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.
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.
It’s the cause of just about every sickness we’ll ever have – sloppy hygiene that leaves us open to infection.
Sure, Great Unwashed is not a handle any of us like.
But it’s accurate, however much we may be in denial.
And if we think about it for more than two seconds, we’ll recognise the truth – and ourselves. Being the Great Unwashed is the downside of this fast-paced life we live, stampeded into Go-Go-Go! all the time.
Yeah, we’re unwashed – and here’s the dirt on us – the Never-Never society – never wash, never clean, never healthy:
Because somehow our culture is all screwed up – we expect to bathe and groom regularly, but there’s so little focus on washing hands.
Start with your own home. Nice shower, nice bath – the indulgence of getting clean, symbolic for so many of us in washing away the day, soaking away our troubles.
Style isn’t everything
But how about the loo? Not how stylish it looks, or the indulgence of its heated seat – but how far is it from the basin? How easy is it to clean your hands after a major session and you need to get rid of the yuck?
Kind of OK if you’re about to have a shower or bath. Not so good if you’re ready to go to work and on your way out of there.
Because what’s the first thing you do after using the toilet paper? Pull up your pants, right? ‘Cos you can’t shuffle to the basin tied up like a chain-gang con. But you haven’t washed your hands yet, so whatever’s on them is transferred to your pants – and any other clothing you might fix at the same time.
So somehow you make it to the basin and you hit the taps – yuck on your clothes and now on the handles. Will you remember to wash them off? Make that a maybe.
It’s easier though, if the basin is next to the loo. With any luck, you might be able to scrub up while sitting on the hopper. Not easy, skewing yourself around – but do-able if you’re determined.
Exactly the opposite if you have a separate loo. It’s a whole mission to get yourself back on your feet and ready to move, so chances are you forget about the whole business and get the heck out of Dodge.
Puts a whole new complexion on the “guest’s cloaks” you have under the stairs, doesn’t it? If it’s just a toilet and no basin, visitors will just have to sit down at your dinner party as if everything’s OK.
Which is exactly where our problem starts.
We THINK of ourselves as a clean society and we THINK we’re OK. Our hands LOOK clean, so we ASSUME they are. No visible germs, so it never occurs to us that there are any.
AND WE GO THROUGH THE WHOLE DAY LIKE THAT!
All the time we have the mind-set that because our hands look clean, there’s no need to worry. Which is how come it’s possible we might sit down to dinner in a restaurant with no soap and water coming anywhere near our hands since before breakfast. Don’t you love curry, all that touch-feely eating-with-your-fingers stuff?
And never mind how clean your hands started out, what have you touched during the day that might have added to the invisible nasties that are already there? What did you pick up? What did you throw away? Who did you shake hands with? What did you have to wipe off?
How about money? Well for a start, the shock merchants will sound off that 90% of US dollar bills are contaminated with cocaine. But worse, paper money can easily carry more germs than a toilet – e. coli, enterobacter, salmonella, acinetobacter, staphylococcus aureus, bacillus, streptococcus pneumoniae, norovirus, take your pick.
Uh huh. Then how about credit cards, ATMs, mobiles, supermarket trolleys and the rest? When do they ever get cleaned? And yet we think they’re safe – well sure we do, because why don’t we wash our hands after touching them?
Do you know where it’s been?
But do you know what we touch more than anything else – dirty hands or whatever? Our faces, 2,000 – 3,000 times a day. Our most sensitive, vulnerable places – eyes, nose and mouth – every germ’s favourite way into the body.
Remember norovirus? Extreme cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, the works – the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease, probably the best proof yet that we’re The Great Unwashed.
We don’t think of ourselves as that, but we are. And until we wake up and do something about it, all kinds of horrible things can happen to us – and it will all be our fault.
They might promote staff wellness – and certainly a lot of feelgood. So as staff reward programmes they have their place.
Trouble is, they tend to work on the Pareto principle – that 80% of employees justify only 20% of the costs. And the costs, particularly in the US, are eye-watering – over $6bn (£3.74bn) annually and 70% of Fortune 500 companies have them in place.
Staff wellness and staff wellness
But there’s wellness plans and wellness plans. Most staff are already well and reasonably healthy. So that “wellness” in reality means “lifestyle management” – diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes aimed at keeping them healthy.
Not active intervention to prevent them becoming ill.
The rest of the workforce most probably do have a problem. Usually a chronic condition that employers have already compensated for, such as wheelchair access. Either that or management and staffer recognise some kind of impaired performance and make allowances.
There is an issue though, that most staff are already well and reasonably healthy. MOST of the time yes, but not all of it.
It’s not that they are sick and have to be absent. But pretty well all of us are aware that every so often we are not ourselves and struggle to get through the day.
Every three days
Every so often happens more often than we think. Around every three days according to research by Benenden Healthcare Society. Usually nothing serious, perhaps a cold or flu, a stomach upset, headache or muscle injury.
Enough to affect our performance though.
How well we know that things takes twice as long when we can’t concentrate. That figures never seem to add up the way we want them to. And that every single detail is ten times more complicated than it is normally.
Presenteeism, it’s called. People coming to work unwell and trying to do their jobs underpowered – to a greater or lesser capability, EVERY THREE DAYS.
Already experts calculate UK absenteeism costs at £29 billion at an average of 6.6 days off for each employee annually. But presenteeism is estimated at ten times more than that – £290 billion and 57.5 days a year, almost three working months.
Three working months
Three working months is a major chunk of lost productivity – a condition that ALL businesses have to accept, usually without realising it.
Assuming full time attendance, managements pay out annual salary packages to a Full Time Equivalent (FTE) of 2,080 hours – ie, 8-hour days at 5 days a week.
That’s not what they’re getting though. Thanks to varying degrees of illness, stress and pain, their actual FTEs are closer to 1,620 hours spread over the full 12 months.
460 hours are gone missing, never to come back. That’s worse than the average 31 hours a month lost in meetings (372 hours annually), or 520 hours a year lost in recovering from distractions.
Hold up, though. Meetings and distractions, it’s possible to do something about. Minimise them, or don’t have them at all.
But presenteeism is about the health of bodies – downers that affect human unit performances. With 460 hours gone missing, effectively 25% of all salaries are paid out to achieve zip.
Which is why most staff wellness plans achieve zip too. How can a package geared to diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes possibly address the more serious challenges of illness, stress and pain?
A pain in the…
OK, pain is difficult to counter. Perhaps ergonomics can soften the impact – a kneeler stool for backache, support panels, extra cushions. Visiting or in-house massage facilities can also help. Failing these, management and staffer have to accept a mutual level of reduced performance.
How about the rest?
Well stress, mental illness, call it what you will, needs time more than anything else.
Time for listening, time for being aware – and time to address possible resolutions.
Already time, or not enough of it, is a major cause of workplace stress and anguish. Not enough hours in the day, always working late, weekends down the tubes, holidays cut short.
Add not enough sleep, and the always-on syndrome of emails and social networks intruding everywhere – and it’s hardly surprising emotional outbursts and irritable flare-ups suddenly happen.
Time also solves worry. The insidious feeling that eats up one’s insides and even triggers illness. Worries about relationships, finances, children, home issues, schooling, image and self-worth. Anguish about bereavements and self-confidence through the floorboards.
Give them time to be looked at, understood and shared. Time to be resolved between conflicting parties. Or simply time off to go and sort an issue – talk to the bank, consult a child’s teacher, visit a loved one in hospital.
Above all, cut the wheelspin – time lost after-hours because things aren’t organised to happen within the proper working day. If people are always working late, either something’s wrong, or there aren’t enough staff. Fix it.
Not feeling so good?
Which leaves illness. Being unwell at work – where most of the missing 460 hours are lost.
Expensive time this, multiplied by the number of employees. Yet amazingly, the least expensive to do anything about – and almost entirely recoverable.
Take a look at the typical workplace. Everybody all in the same place, right? Often open-plan, to unify them as a team, so they’re all right there on-the-spot, to network and inter-relate immediately.
Which is how so many illnesses happen. Because, like it or not, the average workplace is anything but a healthy environment to spend 8 hours a day in.
You’ve got it. A major cause of workplace illness is the workplace itself. Human assets unprotected from the germs that lurk there.
No germs, no problems
Which means take away the germs, and people can’t get ill any more. Not at work, at any rate. And with no germs around, it’s less easy to pick up bugs from each other too. With zero germ-level, viruses and bacteria have to work twice as hard to infect anybody.
And with no illnesses, the business gets most of its 460 hours back. Time already paid for, but now ready to finance relieving the pressures of stress and anguish.
Which where a decent staff wellness plan really scores.
By protecting staff health, effective FTEs increase from 1,620 hours back to a full 2,080.
Productivity for every employee UP BY NEARLY A THIRD.
And the price tag?
Well, what are you currently spending on office cleaning? £30 a day, £50?
Double that and you can sterilise the entire place every night. £30 a day for a return of – how many staff do you have? At a third of how many salaries? You do the math.
Oh, and if you feel sick about the figures, better sort out your staff wellness plan sharpish, before you come down with something worse.
Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.
The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed.It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.
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.