There is an extraordinary amount of data about hospital cleanliness. In fact, there are hospital departments and infectious disease specialists that work entirely to manage the risks associated with hospital-borne infections. While it’s certainly true that infectious germs plague hospitals and nursing homes that care for sick people, these germs also affect schools, other public buildings, and very likely your business. While hospitals work diligently to track the outbreak of illnesses and how to combat them with cleaning procedures, most businesses don’t take time to track how sick employees affect their bottom line. By exploring the data, your business is apt to find that instating an effective cleaning program protects the health and wellbeing of employees and, ultimately saves companies money on the costs associated with sick time benefits.
Absenteeism: What Does It Cost?
Many companies are loath to examine the hidden costs of absenteeism because they’re always shocking whether the business is large or small. The initial cost, of course, is paying the employee for a day’s work (or several depending on the sick time they’ve accrued and the length of illness), but the costs actually cut much deeper into your budget. Your business may have to hire temporary employees or pay regular employees overtime to maintain the work load when other employees are absent. Secondly, your organization’s other employees, particularly those who work with the sick employee(s) in question, are at risk for succumbing to infectious illness too. How many times has the cold or flu raced through your accounting department or thrown your sales team for a loop?
The figures associated with sick-time expenses vary, of course, from business to business. Some organizations simply chalk this cost up as a business expense that can’t be helped. Yet the costs don’t even stop there. Businesses must pay other employees to handle the administration of sick time benefits. According to a 2008 survey by Mercer/Marsh (Kronos Consulting & Mercer, LLC., 2008), managing sick time benefits accounts for 36% of a business’s administrative expenses. Most companies don’t even think to account for this.
Then, of course, there is the reality of life at the office when you’ve got your best employees out sick. Sales or other types of production may be thrown off course because the right person isn’t there to ensure things go smoothly. Customer service may be impacted, clients may be irritated, contracts may have to wait, and the list goes on. As more and more businesses operate with lean staffs, each employee is truly a cog in the wheel. When one or more of these people is out sick for one or several days, the flow of work is certainly affected, but is your business tracking the extent of these disruptions?
Sneezing at Work: How Contaminated by Virus Is Your Business
You don’t want to know what studies in North America and thirty other countries revealed about workplace contamination, but you need to. In 2010, a huge study was taken up by Kimberly-Clark Professional called The Healthy Workplace Project, which worked to gauge the level of hygiene in workplaces throughout various regions and to promote better hygiene. In monitoring office surfaces, the research determined that contamination (like cold and influenza viruses) is a serious health risk in many businesses. In fact, 75% of office break rooms had contamination found on sink faucets. Contamination was found on 48% of microwave door handles, 27% on keyboard surfaces, and 21% on vending machine buttons–just to give you a basic idea of the germs hanging out all over the office.
The Further Hazards of Presenteeism
Before we lament too much about absent employees, keep in mind what it’s like to work alongside a sick employee. Not only is a sick employee who comes to work less productive, they also spread contamination and place your otherwise healthy employees at greater risk for succumbing to illness. The Harvard Business Review conducted studies regarding presenteeism and found that many workers in today’s stressed economy are opting to go to work even when sick. Employees may be afraid of losing their job or simply may not believe that a cold is reason enough to take a day off.
The study was very thorough about the effects of presenteeism on sick employees. They demonstrate decreased work quality, work less efficiently, and lack initiative (many are simply just trying to get through the day and propped up on cold medications). We’ve all been there–working with a pile of cough drops and box of tissue at the ready, working away even when healthcare providers recommend ad nauseam that rest is the best medicine to combat viruses like the cold and flu. Yet, work awaits, so many employees will tough it out, and truly, they don’t mean to contaminate the building from the elevator door to the water fountain, but they do.
The Value of Clean
Although businesses can stress the importance of hand washing and even stock the kitchen with vitamin C-laden snacks, the best way to remove contamination and maintain a healthy workplace environment is by instating an outstanding level of cleanliness. By enhancing the air quality of the office and performing thorough cleaning regimens of all surfaces, businesses can reduce the presence of cold, flu, and other common viruses and bacteria by as much as 80%. The Healthy Workplace Project determined that after businesses experienced a “hygiene intervention,” the levels of contamination decreased so substantially that no business, today, should ignore the value that a clean office space affords.
In this light, businesses must weigh the costs of absenteeism and presenteeism. Add up the expenses associated with the cold and flu alone and stack that figure up against the costs associated with cleaning. You’ll find that a solid hygiene program is, indeed, an investment in workplace wellness. Your business can reduce those expenses associated with absenteeism and presenteeism. Moreover, it can even improve workplace morale simply by doing its utmost to achieve a clean and healthy workplace. After all, these are the places where productivity is most likely to thrive.