Tag Archives: Work Acquired Infections

Staff pulling sickies – your fault or theirs?

Businesswoman thinking
Isn’t providing a germ-free office part of duty of care?

Wait a minute, there’s a blame game attached to this?

Sadly, yes.

But don’t feel too bad, we’re all in this together.

Handling the hygiene habit

Because their being off work is legit enough.

Though because of you or them is up for grabs.

Well, think about it. How many times is it just ONE staffer who clocks off ill at a time?

Rare, right?

Unless they’ve just come back from holiday and a bug they caught along with catching rays drops them as they return.

More often it’s a clutch of staffers at the same time, yes? Sickies all come at once.

All with the same symptoms, whatever they are – either something flu-ey, or else tummy troubles. Viruses going round – and not the computer kind.

Catching bugs

Which flags up immediately that your people caught it at work. But no nasturtiums on you, they spend most of their daylight hours here, so where else would they catch it?

But WHY did they catch it?

Only two causes.

The germs were already lurking round in the office, waiting in ambush.

Or your poor team ingested something that gave them the bug.

The first one is your concern. The second is theirs.

Though in fairness to you, they COULD have prevented things.

How?

Most illnesses happen by ingestion. Somehow or other, a virus or bacterium is taken in through the mouth. Next thing, someone isn’t feeling too good.

Not always from food either – though around a third of us eat at our desks.

If ever you’re worried about who’s committed or not, just check out who’s on deck, munching a sarnie in their lunch break. The great British work ethic is stronger than you think. Not all sickies.

So no, it’s not the food – all those lunch places would go out of bizz if it was. It’s the hands that eat the food. Or more accurately – what’s on the hands that eat the food.

The hands have it

Because how many of those staffers washed their hands before tucking into their graze? Or if they have, what viruses and bacteria are skulking on their desks, waiting for them to touch as they eat?

From greasy fingers on keyboards, multiple hands on the phone, on pens or documents – or simply from the dust bunnies collecting behind everybody’s plasma screen?

And don’t forget, every one of us touches our face 2,000 – 3,000 times a day. Unconscious reflex, gateway for germs to enter through mouth, eyes and nose.

Bad, hey?

And not at all what everybody says about work acquired infections (WAIs) – picked up through the HVAC system, everybody breathing the same air.

That happens too of course, but not from ventilation. Every one of us trails around a germ cloud of trillions of bacteria, some good, some bad – but all intermingling in the common air spaces we share.

Most of them are harmless, but in flu season they’re not. While some don’t affect us personally, they clobber colleagues something terrible.

Hand-washing, the grudge habit

So what is it about people and not washing their hands? Everybody knows it’s necessary, yet most of us seldom do. Like around half of us don’t, even when we’ve just been to the loo.

No, we’re not in denial. It’s just not on the radar.

The same thing that drives people to work and eat at the same time makes them gloss over making their hands safe.

Not good if among them are your top performers – about to dial themselves out, just as that million-pound deal nudges up for them to close. Out of action at home at the critical moment – and all that business out the window.

OK, so get smart. Make it so they don’t have to leave their desks, but still their hands are safe.

You already provide loos and a washroom if they get caught during the day.

So for less than a pound a go, put a pack of antiseptic hand-wipes on their desk every day. To protect hands from germs – wipe them away from high-touch areas of transmission – keypads, phones, door handles, lift buttons.

Good for starters.

But remember the germ cloud? The medics call it a biome, and it’s kind of like our own biological signature – an aura of bacteria unique to each of us, that trails everywhere we go.

And stays behind when we leave too.

So when the team goes down in the lift at the end of the day, residual clouds from all of them linger behind. Some good, some bad, right? Some harmless to us, but horrible to others.

Residual germs that could trigger all kinds of things.

Like infection in a common office mishap like a staple stab.

Bad? It could be gangrenous – or worse, sepsis. Hospital emergency and total immune system shutdown. Life-threatening.

Protecting the business

Except all those germs can be clobbered themselves with a Hypersteriliser.

Everybody goes home, the cleaning team moves in – and finishes off misting up the place with ionised hydrogen peroxide. Forty minutes later, all germs are oxidised to nothing. The place is sterile and your staff are safe.

So are you.

Better still, there should be no more sickies.

Or if there are, they’re picked up outside.

You’ve protected your living assets, flexed your duty of care – and you’re well on the way to being the winning team you know you are.

Have a nice day.

Not off work again! Could be infected office

Unhappy businesswoman
It’s not you, it’s the office – repeated illnesses coming back over and over

What is it – cough, sniffle? Or heave, upchuck?

You have our sympathy either way. It’s never nice to be out of it.

And this is a repeat performance?

There’s a lot of it going round, as they say.

Not your fault

Sick building syndrome maybe – when your workplace environment develops an unpleasant and growing condition that can affect people in all kinds of way – headaches, nausea, or even more serious.

Lots of things can cause it – poor air circulation, damp, dust, chemical pollution. Many of which can never come right for structural reasons.

Mould on the walls for instance means water seepage somewhere, and not always a busted pipe. The only thing is to rip the place down and start again.

The price of being social

But not always.

A lot of our ailments are a legacy of working in groups, sharing enclosed spaces – an open-plan office, school classroom, lecture theatre or catering area. Enclosed because it’s cold and wet and dark outside – we need the central heating and electricity.

How many of us are there? 20? 30?

All together in one place because it’s easier to work that way – to talk to each other, interact, stimulate and motivate ourselves. Good thinking, Jim.

Except that pushes up the germ threshold. At least half a dozen of us will have some kind of bug at any one time – either about to knock us out, or wobbling back through recuperation. WAIs – Work Acquired Infections.

Some of us will be more sensitive than others too – more easily clobbered by anything going around.

And yes, it does go around. Not because we’re breathing over each other and touching shared objects (fomites) during the day – the phones, keyboards, documents, coffee machine, whatever. If we’re smart we already know that and wash our hands often.

Oh really? If only that were true.

Against office illnesses

OK, so somehow we all make it through the day – and then we go home.

If we’re working late, we might see the cleaners at their job before we do.

See them vacuum the floors, empty the waste baskets, take out the trash, wipe down the desk tops, spray air freshener. Nice and tidy for the morning.

Hold it right there.

Just because everybody’s gone home doesn’t mean the germ threshold’s gone down.

Whatever viruses and bacteria there are – and there ALWAYS are – are still lingering.

Still on the phones, keyboards, documents, coffee machine, whatever. Still hanging in the air which is around 80% of the room space. Still waiting around for everybody to come back tomorrow.

Uh huh, an infected office and we don’t even know it.

Waiting to get you

Maybe tomorrow we’ll all come down with something – maybe we won’t. A risk we get away with most of the time because our body resistance is good and we lead healthy lives.

It’s still an infected office.

Because vacuum, wipe, spray does nothing to get rid of the germs. The standing germs that are always there. Mostly in the air too. Waiting to be breathed in. Or to grab hold on contact as we walk through them.

Why not? They’re so light they could ride the air for weeks. And even an average bacteria can survive without a host body for anything up to a month.

An infected office, waiting.

So what happens when for some reason our body resistance is down? The baby kept us awake last night, or we had to work seriously late, or we ran 10 kilometres with the lunch-time keep fit mob?

But get rid of the germs and the threat goes away.

No infected office, nobody pulling sickies all the time.

Bunking off now is back to “the dog ate my homework” excuses.

It’s the easiest thing in the world too.

Press button easy

The cleaning team come in, trundling a Hypersteriliser with them.

They swamp the place out as normal, close all the windows and doors, hit the button and leave.

Sixty seconds later, the machine starts misting up the place with ultra-fine ionised hydrogen peroxide – so fine and light it takes on bacteria at their own game.

Because they’re ionised, the fine molecules of hydrogen peroxide spread rapidly – all with the same highly charged energy forcing them to separate from each other.

Super-excited and buzzing, they reach everywhere – driven hard to fill up the entire space – jammed against walls, floors, ceiling and furniture, shoved fiercely into cracks and crevices, trying to get away from each other.

That same charged energy actively attracts them to the opposite charge of viruses and bacteria.

In mid-air, on the fly, or wherever they happen to be, the hydrogen peroxide molecules grab at these germs, thrusting oxygen atoms at them to destroy their DNA and rip apart their cell structure.

World War Three, billions of times over – in a microscope.

Forty minutes later, the place is sterilised safe. The Hypersteriliser shuts down. The mist dissipates into oxygen and water, which promptly evaporates. Eco-friendly natural.

No more infected office. No more bugs to knock you back when you come in in the morning.

Beautiful on the balance sheet

Better still, if you’re the boss – no more absentees, better productivity, a fatter bottom line.

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?