February 28, 2023
How To Prevent Infection & Reduce Absenteeism in The Workplace
Absences at work affects productivity and finance and causes many issues for employers. In the UK, employers alone lose a total of £16 billion a year to sick days. That’s an average of 6.5 days per employee!
With many facilities facing staff shortages already, absences can have a big impact on business. Therefore, it’s better to take a proactive approach and create a safe environment for staff, reducing any risk of infection to avoid absences.
Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken in cleaning processes to prevent the spread of illness, which contributes to absence. In this blog, we’ll look at the causes of absence in the workplace and provide 5 suggestions on how to combat it.
What is the main cause of absence?
Absenteeism is when a member of staff is unfit to attend work. One of the main causes for this are minor illnesses such as:
- Coughs and colds
- Gastrointestinal bugs
Viruses and bacteria responsible for causing these minor illnesses are able to spread when an infected person touches a surface, leaving germs behind, which is then touched by another person who then unknowingly picks them up.
The following recommendations can prevent illness from spreading from one member of staff to another, reducing further absences.
Ways to overcome the challenge
1. Encourage Hand Hygiene
Good hand hygiene is one of the most significant ways to reduce the transmission of infectious agents. When done properly, washing and sanitising hands can kill bacteria and viruses, reducing the risk of contaminating objects and surfaces with germs.
We recommend installing hand sanitiser stations throughout facilities and providing anti-bac hand wash for the washrooms. It’s then important to regularly monitor and ensure that soap and paper consumables are always available to maintain a good level of hygiene.
It is also good practice to put up posters in washrooms as a reminder for staff to wash hands with instructions on how to do so properly. Instructions should read:
- Wet your hands with water
- Apply enough soap to cover your hands
- Rub hands palm to palm
- Rub back of each hand with palm of other hand with fingers interlaced
- Rub palm to palm with fingers interlaced
- Rub with back of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked
- Rub each thumb clasped in opposite hand using rotational movement
- Rub tips of fingers in opposite palm in a circular motion
- Rub each wrist with opposite hand
- Rinse hands with water
- Dry hands completely with paper hand towel
It should take 40 seconds to perform steps 1-10.
2.Focus on High Touch Points
Within a work environment there will be hot touch points – objects and surfaces that are repeatedly touched by numerous people frequently during the day.
- Elevator buttons
- Light switches
- Keyboards and mice
- Phones, etc.
These objects are often covered in bacteria and viruses accumulated from regular contact. Increasing cleaning of high touch points is vital to reduce the spread of infection. We recommend using a virucidal cleaner with certification BS EN14476.
Along with the increased cleaning of high touch points, your team must make sure that all surfaces around the facility, whether its desks & furniture in a school, or entrances & canteen areas in an office building, are cleaned more often using a virucidal disinfectant and ensuring the two-step cleaning process is adhered to.
3. Correctly Disinfect
One of the biggest cleaning mistakes that lead to increased absences is not adhering to proper dwell times for disinfectants when cleaning. For a disinfectant to be truly effective, the two-step cleaning process must be carried out.
Step 1 – involves the removal of dirt, grime and grease from a surface
Step 2 – is to disinfect.
Disinfection destroys microorganisms living on a surface, including bacteria, viruses, mildews and fungi, which carry infection. For this step to be truly effective, the disinfectant needs to be left on a wet surface for a specified amount of time to kill the germs.
Different disinfectants will have different dwell times. A QUAT (standard quaternary disinfectant) requires 10 minutes on a wet surface for it to work effectively, whereas AHPs (hydrogen peroxides) don’t take as much time to work but can tackle a larger variety of different pathogens. It is important to always follow the instructions on product label for the correct dwell time.
4. Better Indoor Air Quality
Viruses, including Coronavirus, are airborne transmitted, so it is key to make sure you are doing everything possible to purify the air within the facility.
Reduced humidity caused by air conditioning and central heating increases the survival of enveloped viruses, such as influenza and coronaviruses. Reduced humidity can also dry out nasal passages making them more vulnerable to infection.
Increasing ventilation will help to counteract reduced humidity and has been proven to reduce the bacteria particles in rooms significantly.
This can be achieved by opening windows, implementing HEPA filtration air purifiers, or installing HVAC systems (operating with decreased air intake, to keep heating costs low). These solutions help to increase ventilation and will lessen the dilution of aerosols that contribute to the spread of viruses.
5. Encouraging Sick People From Coming In To Work
‘Presenteeism’ is the act of showing up to work while unwell and unfit to work productively. It is endemic in the UK workplace culture with more than half of deskless workers attending work while unwell because they could not afford the time off.
This can increase the chances of other members of staff falling ill and have an adverse effect on productivity across the team.
By reducing the number of the ‘working unwell’, potentially offering staff the option to work from home where applicable, facilities can prevent infection from spreading further and causing more absences.
Absence has a negative impact on business and adds to existing challenges regarding staff shortages.
One of the main causes for absence at work are minor illnesses and infection. Bacteria and viruses can spread in the workplace via surfaces and air particles, infecting staff and resulting in absence.
Implementing tall the preventative measures we have covered in your cleaning processes creates a safer work environment and prevents infection from developing and spreading. This should see a drop in absences in your facility, saving on cost and increasing productivity.
Along with reduced illness, a clean office can also increase motivation, show off your professionalism to clients, and reduce stress. Humans are visual creatures and the nicer our surroundings, the more proud, confident, and energised we feel.