According to the Office for National Statistics, UK employees took an average of 4.1 days off work through illness in 2017. Despite a steady decline in sickness absence rates since 1993, estimates show British firms lose as much as £77 billion through absenteeism each year. Although Illness can take its toll at any time of year; colds, influenza, and other viruses become prevalent during winter, making the coldest months some of the most expensive.
Rhinovirus or the common cold?
Over 200 hundred viruses can cause a cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common as dropping humidity, and lower temperatures contribute to their proliferation and spread and hence, seasonal outbreaks.
25,000 people die of influenza each year
The flu virus thrives in colder, less humid air, and contaminates indoor surfaces. As we begin to take shelter from the cold outside, we unknowingly increase our risk of catching influenza indoors. The precise timing of ‘flu season’ varies but cases start to rise from October, peaking December through February, before declining in March.
The below graph shows how cases of influenza spiked during the New Year period in 2017-2018, where just one year early, cases remained relatively stable throughout winter.
Why does illness spread at work?
Colds and flu spread through direct or indirect bodily contact. A handshake, sharing a phone, even using the soap dispenser can lead to an outbreak. The viruses survive up to 24 hours on hard surfaces meaning, once the flu arrives, it can rapidly spread through any of the following paths.
- Coughs and sneezes: Sneezes contain 40,000 droplets of bacteria-spreading moisture, which can travel up to 32 feet, putting those around us at risk of infection. Cover your nose and mouth if you cough, or sneeze, and throw tissues straight in the bin.
- Contaminated surfaces: one study found the average work phone is the most contaminated surface in the office with over 25,000 bacterial organisms, while Initial Washroom Hygiene uncovered 17x more germs on an office teabag than a toilet seat highlighting the risk of shared spaces.
- Inadequate cleaning: Some areas are just harder to clean, as discovered by health organisation NSF International when it found 7 million germs per square inch on the water tap of a typical water dispenser.
As noted by antimicrobial experts, BioCote®, bottled water dispensers must be unscrewed, then placed in warm water and sliced lemon for 12 hours to ensure they remain hygienic, so it’s easy to see how bottled water coolers can cause the biggest flu-like headaches.
Use BioCote® technology to kill office germs
Desk surfaces harbour 400x more bacteria than a typical toilet seat, which you can now keep bacteria-free with BioCote antimicrobial technology. Imagine the productivity you could unlock in avoiding infection alongside keeping your team happy and healthy.
A lab study exposed five different bacteria to BioCote® silver ion-treated laminates. Over the course of 28 days, the material supported no visible mould, showing how BioCote prevents the growth and spread of potentially harmful microbes. By infusing BioCote technology to desks, kitchen appliances, bathroom facilities, offices can protect their workforce throughout the year, not just the winter months.
Avoiding employee illness supports your bottom line
In total, British workers miss 130 million days-a-year at a huge cost to employers. Several sectors have begun investing in measures to reduce employee absenteeism, realising a return on investment of £31 for every £1 invested, highlighting the economic benefits of preserving a healthy workforce.
Nottingham Business School shows workers spend 2.5 weeks-a-year at work feeling under the weather, costing £4,000 per employee in lost productivity. The critical advice to employers is to keep ill employees at home until at least 24-hours after their fever has gone.
How often should the office be cleaned?
By regularly disinfecting commonly touched items such as the computer keyboard, the office phone and door handles, you can prevent germs from spreading across the workplace. The consistency of an in-depth office clean is based on various factors, such as the size of your office, its purpose and your occupants. To keep your office sparkling and your employees healthy, invest in a professional cleaning service and you’ll never have to worry about whether your office space is clean. You can ensure a high standard of cleanliness is maintained through regular, light cleaning and control allergens like dust mites that thrive in dirty and dusty environments.
Prevention is better than a cure
Acting before an outbreak is a more efficient strategy than merely responding to it. Antimicrobial offices with a BioCote-infused water dispenser avoid the risk of infection; fewer employees become ill because of contaminated surfaces; your business continues to boom.
If you invest in appliances and office products infused with BioCote technology to fortify yourself before winter arrives, you will reap the rewards.
The world’s leading supplier of sustainable water cooler solutions, Waterlogic is an advocate for productive work environments and employee health. In our effort to raise awareness about workplace wellbeing, we cover the essential question on every business owner’s mind at winter: How to reduce employee sickness? Cold and flu viruses affect employees, costing economies billions. By introducing virus-prevention strategies, offices can inoculate themselves against the winter fallout helping protect the business’ bottom line in preparation for healthy Christmas cheer.