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East Midlands Chamber News

The sneeze that costs business over £1bn a year

Pam Wakefield, Irongate Group, and Emma Ellis, Kimberley-Clark ProfessionalThe germs found lurking on the things we touch and carry around with us are making us ill... and it’s costing business £1.35bn a year according to Chamber member Irongate Group.

On average, desks have 400-times more germs than toilet seats and 98% of workers are affected by minor illnesses each year, the firm says.

The good news is that the chances of picking up a bug are proven to be reduced by 80% simply by adding some basic hygiene steps into daily routines - washing hands regularly, wiping down desks and sanitising when on the go.

That’s why Irongate Group is helping businesses to get healthy and stop the spread of germs with its Healthy Workplace Project in partnership with Kimberly-Clark Professional.

To demonstrate just how exposed its own employees were to the germs that could cause illness, Irongate swabbed their personal belongings. The results were pretty disgusting and got everyone reaching for the hand sanitiser. Mobile phones and car keys showed some of the highest germ counts.

“It doesn’t take much to make healthy changes to your workplace,” said Pam Wakefield, Cleaning & Hygiene Specialist at Irongate.

“Studies show that around one third of employees will already be more health conscious and they’re the real champions of this whole process. They will influence another third of employees to start thinking more about it at work and at home too. That all builds up the tolerance businesses need to reduce sick days.”

The Healthy Workplace Project works in three phases - audit, provide and engage. First Irongate take a look around the workplace to find germ hotspots, such as hot desks, phones, vending machines and toilets. Once they’ve been identified, Irongate installs everything needed to stop the spread of germs - hand sanitisers by the entrance, antibacterial soap in the kitchen, wipes in boardrooms and desk caddies.

Pam added: “During the roll out, it’s crucial we get everyone on board, so we start by giving a brief presentation that gets people thinking about how easily germs spread. We swab car keys and mobiles phones to show how many germs are harboured on the things we carry around with us all the time. It’s quite shocking and doesn’t take long for people to start seeing the long-term benefits of making just a few small changes to cleanliness.”

Dr Louise Vickerman, UK Marketing Manager, Kimberly-Clark Professional, said: “We are really excited to be working with Irongate Group on the Healthy Workplace Project and to see how they have embraced it in their own offices.

“It’s easy to take some small steps towards introducing healthier habits in your office to create happier, healthier and more productive businesses.”

In businesses where the Healthy Workplace Project was rolled out, eight out of ten participants said they were more satisfied with their employer and unplanned absence rates reduced by 45%.