Tag Archives: stress

How many staff wellness plans actually prevent illness?

Girl Champion Lifter
There’s on heck of a difference between real staff wellness and staff lifestyle management. Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Most staff wellness plans are anything but.

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.

Tick, tick

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.

How come?

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.

Everyday health hazard

Our own personal hygiene is not much better.

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.

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.

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.

Why corporate wellness programmes won’t save you from the flu

Exec surrounded by germs
Wellness is not the issue – start thinking illness prevention

The usual pitch for wellness programmes is to advance employee health.

That’s if you believe the glossy brochure.

Ask any bean-counter and you’ll get one of two answers.

In the US, a wellness plan is about reducing insurance costs that underwrite employee healthcare.

The UK is closer to the mark, where a wellness plan aims to slash absenteeism.

Wellness or money?

Not really health-related at all, either of them. More geared to pushing productivity.

Work harder, work longer – here’s a bribe to persuade you.

Most staff would probably prefer more money. But if the feelgood perks are dishing out, sure why not?

Just don’t expect protection from illness – that’s not on the radar.

People get sick, it happens. That’s their lookout, not their employer’s.

Besides, KEEPING well is easier to handle than illness – that’s what doctors and hospitals are for.

Which is why pretty well all wellness programmes avoid it like the plague.

  • Health risk assessments, check
  • Weight loss incentives, check
  • Screenings for blood pressure, weight, height and BMI, check
  • Fitness classes, check
  • Gym membership, check
  • Stop smoking groups, check
  • Lifestyle coaching, check
  • Flu shots, check

Wait a minute, flu shots! We’re talking rubbish, right?

Real world perspective

Well no, because against this year’s virus particularly, flu shots are only 20% effective. And we’re up against FOUR types of flu, not one – H3N2, H1N1, B/Yamagata and B/Victoria.

Plus flu is not the only bug to knock us flat on our backs.

What about norovirus, the winter vomiting bug? Or all the other gastric nasties – salmonella, campylobacter, e.coli and c.difficile? What do wellness programmes do to stop any of them?

For Pete’s sake, they even encourage them!

Ever heard of gym germs?

According to Fitness Magazine, “Gyms are hotbeds of germ activity, researchers say.” All that sweat and gasping breath. Just the place to pick up colds and flu, norovirus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, MRSA, athlete’s foot, hepatitis, take your pick.

Some wellness programme! And who’s going to believe you got sick in the gym?

Unhealthy workplace

Meanwhile, the average office isn’t much better.

There’s another thing about wellness programmes. We all get signed up, and then we have to DO something to make them work. Actually go to the gym classes – in our own time of course, lunch or after work – never office hours.

Same thing with the health checks, the smoking clinics and everything else. Busy-body employers, who do they think they are?

We’re lazy at a personal level too. Unthinking and unobservant. Which makes us our own worst enemies.

How can we get revved up about a wellness programme when we can’t even help ourselves?

Wellness, schmellness

Which means for any kind of plan to work, it has to assume we do nothing.

We arrive for the nine-to-five thing, sit there like a sack of potatoes and it all has to happen around us. Laying a guilt trip on us because two-thirds of us are fat isn’t going to crack it.

And anyway, if we DO go to the gym, it takes six months before any of that flab visibly comes off.

No, no. Any SERIOUS wellness programme just has to happen. Like in the background while we’re not looking. HEPA filters in the aircon maybe, taking out the germs – fine until the penny drops that most germs are too small to be caught.

How about the nightly cleaning brigade? Mop and buckets, plenty of bleach – problem sorted. Except the bleach stinks, so everybody has a headache – and the rub and scrub never gets to the hideaways where germs wait to grab us.

Nope, nope and nope. For a wellness programme to work, it has to prevent illness.

Which means getting rid of three things:

  • Germs
  • Stress
  • Pain

Germs are easy. Sterilise the entire place on a regular basis, so there aren’t any. No germs, no illness – sorted.

Stress is more difficult. People clam up when it’s personal – emotions and worry going round and round. Which takes listening, understanding and lots of time to get right.

Tick, tick

Except time is suddenly something you have a lot of. Because there’s no germs, people are at their desks more. They’re feeling better about it too – without the nagging off-colour complaints that ALL of us go through every three days or so.

All adding up to the 57.5 days of being at work but unwell with it – not able to concentrate properly, making mistakes and dragging our heels through the day.

Yes, time. Time to talk and reach out. To relate and demonstrate concern. To take off and sort out the circling monsters that bring work to a halt – child care, finances, relationships, bereavement, accidents and personal responsibilities. Make the stress go away and there’s more time than ever.

Which leaves pain.

Not much you can do against something this physical. Bones and muscles out of whack. Cramps, injuries, spasms.

Unless you give away time for this too.

Time for physiotherapy, massage and heat treatment. Maybe even at the office if it helps. Rescue sessions on the spot to ease the agony and up the commitment to perform. All paid for out of the time reclaimed from getting rid of stress and germs.

So wellness programmes, get real.

Start thinking illness prevention.

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.

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.

Turn productivity around for just £30 a day

£30 man with calculator
£30 a day to save you thousands – can you afford not to consider 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.

Germs, of course – a no-brainer.

We can’t see germs, they’re too microscopically small. So we don’t even think of them.

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.

A few gruesome facts:

It gets worse, a legacy of the fact that we can’t see germs, so our personal hygiene gets really scary:

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.

OK, so go to it.

Turn productivity around.

Why you always wind up catching every bug around

Out of it in Oxford Street
Bugs are like buses – nothing for a long time, then five come along together

Cough, splutter – every bug around.

Seems you can’t help yourself.

And as soon as you’re over the first, the next one’s on the way.

Blame it on your hectic lifestyle.

Always on the go, no time to stop. Rushed meals, not enough sleep, too much happening at once.

Stress. Yes, that’s it.

Your body’s immune system is down  because of stress – and catching every bug is paying the price.

What a load of old tosh.

Germ reality check

Oh sure, you’re catching every bug. Because your body’s in a state the germs find easy to get in.

But not stressed.

More like undefended.

Those germs are coming at you all the time – just like they do for all of us – and you’re doing nothing to stop them.

Colds, flu, norovirus, UTI, e.coli – your list of absences reads like a calendar, every month of the year.

Yes, but if that was stress, you’d be out of circulation by now – permanently surrounded by a crowd of worried consultants in white coats.

In the meantime, you’re still catching every bug.

OK, let’s ask you a question.

You’re always one the move, with no time for yourself – can’t even remember breakfast it was so long ago, if you didn’t skip it altogether…  So when was the last time you properly washed your hands? The real thing with soap and hot water, having a good old scrub?

Can’t remember?

Come on in, door’s open

Not surprising.

Because chances are you’ve gone through the whole morning without any chance of getting to the washroom. And now you’re grabbing a quick salad wrap al desko, gulping down it quick so you’re ready for those heavyweight clients this afternoon.

And during all this time you’ve handled your keys, money, phone, the railings in the street, grab-handle on the bus and again in the Underground, lift button, door handle, security keypad and a whole stack of documents.

So inside or outside, whatever germs are on them, your hands have picked them up too.

And because ALL of us touch our face repeatedly throughout the day, those germs have easy continuous access through the soft tissue round your eyes, nose and mouth. Or are hitching a free ride down your throat with every mouthful of salad wrap.

Open doors, see. And without soap and water – or a wipe-down with antibacterial gel – you’re letting them in without checking their boarding pass. No permit, no visa, they’re on their way to create mayhem and you’re just letting them.

Which is why you’re always coming down with every bug around.

So it’s not stress, it’s forgotten hygiene.

Pushed out of the way by a busy lifestyle. And the illusion that most of the time your hands LOOK clean.

Deceptive though, because germs are so small, they’re invisible.  Microscopic. You could have 3 million on your little finger and never know. Very iffy when it only takes 10 to come down with norovirus.

Germ soup

It’s not just your hands either. It’s everything. We think we’re in clean, clear air – but reality is we’re constantly swimming around in a germ soup.

Take a look in a fish tank – one of those jobs with a light in the top, so you can see the fish.

See all that stuff in suspension? Algae. They’re microbes too. Like bacteria and viruses. Tiny particles catching the light – just floating there, not rising or sinking. Exactly like germs are in the air around us.

Which means they’re on your desk, your skin, your clothes and everything you touch. So even if you clean your hands, they’re instantly covered in germs again as soon as you touch anything that hasn’t also been cleaned.

Plus of course they’re always there in the air itself – germs floating and swirling around, just like in the fish tank.

Except just like most of us never clean our hands, we never clean the air either. And anyway, how do you take a scrubbing brush to a handful of nothing?

Scrubbing the air

So sitting in your office with your colleagues around you, all those germs, all those open doors – is it any wonder you catch every bug around?

They can be stopped though. Eliminated completely by sterilising the place every night  when everybody’s gone home. Easy-peasy with one of those ionised air-misting jobbies.

Oh sure, a whole lot more come in from outside when people arrive in the morning. But at least the pace is germ-free to start with. None on any surface, or in the air – the place is safe.

Now at least, you stand a fighting chance. Make hands clean as often as you can – and keep everything clean around you – germs get less of a look in.

No more days off sick.

Or more likely with colds and tummy twinges – because you can’t take time off so easily when you’re half-sick – sitting at your desk feeling like grim death.

But that’s not you any more. With no germs around, there’s no sick to feel.

So you’re up and running, full of the joys of spring. And every bug around is somewhere else.

And the very best of health to you!

Picture Copyright: deryaduzen / 123RF Stock Photo

How good are workplace wellness programmes if they DON’T get rid of germs?

Gym hunk unwell
Keeping fit gives you the bod – getting rid of germs saves your life

Pump up the feel-good. Gotta stay healthy, gotta keep fit. All very nice and motivational – but how come nobody talks about getting rid of germs?

OK, a major chunk of health problems at work are about stress. Staff suffer all kinds of insecurities -and having a few endorphins kick in after exercise can only be good.

Except how many of these get physical / gym activities are really treating symptoms, not cause?

Because for all the thousands of staff facing stress issues, how many are caused by the reality of a bad manager?

Bad managers are to blame for the UK’s current productivity crisis, according to the Bank of England. Wanting in business abilities – and even more often, lacking in people skills.

Bad boss syndrome

Poor people skills, particularly by bosses, are the bedrock of job stress.

Start with an inability to communicate – add glory-seeking, inconsistent decision-making, side-stepping, favouritism and helicopter supervision – it’s no wonder even senior staff become paranoid.

But find a manager who knows how to motivate and inspire – and watch the psychological problems just melt away.

Better add attentiveness as well. Observant of staff needs and sensitive to them, sometimes before they’re even aware of them themselves.

For instance – staff disposition. Tired, lethargic, run-down and prone to headaches?

That’s as much environment as physical wellbeing. Poor lighting, stale air and uncomfortable furniture are all fixable issues that present as feeling unwell. So is the grey area of sick building syndrome – it feels unhealthy, and therefore it is.

So that flogging just the feel-good aspect of workplace wellness is compensatory side-stepping. Staff participation is rewarded by keep-fit activities and exercise, while the whole responsibility of protecting their health is brushed under the carpet.

Protection – it’s the law

It is a manager’s responsibility for example, to protect staff from exposure to legionnaire’s disease or legionella – a bacterial killer that lurks in water systems and air conditioning.

By law, this is an illness any manager must take the right precautions and control risks against.  Failure to do so can trigger million-pound fines or even a custodial sentence.

Which puts the focus squarely on what ANY wellness programme should – the safety and health of staff. Anything else is just window dressing.

Of course, legionnaire’s disease is just one affliction of billions we’re all threatened with. Viruses, bacteria, fungi – and the whole business of getting rid of germs.

And workplaces are more at risk from them simply because of the number of people grouped together in an enclosed space. Sharing the same air, taking up the same space, interacting with each other and touching the same objects – all germ delivery methods.

Unwell at work

Make no error, nothing knocks the feel-good worse than experiencing illness.

It doesn’t have to be big either – a headache or tummy cramp is enough to put people off their stroke. And most of us suffer ailments like that once every three days. 57.5 days a year, almost three working months.

Which flags up a major productivity hiccup right there. People unwell at work, because they don’t think it’s serious enough to stay home. But the feeling off-colour is real, so how well do they perform?

More to the point, how motivated are they? How reliable are their actions? No wonder being unwell at work costs 10 times more than straight absenteeism. Plus all the other costs – of mistakes, impaired judgement and lack of attention.

Yes, so?

Get rid of the germs. Make all the health problems go away. See staff revitalise because they feel healthy. Watch productivity accelerate – from the right kind of feel-good.

Overweight and smokers

Including among the fatties and smokers, who most wellness programmes try to penalise. Kind of a mistake isn’t it? Don’t ALL young achievers over-indulge early in their careers? Eat too much, smoke too much, drink too much, party too much – doesn’t that describe just about every hot-shot performer in the City?

Protecting them from themselves they won’t thank us for. But protecting them from germs in the workplace is a doddle. Keeping them safe from all the usual bugs that interrupt getting on with the job.

And all the dangerous ones that could kill them, given the chance. Including the law-decreed murderer you’re supposed to shield them against – legionella.

The easy way out

So, get rid of germs.

All it takes is a small addition to your regular cleaning schedule. Wipe-down, vacuum, empty the waste – AND a mist up with hydrogen peroxide.

Just forty minutes and the place is sterile – ALL germs are destroyed. No viruses, no bacteria, no fungi, no nothing. With immediately achievable results.

A lot less expensive – and better contributor to productivity – than the 10 grand one company spent on gym membership.

Good business sense really.

Motivate staff with wellness programmes if you like – and can live with the expense.

But get rid of germs – and they’ll feel well all by themselves.

Picture Copyright: gladkov / 123RF Stock Photo

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

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.


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

High-powered job stress? More likely germs

Businesswoman with problem
Nothing feels worse
than being out of control

We know how you feel.

Everything getting to you. Tense. Uneasy. Pressure head when you least want it.

Reckon it’s the job, not you?

Come on, now. You knew the odds when you took it.

Good money, good prospects – and you can smash the glass ceiling.

Bigger than you

So what happened?

Where’s the confidence? The get-up-and-go? The sure conviction you can rule the world?

Better man up – or it’s down the tubes.

No more flying high, back to the grunt.

Not you though, is it? Always the winner. And savvy with it. Able to handle pressure. Able to handle yourself. Cool and easy with it. More than equal to the office bully. Better than your boss – who’s pushing you forward, all the time. Sure promotion material. The only way is up.

OK, so you’ve got the job taped – as long as you get over this downer.

So it’s not you either, what the heck’s going on?

Ever wondered why it’s easier at home? Why that sick, grey feeling is gone at week-ends?

There’s the clue, right there – sick.

You don’t feel sick – leastways, not out of the office. But that doesn’t mean you’re 100 per either.

Why you’re not yourself

Ever heard of sick building syndrome? You think it’s you, not coming up to the mark. You notice the lapses in concentration – but not the headaches or nausea, or shortness of breath. Too busy, giving it your all – the job’s got to get done, right? And it’s got to be competitive.

But it exists – sick building syndrome. Not a fig of people’s imaginations. Not just old buildings either. Often new ones – stylish, smart, and misery-makers for everyone who works in them.

Sometimes it’s just unlucky – like the building vibrates because of where it’s situated. The ground resonates with passing traffic and low frequency vibes play with everyone’s head. Or the Underground twangs the building foundations with every train – a shudder you feel, but can’t hear. Shaking you to bits.

More common is mould – from dampness in the walls. Not visible where you work, but in the cavities behind. Flat roof not sealed properly, leaking down from the top floor. Or condensation because the temperature insulation is too darned efficient.

Mould spores in the air, breathing problems, itchiness, feeling ratty and tired. You’re not you because of what you breathe.

Hold that thought. It’s not just you that works there, right? There’s a whole team of you, mostly in open plan. Human beings together, interacting with each other.

Outnumbered by bugs

Except there’s a lot more to human beings than you might think.

Bacteria for a start. Living naturally in our bodies and co-existing with them. So necessary, we could never survive without them. So numerous, they outnumber our own body cells more than 10 to 1.

Like several hundred trillion of them live in our gut, handling the digestive grunt our own bodies can’t. It’s where we get our gut-feel from. Our bacteria need our bodies to survive. If we’re threatened or in danger, they alert the brain. Butterflies in your tummy is a real sensation. Ignore at your peril.

It’s not just our gut either. It’s everywhere throughout ourselves – and hovering in clouds around us too. Everywhere we go, we trail a bio-cloud with us. An aura of bacteria and viruses – some good, some bad, depending on the health balance of our systems.

But of course, everybody’s different. What works for you may not work for others – and the other way around. And we’re moving around and though each other’s bio-clouds as we work – giving off our bacteria, getting others back. Sometimes bad ones – breathed in, or absorbed through the skin.

Or more than likely, ingested through the mouth or the sensitive tissue round our eyes and nose. Without realising it, every one of us touches our face 3 to 5 times a minute – 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. Whatever our hands touch can find a way in.

And our hands touch everything, don’t they? Clean, dirty, whatever – buttons, door handles, grab-handles touched by thousands of others too. And the BLT you’re about to have for lunch – because like most of us, you eat at your desk. The job’s too important to take a break – besides, it’s wet out there and all you do is spend money.

Uh huh.

Get protection

Have you washed your hands?

Bacteria from all those things you’ve touched, from your colleagues’ bio-clouds too – you can’t see them, but you can bet they’re on your hands. Transferred to your BLT before you’ve even taken a swallow.

Are you lucky, or unlucky? Because even lurking on your own desk is the chance to catch anything from colds and flu to norovirus, e.coli, MRSA, c.difficile or worse. Knock you out for a few days, or even put you in hospital. Worst case scenario, make you dead.

Uh huh, again.

So if you want to get your mojo back, better do something.

OK, you can’t wash your hands every five seconds – it’s impractical and you’ve got to stay with the action. Projects to sort, phones to answer, conversations to jump into. You’re one of the decision-takers, a hands-on honcho who mustn’t miss a trick.

Step one, keep a pack of antibacterial hand-wipes on your desk. They take off goo better than gel and can sanitise your desk too in just a jiffy. No more germs on your hands, your BLT is safe.

So how about the bio-clouds? Every night when you all go home, some of everybody’s bacteria signature lingers in the air, waiting for you tomorrow. If there’s a bug to catch in that lot, you’re at hazard, even if the carrier has moved to the other end of the country.

Hyper high-powered

Step two, strong-arm the boss into getting a Hypersteriliser. Your nightly protection when the office closes.

Any viruses or bacteria – in the air, or on surfaces – is oxidised to nothing by the fine mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide that gets in everywhere – even cracks and crevices. Walk in next morning and the whole place is sterile – no bugs anywhere, totally safe.

Wanna bet you feel better after that?

For sure.

And feeling good does things to your performance too. Builds optimism. Pumps up confidence. Inspires you more than anything else on the planet.

Stress, what stress?

From now on, everything’s a doddle.

How we stress ourselves into illness

Girl on railway line
Your own mind can be
as deadly as any germs

You can’t always blame it on germs.

A lot of the time, the cause is our own sloppy hygiene.

Or, a bit more scary, we can also THINK ourselves ill.

Sounds weird, but we all know the truth of it.

Know that feeling before an interview when your body goes crazy?

Self hype

Upset tummy, unexpected shivers, apprehension and dread filling your head.

It’s not germs causing that.

It’s you.

Or more specifically, it’s you stressing yourself out.

Most of the time, it’s a one-off we get over quickly.

You’ve done the dentist, yes the root canal hurt, but now it’s over.

The relief is so strong, you get the munchies. And the heck with your sore mouth, that chicken and chorizo baguette is irresistible.

Dangerous company

But stress is not always one-off. And you mess with it at your peril.

A run of misfortune brought down normally fit Dave Dowdeswell with Type 2 diabetes. Grief, bad luck and business failure all at once – something had to give, and it was his body.

It could just as easily have been an ulcer, or cancer.

Imbalance in the body looks for whatever weakness it can find. Stress yourself out about something and there is always a price.

If you’re lucky, it’s momentary, like the nerves before an interview.

If it stays around long-term, you’re going to feel it more. Like there’s a car crash and somebody dear to you dies.

And there’s not a lot of defence against it, except attitude.

Part of the price we pay for the cocooned and sheltered lives we lead.

Oh yes, we’re softies. That’s why stress screws us up so much.

Hard times

Back in Victorian times, a death in the family was not unusual. Weaker diets, lower hygiene, illness was more inevitable – especially among children. Living with grief was more familiar. So was knowing how to handle it.

Most of us have never known anybody die. We’ve never seen a dead body, particularly of someone we love. Which is why we go to pieces when we do.

But life goes on.

And it will do so whether we stress or not.

So we have to teach ourselves to handle it.

Not to be heartless or uncaring. But to see reality for what it is, and come to terms with it.

Victorians went through denial, anger and acceptance, just like we do.

But they could live with it.

And so must we.

Diabetes, cancer, nervous breakdown – stress doesn’t care which it is. If we don’t get ourselves under control, it will choose for us anyway.

The mind has it

Which is where attitude comes in.

We think things change, and so do circumstances. They’re big, they’re small, dramatic, life-threatening.

Well actually no, they’re just things. Our perspective of them changes according to our attitude.

If you’re upbeat and positive, you can handle them. Beat your chest and throw your toys out of the cot, they will overwhelm and destroy you.

Stress can be a killer, but only if we let it. And we can all change it, just by attitude. (Tweet this)

Sure, there’s Xanax, Valium, Prozac – all mamma’s little helpers  when stress hits.

But think about it, why are you stressed?

If you’re honest, most of the time it’s all in the mind, right?

So the only way to rescue yourself is think yourself out of it.

Worth remembering, that. Remembering well.

When the end of the world happens, at least you have a lifeline.

There’s cancer in all of us – but don’t let it kill you

Happy woman
Happily ever after starts with you
(Tweet this)

The clock is ticking.

Are you taking care – or taking chances?

Every second could change your life, depending on what you do with it.

And it’s much more of a life and death decision than most of us think.

In your own hands

Latest figures from Cancer Research UK reveal that half of us will get cancer at some stage of our lives. More and more of us are in the older age groups and more susceptible to wear and tear.

How much wear – and how much tear, depends on us of course.

We all know we should lead a healthy life – some of us better than others.

Razzling around and chasing the high spots has a price tag that none of us can avoid.

But while age is the biggest – and most unavoidable – risk, it’s not the cause of cancer.

Being out of balance is.

Losing it

Cancer happens when body cells begin to behave abnormally. A defect, a weakness, and we are in trouble.

Most of the time, damaged cells are flushed out – the body does it daily, part of the rough and tumble of living.

Because cells don’t go rogue by themselves.

An outside shove does it for them, usually triggered by our behaviour or lifestyle.

And the biggest shove of all is one we’re not aware of – always there, day by day, always pushing us.


Yeah, right. As if that’s new.

Everybody has work stress, you just have to live with it.

And home stress? It goes with the territory.

Unavoidable stress levels that depend entirely at how good you are at coping with them.

Enter, digital stress

Except that these days, the stress levels we face are higher than ever before.

Fast-paced, results-driven modern living, what do you expect?

And it’s all us, just us.

Another recent study concludes that there is no link between cancer and using mobile phones. No link to electromagnetic fields – computers, powerlines, television.

Uh huh.

Maybe not physically.

But the pressures they unleash are unprecedented.

Full of angst and emotional strain, teenagers constantly stress about relationships. Every text, picture, Facebook post or Twitter tweet is potentially a full-scale breakdown.

Other media aren’t much better. Television, newspapers. Who among us is not appalled, shocked, sickened, or just plain scared of recent terrorist actions in our own cities – let alone the Middle East?

Stress, worry, uncertainty. They all throw the body out of kilter.

Sleepless nights, stomach upsets, headaches. Just the kind of shove that cancer needs.

So it’s not so much that we’re getting old at all.

Heartbreak, heart attack

A bust-up with a boyfriend is the end of the world. Handling it is impossible. Overwhelming grief, loss of appetite, listlessness, reduced will to live – is it surprising that a weakness occurs, the body reacts and damage is done?

Just the kind of damage that gives cancer a foothold – maybe not straight away, but inevitable in the future.

It’s not just cancer either.

Every moment of every day we’re surrounded by billions of viruses and bacteria – many of them inside our bodies.

First sign of weakness and they’re in too – and stressed people are careless, not paying full attention to the world around them.

Preoccupied or distracted, a cut or scrape can so easily happen. Even forgetting to wash hands properly is enough to do it. First sign of sloppy hygiene and infection is in, not wanting to let go.

Which is when the Doc reminds you that antibiotics don’t work as well as the used to – those rotten germs have developed an immunity.

Cancer, bugs, medicines that don’t work. What on earth can you do to survive?

Watch yourself all the time. Keep clean and healthy. Make sure your mind is right.

Sure, some folks have survived smoking and drinking to reach 104.

Long odds though, with plenty of losers along the way.

If you really want to get there yourself, stay balanced.

Don’t let the nasties grind you down.