A sniffly workforce is less productive

Productivity can take a hit when you’re feeling under the weather.

It’s hard to make quick decisions and think clearly when you’d rather be at home in bed with a box of tissues watching back-to-back episodes of your favorite show on Netflix.

There are certain times of the year when we are exposed to more viruses, but good practices to prevent illness should be embraced all year long and encouraged in your office.

In addition to illnesses making everyone in the office feel just plain miserable, it also costs companies money.

The Integrated Benefits Institute, which represents major U.S. employers and business coalitions, says poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion a year, according to new research.

Of that amount, 39 percent, or $227 billion is from “lost productivity” from employee absenteeism due to illness or what researchers called “presenteeism,” which is when employees report to work but illness keeps them from performing at their best, according to Forbes.com.

You may not be able to eliminate illness in your office altogether, but you can take measures to reduce the impact of illnesses from spreading from person to person and affecting your bottom line.

Follow these guidelines to promote health and wellness within your company.

Encourage self care. Of course you can’t control what your staff does away from the office, but you can encourage people to get proper sleep, to exercise and to eat well-balanced meals.

You can simply do this through education or, depending on your facility, by providing healthy meal and snack choices and health programs.

If space allows, you might consider creating a workout area, a walking track or collaborate for a discount membership at a local gym. Take a look, what snacks are currently stocked in your vending machines?

Encourage hand washing. I know, it seems so elementary school to mention this. But, I bet there are a lot of people skipping this important step before they leave the washroom.

And, yes, it’s gross. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing with soapy water for at least 20 seconds.

A good benchmark for time while you’re washing is to hum to the tune of the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

Eliminate unwrapped foods. If you feel compelled to share snacks, such as a candy bowl at your desk or in the break room, make sure everything is wrapped. No need to have everyone’s hands reaching into a shared bowl of Skittles. Remember the hand washing conundrum? Make it easy for people to grab a snack without touching all the treats.

Encourage clean spaces. Since I’m a professional organizer, I love clean spaces, but when it comes to illnesses, it’s about germs more than clutter and paper piles.

Make sure you employ a professional cleaning crew or allow time for your team to do some deep cleaning on a regular basis.

Go take a look around at your shared spaces right away. When is the last time someone cleaned the sink in the break room, wiped down the refrigerator handle or cleaned the coffee pot? Create a checklist and make sure you have time scheduled and people who are responsible to handle these tasks.

Don’t forget about cleaning personal spaces too. Desk tops need to be wiped down regularly along with phones and keyboards.

Consider keeping hand sanitizer bottles and tissues placed strategically around the office as well.

Encourage people to stay home. It’s difficult to miss work when employees face deadlines, have meetings to attend and projects to complete.

But, sometimes it’s just better to stay home to recover and to prevent spreading germs. Depending on how sick employees are, conference calls and working from home may be a viable option. We all work more effectively when we feel better, so take the time to get better.

Encourage good health and hygiene habits for your coworkers and remember to implement them yourself to reduce illness and increase productivity in your office.

Monika Kristofferson is a professional organizer and productivity consultant who owns Efficient Organization NW in Lake Stevens. Reach her at 425-220-8905 or monika@efficientorganizationnw.com.

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