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August 2019

Presenteeism and Productivity

Written by Peta Florus
Workplace Hygiene

At this time of the year when there are a number of people fighting off colds and flu, there is always a discussion about absenteeism and presenteeism - and which one is worse.

When colleagues are off work unexpectedly, it can be disruptive to business operations. In some cases, work doesn’t get done and things can slip through the cracks. The remaining employees who pick up the slack can get overworked, productivity levels can drop and costly mistakes can creep in.

On the other hand, presenteeism - in my opinion - could be worse because you may be too ill to be productive. In most instances, presenteeism is evident where there are huge workloads and where job security is under threat. The immediate workforce may be under threat of falling ill as well. So instead of having one employee recuperating away from the office for a few days, you have a number of employees falling ill and all of them not being as productive as they should be, costing the business time and money.

I found an article where Cleanology, a cleaning company in the UK, reported on a survey which looked into the behaviour around illness and work and the attitudes towards workplace hygiene.

“The report found that, compared with their male counterparts, women are more likely to struggle in to work while feeling under the weather. They are also more prone to point the finger at colleagues for passing on illness in the first place.”

The Department of Health says: “People with flu may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before they know that they are sick, as well as while they are sick. A person with flu may be contagious one day before symptoms appear and for three to seven days after the onset of symptoms. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, may be able to infect others for an even longer time.”

This may explain the domino effect where one person after the other becomes ill at work, and colleagues play the blame game and point fingers at other colleagues for passing on their germs.

“Dominic Ponniah, CEO at Cleanology, said the research showed an interesting perspective on cleanliness and ways in which pressure to attend, even when, under the weather, has an impact on effective working.”

I can see that in our own offices, where colleagues (working Moms especially) drag themselves into the office even though they have a Doctor’s sick note. How effective can you actually be while you’re not feeling well?

Further to this the article reads: “Our findings raise important questions about standard work practices and whether businesses would benefit from encouraging people to work from home. More than half of those surveyed had caught a cold from a colleague, while 62 agreed that they are not able to work to the best of their abilities when they are sick. Respondents felt guilty for coming to work coughing and sneezing.”

“While only a quarter of people blamed a dirty workplace for catching an illness, two out of five carry cleaning wipes. For us, as professional cleaners, this is a telling insight into the standard of cleaning in many workplaces. For employers and Facilities Managers, it must also raise questions about the link between cleanliness in the workplace and productivity.”

In a Biz Community article: HR Company Solutions Managing Director, Madelein Smit said “As a business owner I understand the frustration brought upon the organisation when there is a staff shortage, but employers need to be sympathetic towards employees when they fall ill and afford them the leniency to recuperate from home. One sick employee can contaminate the whole office, rendering the vast majority of employees sick.”

She says, “employees should also take proactive steps when they find themselves sick. Medical practitioners recommend getting adequate sleep, managing stress, maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise as a way of remaining healthy. But despite our best efforts at remaining healthy, we may find ourselves weighed down by the cold or flu, in such times, employers would do well to let their employees rest and come back to work when they are fit enough to tackle their work with vigour,” Smit concludes.

To prevent spreading the flu, the Department of Health recommends that you “Stay at home and limit contact with others. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw away the used tissue. Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. Clean surfaces that you touch frequently around the house.”

If you are prone to the flu, it may be a good idea to get the annual flu vaccine - prevention is better than cure, right?

In every organisation, you will find those colleagues who take advantage of their sick days, but there are also those who do not make use of their sick days. We are all human and we do fall ill sometimes, but there is no reason to feel guilty about taking sick days when you have been declared “unfit for work” by a registered medical practitioner. After all, your GP is an expert in his field.

Initial’s video Journey of the Germ shows how quickly germs can be spread from one person to another throughout the workday, so it is a really good idea to keep a hand sanitiser on your desk to prevent further cross-contamination when you or your colleagues are ill.

At Initial, we offer a range of services to stop the spread of germs in your workplace. Hand washing and drying or hand sanitising as a start are a must for any bathroom or kitchen area, as well as seat sanitising solutions. Our exclusive range of dispensing units have unique silver ion technology which limits the build-up of germs and bacteria on the actual unit. Accompanying our intensive deepclean service of your sanitary ware is our complimentary fogging service which kills 99% of bacteria in the hard to reach spaces.

Contact us now, and stop the spread of germs in your work environment.

Peta Florus

Peta Florus

Peta has been part of Rentokil Initial family for a number of years with research and analysis being her core functions. She enjoys writing the occasional blogs for the pest and hygiene businesses sharing information and expertise on our specialist services. In her private time and being a mom of two teenagers, walks on the beach is the next best thing to spending quality family time.

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