Productivity’s catch 22: what sort of wellness programme does NOT prevent germs?

Baited trap
So there’s this wonderful wellness programme with gym membership – but loads of germs in the gym

What catch 22? Wellness programmes work, right?

Big companies point to them as big success. Team members who’ve quit smoking, inactive ones taking more exercise, high blood pressure down, social and mental health on the up, big savings on health care costs.

Nice to have if you can afford it – either directly or through insurance plans. A whole basket of feelgood grabbers for your team – everything from premium discounts to cash rewards, gym memberships, and other incentives.

Fitness – not the same as keeping well

All of them basically geared to promote team health and fitness – typically to stop smoking, manage diabetes, lose weight, or check for problems through health screenings. And that’s on top of ergonomic work stations, pleasing colour schemes, beneficial lighting and feng shui décor. Anything and everything, as this gung ho wellness guide shows.

But prevent germs?

Not generally on the radar – unless you count company flu jabs. Yeah OK, protect staff  – an afterthought jab of corporate conscience.

What’s really in play is enhancing performance – healthier team members mean greater work capacity, more bang for the buck, better productivity.

More output, efficiency – faster, faster!

Yep, you got that right – it’s all about money.

And because business is always about money, that’s the language decision-makers best understand.

Golden handcuffs, deadly threats

Which is how they understand wellness programmes. Golden handcuffs for top-performing staff – carrots to work harder. A glittering El Dorado to stop trained team members taking a walk down the road to the competition.

Germs don’t come into it, despite exposure in the workplace to billions and billions of them every day. Every moment we breath, move, touch something or swallow we’re exposed to more.

And the only protection on offer?

A flu jab – with already iffy effectiveness against this year’s strain of Aussie A (H3N2) virus.

Yet right in many workplaces, waiting to pounce, is another far more lethal health threat most decision-takers know nothing about. Even though every business manager is personally responsible for seeing teams are properly protected. And is liable to a £5,000 fine, a further company fine, and possibly a custodial sentence for 18 months if they’re not.

Legionella is a pneumonia-related bacterium that breeds in water systems. Still-standing water, like in office air-con cooling systems, or the showerheads in the washroom. It spreads by air, so you breathe it in.

And it’s so deadly, the Health & Safety people throw the book at you if it’s discovered on your watch.  A £1 million fine for JTF Wholesale after two men died.  £1.8 million for G4S Cash Solutions – for putting over 200 people at risk and dragging their heels for 3 years over fixing it.

Stick or carrot

Fail to protect staff and it’s big stick time.

But to keep things on a business footing, preventing team illnesses is also big carrot time. Not so much catch 22 – more like common sense.

What does it cost in gym membership, medical check ups, keep fit classes, stop smoking clinics and fresh fruit in reception to have an impressive-looking wellness package on place?

As much as 25% of your salary bill?

Because that’s how much is lost every year from team members under-performing at their desks.

And that’s on top of the 6 days absenteeism most businesses have for every staff member – at an average £522 per head.

You read that right, under-performing at their desks. And that’s the catch 22.

It’s called presenteeism and we all do it – drag ourselves into work when we’re not feeling well. And kidding ourselves we’re up to the job, even though the room’s going round, figures look all blurry and a pounding head makes any communication impossible.

57.5 days a year we’re like that – every one of us.  Almost three working months.

Every 3 days

That’s not continuous time either. It’s all in fits and starts, something throwing us off our game roughly every 3 days. A day out of it, another day bouncing back – then starting all over again. Three working months plus.

Which means, do the math. Right now you’re paying everyone 12 months salary, but they’re only giving you 9 months worth of value. The rest is fumbling around, going through the motions and quite possibly counter-productive.

But take away THE CAUSE of being unwell and you up productivity by one third – from the 9 months you get now, plus a reclaimed 3 months  – bringing you back to a full 12 month year.

OK, it’s not all caused by germs.

People have long-standing conditions, disabilities, physical injuries and musculoskeletal pain.

They’re also stressed. Worried about relationships, finances and job security. All three of which can be job related, MAKING them depressed and prone to illness. Or in turn, being the driving motive to come to work, even though they’re so unwell they feel like death. A catch 22 of their own.

Germs, germs, germs

Which makes the major chunk of everything germs. Exposure to germs in the workplace – where lots of people work closely together, sharing the same space, touching the same things, breathing the same air. Infecting themselves and contagious to each other – all stirred around by highly efficient HVAC systems.

Sloppy hygiene doesn’t help. Because we can’t see germs, we don’t see there’s a problem.

So we take chances. A few unsavoury facts:

For the same reasons, our surroundings are no safer:

But take away the germs, and all these issues go away too. A REAL wellness programme that PREVENTS GERMS – with a boost to productivity that makes others look like chicken feed.

And it’s so easily done.

REAL wellness – and no catch 22

Antibacterial wipes or gel on every desk to reduce the personal risk. And a nightly sterilising regime on top of the regular cleaning schedule.

Quick and simple like misting the place up with germ-killing hydrogen peroxide. ALL germs eliminated to a 6-log Sterility Assurance Level, safe every morning when staff come in fresh.

Forget the golden handcuffs, this way everybody wins.

It’s not rocket science either. Simply a wellness programme that keeps people well.

No catch 22 about it. And isn’t that wellness programmes are supposed to be?

Picture Copyright: dr911 / 123RF Stock Photo

Productivity: why you’re not getting your money’s worth (Part 2)

Assertive woman boss
Getting your money’s worth means showing you’re a human being too

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.

Double-edged

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

Like compassion.

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.

Not an area where British managers have a shining track record.

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.

Workplace germs never worried us before, why are they so urgent now?

Business germ threat
Not worried about workplace germs? Not if you’ve taken precautions – like sterilising the place every night

The world has changed since we last looked. What worried us then is different to now.

Back then, germs were a fact of life. You caught a cold, you sneezed your way through it. And everyone else caught it too.

Now you catch a cold, you can bring a whole business down.

Heavyweight experts working to a deadline – one of them conks, the whole project goes down the tubes. The whole team off sick, total disaster.

The germs were always there. But with expectations of 100% performance all of the time, that’s rapidly becoming unachievable.

No wonder we’re all worried.

And people assets these days are expensive. They need to be motivated. Constantly persuaded to stay and not join the competition.

The threat we dare not ignore

Which is why bosses spend thousands on workplace wellness programmes. To keep staff sweet and wanting to perform.

With things like flu vaccinations, health and lifestyle coaching, stop smoking programmes, nap rooms, fresh fruit and vegetables, stress reduction programmes, fitness programmes and gym membership, on-site medical clinics, weight loss clinics, therapy and massage, right down to company fitness trackers.

Well, well, well.

Workplace wellness – all about wellbeing.

Nothing about KEEPING staff well and healthy healthy. Or protecting them from stress and health threats. Not the slightest mention of AVOIDING germs.

Yet germs have always been with us – and always will be.

But because we’re expected to perform 100% of the time, nobody would ever dare let a germ slow them down. Not unless it was serious. Doctor, medicine and maybe even hospital. Certainly days off.

Which is unacceptable, and possibly a career threat – would our jobs still be there when we came back?

Unwell at work – more costly than sick leave

So if germs ever strike us, we try to ignore them. Shuffling in to work, feeling like death, determined to go through the motions. “Presenteeism” it’s called – 10 times more costly than regular sick leave.

We grit our teeth and the childhood memories kick in – Nan and Grandad never gave in to colds like this. They had them, sure – but seemed better able to cope. Stronger somehow.

Which indeed they were. More resilient too.

And not because our lifestyles are softer. We don’t have the same immunities that they had. We’re more sensitive. More susceptible to infections as well.

Not that we’re worried about it. We just go to the Doc, get some pills – and hey-ho, it’s off to work we go.

Uh huh.

Those pills.

Antibiotics, right? The magic medicines Nan and Grandad never had. All-round fixer-uppers – we strong-arm the Doc for them for every little ailment. Grow up with them  through all the childhood illnesses. So that by the time they’re twenty, the average teenager has been on antibiotics 17 times.

Which means our bodies have an easier time than our grand-parents’ did. Growing up without the hard fights that they went through. Making us softer, gentler, weaker.

Without all the immunities that they had too.

Atom bombs in our gut

Every time we take antibiotics, our microbiome goes through a major upheaval. Down in our gut are 12 trillion bacteria living in harmony with us – aiding our digestion, creating proteins, managing our immune systems and a thousand other things.

Releasing an antibiotic into that lot is like setting off an atomic bomb. Antibiotics work by killing bacteria – and they do. Taking out the bad guys giving us a hard time – but taking out a lot of the good guys too.

Effective, yes – but not so good at targeting only the right ones. Sure there’s thousands of others to replace the casualties . But often the rarer ones are wiped out completely. And once they’re gone, they’re gone. We recover from our illness, yes – but our bodies never fully return to the way they were.

So that generation to generation, our immunities diminish. The good bacteria that defend us from a particular kind of bad ones just aren’t there any more.

Not really a problem because our lifestyles are so much better than our grand-parents’ were. Better food, better living conditions, better hygiene standards, better medical care.

Except that’s not our only exposure to antibiotics.

Super efficient growth boosters

Because agriculture uses them as growth boosters, they’re in everything we eat as well. Micro-doses in all our meat, fish, vegetables, cereals, grain and fruit.

Which work on our bodies in exactly the same way as the farmers use them for. They fatten us up.

Right there is the greatest overlooked problem of our time. Doctors are worried about our high exposure to antibiotics because bacteria are becoming resistant to them.  More rapidly than they would like, our miracle medicines are no longer making people better.

But they are making them fatter. Fatter and fatter and fatter. It’s staring us right in the face but nobody twigs it. We’re swallowing small amounts of highly efficient growth boosters every day, not realising that’s why two thirds of us are overweight or obese.

And what does obesity do? Sets our not-quite-as-strong-as-our-grandparents’-bodies on the long and very bumpy road to asthma, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. A road on which antibiotics no longer work – our miracle defences are taken away from us.

Which should explain why we ought to be worried about workplace germs.

So many of us herded together in the same space – breathing the same air and touching the same objects. It’s the ideal opportunity to catch each other’s germs and pass them on.

And those germs are there alright. Just as they always have been. In the air and on surfaces we share – touchscreens, keypads, light switches, door handles. Waiting to have a go at our less resilient and increasingly overweight bodies.

The nightly antidote

Yet overnight, those germs can be eliminated. In addition to the usual vacuuming and wipe downs, just follow up by misting with hydrogen peroxide and the whole place is sterilised. Germs are oxidised to nothing, there are simply no illnesses to catch.

OK, so it adds a few hundred to the monthly cleaning bill.

But the thousands saved by not trying to do our jobs tied down by a tummy upset or lingering flu? By not making mistakes or missing vital deadlines? Or infecting our high-powered colleagues on the tight deadline job that MUST be finished on time or the contract falls through the slats?

Yeah, we never worried about workplace germs before.

But we should now.

Unless of course we’re all safe and sterilised.

Then we’re not worried, we’re laughing.

Picture Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo and sorad / 123RF Stock Photo