brooding resentment every step of the way.

Which is one hell of a way to run a railroad – or anything else for that matter. Nineteenth Century sweatshop thinking. Head-on into everything and coming unstuck.

Much simpler to go with the flow. Bending with challenges and shaping around them. Making them work FOR you and not AGAINST.

Working harder by taking it easy.

Advanced technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence), for instance. Finishing in seconds where us humans take days or weeks.

Fast, yes – but not necessarily smart. Great for industry and automated business. Not so hot in the real world, where the business is satisfying people. Customers of course – and those amazing people called staff. The ones who make it all happen.

The very same who are always working those extra hours.

And what do they get for it? Tired, worn-out, nervous, irritable and depressed.

The productivity puzzle

Unwell of course with it, but unable to stay away. Jobs are few, nobody gets paid sick leave, and there might not even be a job to come back to afterwards.

Exactly why British productivity is down the tubes. The productivity puzzle they call it, though a solution is within reach – just by taking it easy.

Experts agree the puzzle started in 2008, with the financial crash. Redundancies, cutbacks, firms going belly up – kind of inevitable productivity took a dip.

But surprise, surprise, absenteeism took a dip too. With jobs thin on the ground, it was not the time to stay away from work if you were sick. Ten to one if you did, there’d be a junior in your place at half the salary. Bargain basement work quality, but money was tight.

Check the records. From 163.2 million days lost in 2007 just before the recession, absenteeism plunged 20% to 132.4 million days lost in 2011 – with only marginal recovery since.

Loud warning bells, right there.

People don’t suddenly stop getting sick. And germs don’t suddenly stop attacking us – after four billion years as the most successful life forms, they’ve learned to never give up. Reality check: in the whole history of the world, there’s never been such a thing as a get-well epidemic.

So if they didn’t take off sick, what were these people doing?

Unwell-at-work syndrome

Going to work unwell, of course. Toughing it out and pretending they were OK. And reality check again: hiding it as best they could from colleagues and employers. Whatever their numbers look like, the true picture is far worse.

And the truth is that since 2008, presenteeism – that’s people unwell at work – has increased steadily.  There are no official figures, as the issue is largely invisible. But with the all-pervasive culture of long hours now firmly established, it’s not unreasonable to suggest they’ve doubled.

And productivity in the meantime?

Down 15% on other G7 countries. 27% less than the Germans  and 31% less than the French. Hence the Euro-joke that it takes the Brits an extra day to do a week’s work.

Well, yes. For so many of us, it’s doing the job with one hand tied behind our backs.

Exactly what it’s like trying to work when you’re not well.

Hard to focus when your body’s out of balance. Just keeping your mind on the job becomes a mission. Mistakes get made, deadlines get missed, business flies out the window. Get really unlucky, and the whole company could crash.

OK, so in easy steps, how do we turn things around?

Prevention is better than cure

Prevention is better than cure – remember that one?

Eliminate germs that cause illness, and the problem turns around.

Because make no mistake, the germs are there – in their billions, just like normal. Too small to see so they’re not on our radar – but we are certainly on theirs. And because we not aware of them, we leave ourselves wide open to attack, particularly in the workplace.

For instance, as we’ve pointed out many times:

Again, because we can’t see germs, our personal hygiene is not much better.

From germ-free to engagement

Getting rid of germs therefore is like saving us from ourselves.

And it’s easier than we might think. A nightly mist-up with ionised hydrogen peroxide takes out ALL germs in the air and across all surfaces to make the place sterile.  As simple as pressing a button, it makes workplaces safe and secure for around £30 a day – probably less than the existing office cleaning bill.

It’s a proactive step too.

More positive than pretty well all staff wellness programmes. In their excellent Absence Management report, the CIPD list TWO PAGES of popular wellbeing options – from counselling, to gym membership, to healthcare packages – but not one addresses health protection.

But if there’s no germs, there are no illnesses to catch. A big impact from any staff point of view. Effectively demonstrating with actions not words that management is concerned for their welfare. That keeping them well and healthy is a top-level priority, and a major gesture at encouraging engagement. How’s that for effective motivation and retention?

A major boost to work quality too – without any demands on staff commitment. No longer hours to work, no extra mile to go, staff can give fully of themselves without being impeded by health issues.

So, with the ball rolling – and a boost to staff output capability now climbing by up to a third – productivity should be well on the upswing.

Productivity by involvement

Continuing staff engagement maintains this momentum. Dialogue to gain their involvement, listening sessions to ease their anguish. The easy but crucial step, from old-style Us & Them conflict, to useful two-way partnership.

Involvement, yes – because Beryl from Accounts knows more about VLookups in Excel than the IT consultant about to commit thousands on yet another system upgrade. The consultant might never touch Excel, but Beryl uses it daily.

And anguish, because everybody feels some – which could be stress, emotional strain, relationship issues or financial worries. Except a problem shared is a problem halved, especially if the boss is sympathetic – an engagement landmark and another notch up for recovering productivity.

On the road again

See? All of them easy steps, all of them key to everyone working better, enjoying what they do, feeling mutual respect and sharing their commitment to get on with the job.

Smarter, right?

A quantum leap from the Dark Ages of harder, faster, stronger.

So easy does it. Smarter, friendlier, healthier.

Productivity up and on the road again.

Picture Composite: Jordon Whitfield and Neonbrand on Unsplash