The impact of sickness and illness in the employment industry

There’s nothing worse than waking up with a cold, especially when you have a busy work day ahead of you.

Taking a day off may not seem like too much of a problem for some, but just a few work days off per employee each year can seriously affect a business’s bottom line, which has a knock-on effect on the UK economy as a whole.

Even more alarmingly, if you decide to go in anyway you risk passing on your illness to your co-workers, potentially leading to an outbreak of illness that has even more of an impact on your company.

Data from Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace shows that sickness-related absence and presenteeism cost British businesses around £91.9bn in 2019 – a rise of more than £10bn from the previous year.

CEO of Vitality Neville Koopowitz said: 

“Every year the results of Britain’s Healthiest Workplace find the costs to business from ill-health and presenteeism are spiralling upwards.  

“Despite this, many businesses continue to ignore the role of health and wellbeing and its intrinsic links to productivity.”

Koopowitz argues that the implications of the study’s findings go beyond the financial.

“It’s no longer enough to create a health and wellbeing programme for employees and hope they’ll make use of it. The businesses that not only prioritise it, but also properly consider how they engage their employees to improve their mental and physical health, can see productivity increase in their workforce by as much as 40%, which is no insignificant number,” he said.

According to the 2020 XpertHR benchmarking survey , a median 2.7% of work hours were lost to employee illness in 2019, translating to around 6.4 days for every employee in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) states the main reasons for sickness absence in 2018 and how this relates to missed work days: 

Costs to businesses

While these figures do have a substantial impact on the UK economy, it is the cost to businesses that makes the issue so important to resolve.

In 2019, the cost of sickness absence worked out to an average of £544 per employee. 

This number is likely to be an underestimate, as it mostly takes into account the salaries of people on sick leave. It does not count the costs of reduced productivity and performance, missed opportunities and paid overtime for those covering shifts.

According to Circadian’s publication Absenteeism: The Bottom-Line Killer, the real cost of unplanned absence is much higher. 

In fact, Circadian suggest that sick leave could cost up to $3,600 (£2599.47) per year for hourly workers, and $2,650 (£1913.50) for salaried employees.

This may be directly attributed to:

Circadian also notes some indirect costs to businesses of absenteeism, including:

Where productivity is lost because of sickness absence, the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace report mentioned earlier found that presenteeism (coming into work when unwell) was the most significant cause of productivity loss. 

In fact, the report found that 55 minutes of every lost productive hour was lost due to employees coming into work sick, rather than being absent.

Is your office making you sick?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air pollution indoors can be between two and five times greater than it is outside. 

In some extreme cases this figure may rise to up to 100 times more polluted than fresh air.

The EPA calls this phenomenon “Sick Building Syndrome” and it is caused by a build-up of toxic particles, bacteria and mould spores that, thanks to modern, energy-efficient offices, are not able to escape as they would in better ventilated spaces.

Allergist and immunologist Dr. Purvi Purikh believes that there is an obvious reason that people working in offices feel unwell more often – allergies.

“Most of us spend the majority of the week at work, and thus have extended exposure to these allergens in an enclosed space,” Purikh says. “Repeated and increased exposure can make existing allergies more severe.”

Allergies don’t necessarily mean the cough and runny nose typical on high-pollen days. Allergies can lead to a wide range of illnesses – everything from asthma to chronic fatigue.

Even office equipment and furnishings can contribute to poor indoor air quality (IAQ) and cause illness. 

Photocopiers and laser printers, if not well-maintained, are a source of potentially harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Printers also release toxic toner particles over time.

It is well-documented that keyboards can carry enormous amounts of bacteria build-up over time, but microbes can be found on door handles, elevator buttons, office kitchen sinks and mugs and even in handshakes.

As an employer you have a duty of care to your staff and customers and want to do everything in your power to protect them against illness.

The Airius PureAir Series can help.

How the Airius PureAir can help to reduce sickness in offices

Airius PureAir+ NPBI, Pearl and PHI Series’ air purification systems are a cost-effective and efficient solution used by offices all over the UK to keep their work environments healthy.

The PureAir+ NPBI Series is one of Airius’s most popular air purification systems for offices and large workplace environments. 

The pathogen, particle and odour purification system uses needlepoint bipolar ionisation (NPBI®) technology to sterilise air and surfaces, eliminating up to 99.9% of all known pathogens.

It also eliminates mould spores, bacteria, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and odours, able to remove particles that are 1,000 times smaller than standard HEPA filters, helping to reduce airborne pollutants and ease allergies.

Installing the PureAir+ helps to refresh the air and improve IAQ, leading to:

In the report Working for a Healthier Tomorrow, Dame Carol Black says: 

“Good health improves an individual’s quality of life, and a focus on their well-being can also add value to organisations by promoting better health and increasing motivation and engagement of employees, in turn helping to drive increases in productivity and profitability. 

“In other words the benefits of health and well-being extend far beyond avoiding or reducing the costs of absence or poor performance. But this requires a changed perception of health and well-being, and a willingness from both employers and employees to invest resources and change behaviour.”

Tested, Trusted & Approved

NPBI Accreditation Logos

Multiple studies have been conducted on the NPBITM technology integrated into the Airius PureAir+ Series range, supporting the efficacy and effectiveness of NPBITM systems for pathogen neutralisation, particle reduction and odour elimination.

  • •  Installed through out all industries, including Healthcare, Aviation, Manufacturing, Offices, Education, Arenas, Retail outlets and many more.
  • •  Approved by the RTCA to meet the DO-160 standard for Airborne Equipment
  • •  One of the first purification systems to be tested on a live strain of SARS-CoV-2

Testing carried out by:

  • •  Innovative Bioanalysis
  • •  Harvard School of Public Health
  • •  Retroscreen Virology
  • •  Kitasato Institute Medical Centre
  • •  EMSL Analytical Inc
  • •  Green Clean Air
  • •  Calgary Int. Airport, NAV Canada
  • •  Aachen University of Applied Sciences
  • •  Medical School of Luebeck
  • •  Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control
  • •  School of Advanced Sciences, Hiroshima University

Find out more

Airius fans are commonly used to purify air and balance temperatures for both heating and cooling applications in a wide variety of environments – from offices to aircraft hangars.

Adding an Airius PureAir+ NPBI Series air purification, infection and odour control ventilation fan is a simple way to continually clean your air and surfaces, creating a safer and healthier environment for you, your staff and your building.