In response to significant employee absenteeism, which costs the South African economy as much as R4-billion a year, provider of hygiene and health solutions Kimberly Clark Professional has launched its Healthy Workplace Project, end-user marketing manager Nthato Malope tells Engineering News.
Independent research conducted on absen- teeism in South Africa has confirmed that the average company loses about 4.5% of its work- force to absenteeism daily and, in 40% of all cases, people are not at work because of minor illnesses, such as colds and the flu, he notes.
This has led to the urgent need for a sustain- able and long-term solution to deal with the problem.
Kimberly Clark states that its business is to help its customers create exceptional workplaces that are healthier and more productive for employees. This prompted it to launch the Healthy Workplace Project.
The project shows customers’ employees that, by taking a few simple steps, the risk of spreading harmful germs in the office can be reduced. This will, in turn, reduce absenteeism and raise employee productivity levels.
Malope says companies often do not know how to measure and manage absenteeism.
“They tend to invest in wellness programmes that are well intentioned but the foundation of wellness investment should start with the basics of providing employees with a clean and hygienic workplace. This will ensure that the benefit of an overall wellness initiative is provided to the employee.”
In a workplace, the primary way through which people become sick is by means of the cross contamination of bad bacteria and viruses that are found in germ hotspots.
The project encourages employers to reduce the risk of cross contamination in typical germ hotspots, such as the kitchen, desks, the front door, the reception area and other high-traffic areas, through the washing, wiping and sanitising protocol outlined by the project, which will ensure maximum protection in the workplace.
The Healthy Workplace Project is designed to respond to the threat of germs in a three-step process.
Companies signing up for the project receive a comprehensive assessment of their entire work environment, which highlight the locations of germ hotspots.
Using adenosine triphosphate reading devices, Kimberly Clark is able to measure the biological concentration levels of bacteria on any given surface, from the high-traffic areas to individual workstations.
Based on the data gathered, the company will make recommendations on where to implement the hygiene systems.
Once the recommendations have been made and approved by the customer, the company will install the most appropriate hygiene systems in the workplace.
Kimberly Clark believes a partnership between itself and its customers must be forged if the project is to succeed and if customers’ employees are to benefit.
The final and most important part of the project is the engagement aspect. This involves an interactive communication campaign, which comprises posters, stickers and other internal communication material in attracting the attention of employees and persuading them to use the hygiene products. This will help to achieve long-term healthy lifestyle behavioural change by employees.
Malope says it is essential to continuously provide employees with information to educate them on how to create a healthy workplace.
Providing an incentive or a reward and recognition programme are also effective ways of engaging people and impacting a behavioural change in them so that they become more health conscious.
This will further inspire employees to adopt the programme and feel self-accountable for their fellow employees. It will encourage them to feel that the company is concerned and willing to invest in its people, he says.
“As it is still in its infancy, the Healthy Workplace Project has a long way to go in changing employee behaviour from not being very health conscious to healthy.
“If Kimberly Clark is able to make this project a priority for human resources and wellness departments in companies and position itself as industry experts on health and hygiene in the workplace, the company may continue to create value-added solutions for its current and future clients, while making a difference in the general wellness of employees,” says Malope.
The company aims to increase productivity levels through its engagement process and reduce absenteeism levels as an initial but significant result of the project.
Malope says Kimberly Clark is working with a prominent South African financial insti- tution in customising the Healthy Workplace Project to suit the brand of the institution.