Britain’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expected to lose billions due to colds and flu as the winter months take their toll on employee health.
According to research by office supplies company Viking, illness brought on by cold weather in the coming six months will cost smaller firms as much as £3.4bn. The report showed owners of SMEs collectively lose 63 million days a year through absence, with two thirds attributed to the annual cold and flu season. Sickness rates are on average 27% higher in winter.
Researchers also took swabs from 300 workplaces and the common bacteria Bacillus and Micrococcus, which indicate poor levels of hygiene and cleanliness, were found on the vast majority of office keyboards. Viking’s hygiene expert Lisa Ackerley said the overwhelming presence of bacteria was “very worrying” as office workers tend to start coming down with illnesses around this time of year.
“Keeping equipment such as keyboards, phones and desks as germ free as possible is even more important during the cold and flu season,” she added. Meanwhile, research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has shown that stress is now the leading cause of long-term sickness absence in the UK workplace.