Making a Business Case for Infection Prevention and Control at the Workplace

The exposure or spread of germs at the workplace has far-reaching consequences ranging from absenteeism from work, loss of productivity, temporary closures, litigation, and damage of company’s reputation.

Such a compelling case on the impact of infection transmission at workplace provides a basis for organizations to make business decisions dedicated to employees’ health and wellness.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) refers to evidence-based practices that, when applied consistently, can prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of germs.

Cost-effective analysis for IPAC reveals significant cost-saving possibilities for businesses. In fact, the most important immediate economic return for any organization may lie in outcomes such as a healthy workforce, high productivity and organizational excellence.

Now, the obvious question is that, if IPAC is cost-effective, why are there not more dollars allocated to IPAC efforts at workplace? Perhaps business owners do not fully understand the potential impact or benefit; maybe, there is lack of expert guidance; or perhaps business owner place less priority on employee’s health and wellness. The latter is obvious, however, if we examine the following: how often do facilities conduct infection transmission risk assessment or surveillance? Are there exposure control plans for occupational exposures? Are cleaners trained in basic IPAC as it relates to environmental decontamination? Is there an effective facility IPAC program or is employee immunization (especially for the flu, or other communicable diseases like TB) taken seriously?

To make a good business case for IPAC, it is important to review the cost and benefit of such a program. Some of the direct and indirect cost may include cost for expert consultation, administrative cost, and cost due to IPAC supplies in the facility, but the benefits are enormous.

Some of the benefits include reduction of sick days (absenteeism), employees’ wellness, productivity gains, retention, reduction in morbidity, and prevention of litigation issues. There may also be intangible benefits arising from the protection of the company reputation and public image. This is particularly important as there have been several incidents in BC where hotels, restaurants, grocery shops, nursing homes, childcare, schools, and gyms have been temporarily closed because of disease outbreak. Also, any identifiable risk that clients may be exposed to infectious threats from a facility will say whether the clients or others will return for future business transactions. This is what is often referred to as failure costs that arises from customer dissatisfaction and defection.

Dissatisfied customers are much more likely to talk about their experience than are satisfied customers and that negative word of mouth is more often believed than positive comments. This experience may translate into real purchase or services decisions which is likely to be negative. If this occurs customer retention and loyalty may be greatly affected. Therefore, the time to reflect on your organization’s IPAC program and occupational exposure policy as part of employees’ health and wellness initiative is now.

Consider the Gift of Education for your Grandchildren

the gift of education for your grandchildren

Post secondary graduates earn, about $1 million more than those without a degree…

If you’re a grandparent, you already know the joys of having grandchildren in your life. And, like so many grandparents, you may be looking at ways to help your grandchildren get the most out of their lives.

Perhaps the most valuable thing you could give your grandkids is the gift of education.

Consider this: Over a lifetime, post secondary graduates earn, on average, about $1 million more than those without a degree according to the Census Bureau. So, putting money toward your grandchildren’s post secondary education is a good investment.

Furthermore, your grandchildren may well need the help, because getting an education is expensive and costs continue to rise. Consequently, you may want to contribute to an RESP. Rules around RESPs have steadily become more accommodating over the years. You have several options for how the money can be invested and there is a lifetime contribution limit of $50,000 per beneficiary. Growth within the plan is tax sheltered, and when a student draws funds from the plan to pay for his or her education, the income is included on their tax return. As most students generally have negligible income, the tax payable on the withdrawals can be as low as zero.

If you name one grandchild as a beneficiary of an RESP and that grandchild decides not to go to college or university, you can switch the account to another grandchild – in other words, you maintain control of the money for the life of the account.

Another common way to invest money for a grandchild’s education is through the use of an “in-trust” account. An “in-trust” account is an informal trust because there is no trust deed. However, it’s important to note that once gifted, this money no longer belongs to the donor.

If you put your money into either a formal trust or an in-trust account for a minor grandchild, all income will be taxed in your hands until the child reaches age 18. Any capital gains will be taxed to the child regardless of their age. This is why investments that generate capital gains are ideally suited to this type of arrangement. For this type of arrangement to work properly, care must be taken to ensure that the in-trust account is set up properly and complies with the applicable tax rules.

Whichever option is right for your family, there are a variety of opportunities for you to give something to the grandchildren who give so much to you.

Passing on the Tradition – Story #1925

I thought it was time to share a little story with everyone so here we go.
This is the story about the first time I ever wanted to make  perogies on my own.

In case you don’t know …. I am the youngest of eight. When we made Perogies as a family it was a huge social event. Mom and dad would both make the dough – no machine used in those days. A gigantic canning pot was used to cook the potatoes in. While the air filled with steam and smelled like warm comfort as the potatoes boiled gently a top the stove other elements of the process would begin. Dad would be chopping about a 10 pound bag of onions never complaining about how much his eyes teared up … just getting the job done! Mom would be shredding the cheese. And soon the house smelled of the mixture that to this day I use in our recipe of potato, Cheddar and onion.

The day came when I got married and I wanted to make Perogies on my own. I phone my Mom and said hey I want to make perogies  her reply was “So good for you. Make perogies!”  

I laughed and said “Mom I never made Perogies by myself.”

She replied “What are you talking about you never made perogies?!”

I continue to reason with her and say “Mom I never made them by myself I want to make them for my husband.” She replies “Bring the baby!!”

What the baby had to do with me making perogies to this day I’ll never know but I did as I was told. So off I drove to Mom’s house with baby in tow. 

Arriving at the house Mom greets me at the door and says “Hello give me the baby. “ “Hi Mom” I reply. She says so go to the kitchen and get the flour. I’m thinking to myself “Hello to you too Bella…” I open the pantry door and there inside not so tucked away is a huge green garbage bin filled with flour!

I know exactly where the bowl is to make the dough, middle top shelf. I gaze around and remember, right I’m at Mom and Dad‘s house there are no measuring cups to be had.

I yell from the pantry “Hey Mom how much flour do I put into the bowl?”

Heavy footsteps approach, “Take the baby,” she says. Grabs a plate second shelf right hand side and begins to count in Ukrainian to five while filling said plate with flour and emptying it into the bowl. Her task is complete and she says give me the baby. Of course give you the baby it’s all about the baby, I laugh to myself, thinking how am I going to figure out how many cups she put into this bowl ….remembering my Dad telling me “Garlic-crushing cup is about 1 cup, so if you ever have to measure that’s your cup to measure.”

Excellent! I think to myself, garlic crushing cup it is and I take it and start measuring into another bowl so I would have an amount that I could use when I got back home to try to replicate this recipe. Oddly enough (or probably not) The measurement was 5 cups!

Once all things were “measured“ we began making the filling. Everything I explained above was repeated with not-so-precise perfection. My Mom then wanted to teach me how to season the onions for the mixture.

As she took me into the kitchen she told me that this was her favourite part I didn’t understand until she opened up the pouring section of the pepper shaker. 

She told me to tell her “chekaty” (“Wait!” “Stop!”) As she began to pour the pepper on top of the pan lined with onions. After seeing a whole bunch drop down and my eyes are popping out I yelled “chekaty!” She laughed!!! She didn’t stop pouring that pepper until the top of those onions were black! Today that is still the measurement method I use when adding the spice to my mixture.

That was how Bella Baba Perogies learnt how to make Perogies as a young adult. I hope you’ve enjoyed storytime Number 1925, representing the year my Mother was born.

The Hardest Card To Write

You open the card, you stare at the blank space. “What do I say?” goes around in your head. You have to write a condolence card.

I wrote two this week, one for someone who died too young, the other for an ancient grandmother. How to respond to grief – a complicated mix of loss, sadness, sometimes anger, sometimes relief, wistful memories, fun memories?

Here are some thoughts on what to say:

  • I’m sorry for your/our loss. It’s okay to acknowledge complicated feelings: it’s okay to feel all these things.
  • Share a memory, if you have one, of the person who passed. Or your impression, if you have met them, or your impression of them from your friend. Or you can say, “I am sure s/he was an awesome person, knowing you as I do.”
  • If you have experience of grief, share your reality, without making it theirs. I found grief was surreal: I thought I had a big neon sign on my forehead saying, “I just lost my mum,” but I didn’t, and groceries need buying and people need phoning, and it feels surreal. So I share that and everyone so far has found it comforting.
  • Offer specific help if you can and want to, to the extent you can: taking the kid(s) for an afternoon; laundry; dog-sitting.
  • Don’t include any advice, blame, predictions for feeling better, or discussion of the details of death
  • Don’t think it needs to be long.
  • Late is much better than never. Cards pour in early, and then people often experience a silence. Sending a card weeks late, affirming any continuing grief, can be a huge support. You can also send a second card, or call.

The best advice I’ve come across is in this blog, which includes ideas for specific losses, ie parents, a child, pets: www.thepencompany.com/blog/write-a-sympathy-card/

Just remember, showing support to loved ones in their times of grief is more appreciated than it might seem.

Downsizing Tips

Downsizing can be a stressful process! Here are some tips to getting through the process and feel good about the outcome.

First and most important tip is …

Give yourself lots of time! Rushing just adds to the stress and then it’s harder to make good choices. Most of us are emotionally attached to our home… leaving it can bring up so many emotions, like sadness and apprehension about the move. Having a plan can make it so much easier.

Seeking support of friends or family or a downsizer if needed, is critical to make this process less stressful. Having a 3rd party that is detached and knows the process can make it much easier on everyone. Many people can feel so overwhelmed by the prospect of such a huge change that they don’t know where to start. So help is essential.

4 Steps to help with this process include:

Step #1: Start Early. Give yourself lots of time and have a plan. ASK for help either friends and family or a professional.

Step 2: Minimize your Stuff. Tips for this: take what feels right for you. What items bring you joy and what you need. If there is something that you are really attached to but you won’t have room for, take a picture of it and even have it framed. You will have the memory but not the space it takes up. This is also good for collectables that you may not have room for.

Places to release items include Varage sale, Used Victoria Consignment stores, Big Brothers, Anney’s closet, Lunds Auction and House Thrift on Forth, just to name a few. Many of these services will come right to your door and pick up for you. This can be done even before you have found a new place and makes the process closer to the move much easier. You may find your mind is also decluttering as you declutter the stuff!!

Step 3: Know your new space in square footage and what will fit. You can even do a drawing and make paper pieces of your items and see what fits. Step 4: Take time to celebrate your accomplishments and time to relax and de-stress. This will make the whole process so much easier.

The Secret Ingredient

Ever since I was a little girl I can remember my Mom and Dad making perogies by the stockpot-full!!

The house would be filled with simple aromas from boiled potatoes and sautéed onions. The moment those smells hit your nose your stomach craved for what was to follow. 

Tender pockets filled with harvested potatoes & onions combined with good ol’ Canadian Cheddar served softly boiled with a dollop of sour cream. But of course their secret (aside from a solid dose of black pepper) was the love Mom & Dad pinched into every piece! (I’m pretty sure Love is a true pantry ingredient!)

Being the youngest of eight I had seen many family gatherings but the best ones were those in which our family grew even bigger!

Seriously …we just kept adding & adding. Yes I’m talking about weddings!  It was our family’s tradition to prepare all the food by hand for all weddings. 

It was all hands on deck! And boy did we have hands. Our typical feast consisted of: borscht (beet vegetable soup); cabbage rolls (2 types); perogies (2-3 types) meatballs with gravy; roast beef packed with garlic cloves plus a host of common veggies, and some special mixtures like pepanke (a type of mushroom with gravy) and my favourite garlic mashed beans mmmmmm.

For Us, (a poor Ukrainian Prairie Family) food was more than something you needed to survive. It was a foundation, a source, a way of showing love & a way to pass along traditions. Today I’m happy to believe that this holds true for many families as well as mine.  Be sure to always stock your pantry with my Mom & Dad’s secret ingredient!

Advisory Boards: What, Why, When, and How

What is an Advisory Board?

An Advisory Board is a group of trusted mentors and advisors who provide you with guidance and feedback, based on their skills and interests. An Advisory Board has no governance or fiduciary responsibility, although many Advisory Boards transition to Boards of Directors over time, as a company matures. Advisory Boards are in place simply to advise. Advisors add value by asking the tough questions at the right time, helping you to find the answers. In fact, their most valuable contribution may be to ask probing questions, rather than “provide advice”.  

Why should my business have an Advisory Board?

An Advisory Board can bring broad skills, experiences, and credibility to a business and its owners, depending on the Board’s composition and mandate. If chosen carefully, an Advisory Board can provide access to specialist and generalist skills not held by the owners, decades of experience in the right industries, and a network of connections for building your business. Simply having an Advisory Board signals your willingness to seek outside counsel, an important attribute when looking for new investors and business relationships. An Advisory Board can help provide you with the discipline to periodically re-assess business strategy and success. Having to succinctly describe your business challenges to your Advisory Board will help you tackle them successfully.

When should I set up an Advisory Board?

An Advisory Board should be established at the earliest practical time. Although you may believe that you don’t have time to set up and maintain an Advisory Board, you should quickly see better decisions and accelerated success by bringing more brains to bear on your challenges. Expenses are generally limited to travel and meeting costs, because most Advisory Boards aren’t paid, at least not initially. Time and money should not be constraints. 

Who should be part of my Advisory Board?

Advisory Board members should bring skills that complement your own, filling gaps in functional areas such as strategy, finance, marketing, and technology. At least one of your Advisors should have deep knowledge of and connections within your target markets. Look for a variety of skills and perspective among your Advisors. Try to explicitly define knowledge gaps and search for the right individuals. Keep the number of Advisors to a modest level (3-6). Having too many dilutes individual relevance and challenges quieter members to be heard. All your Advisors should be strong communicators, with great networking and listening skills. Avoid celebrities, unless you are confident these individuals will remain actively engaged. Remember that prospective investors often will want to speak to your advisors, so make sure yours are all active and up to date. Finally, make sure that your Advisors support your company values and remain excited about your company’s success.

How do I find and appoint Advisors?

Individual Advisors are typically recruited informally, often following a successful business relationship or through networking. This works fine until you decide to bring your Advisors together for a common purpose, such as reviewing a product launch strategy. At this point your advisory relationships need to become more formal, through a simple letter outlining elements such as time expectations, meeting frequency, expense reimbursement, deliverables, termination, and term expiry dates. Developing a consistent letter for all Advisors will help ensure unity and consistency in Advisory Board operations.

How do I compensate my Advisory Board Members?

Initially you need not expect to compensate your Advisors except for expenses and meeting costs. Be careful to not expect your Advisors to freely provide services (e.g., accounting) for which they normally charge other clients. When you reach the point of compensating your Advisors, more-formal contracts will be needed. Eventually you may wish to invite one or more of your Advisors to join your Board of Directors. This could happen when you secure significant outside investment or begin to hire middle managers. Compensation, when implemented, could involve retainers, meeting stipends, stock options, etc. Stock issues, if used for compensating Advisors, should be kept modest and symbolic (e.g., 0.1% per year served). Even though you will not be financially compensating your Advisors initially, look for ways to acknowledge their contributions, such as through client introductions and referrals, recommendations, and feedback on the effectiveness of their service.

How do I operate my Advisory Board?

At the outset, Advisors need to be provided with a good understanding of company vision, core values, and business strategy. This information should be provided in written form about a week in advance of the first meeting. Adequate lead time is needed for review, allowing the initial meeting to focus on discussion, rather than presentation. The initial meeting should be face-to-face and have a formal agenda, allowing each participant adequate time to interact with others and establish comfortable communication. Allow 2-4 hours for this meeting. Most subsequent meetings can be virtual, once this comfort has been established. Face-to-face meetings are not needed more than once or twice per year. Between meetings, Advisors can be kept abreast of company progress through periodic reports. Advisors should be contacted when and as needed, keeping communications responsive and relevant. Advisor engagement ought to be straight-forward and compelling.

Are you passionate about your business?

That can seem like an odd question to some business owners. They don’t see themselves as passionate about selling automotive supplies, doing tax returns, or cleaning houses. These individuals often go on to tell me they do it for money and security; they are in this business because it provides them a living, and they certainly aren’t passionate about their work.

Interestingly, businesses owned by these people tend to operate satisfactorily at best, providing adequate customer service sufficient to sustain the business at a modest level. Sound mediocre?

The truth is, the owner’s passion goes a long way to determining whether a business will excel, or merely survive.

The automotive supply store owner who is genuinely committed to seeing her customer leave the store feeling great that he has the solution to his steering issue is passionate about helping people solve DIY problems with their cars. In turn, her customers are enthusiastic about the service she provides, building the store’s positive reputation. The store owner who isn’t passionate sees the customer as just another clunk who doesn’t know what he is doing. Even if the customer leaves with the right solution, he is likely frustrated by the owner’s bored or even condescending attitude. The store’s reputation remains merely adequate, at best.

The accountant who is passionate about ensuring his clients get the best possible tax advice will ask the right probing questions of his clients when they show up to have their tax returns done, making sure that all the relevant information is used. He will also offer suggestions about business and bookkeeping practices that could have favorable tax implications for future years.The client is confident that her accountant has completed the tax return accurately and is sincerely interested in helping her business perform better. The complacent accountant will take the information provided by the client, check for completeness, request missing pieces, and crank out yet another tax return. Guess which customer raves to her friends about the great service.

The house cleaner who is passionate about his work gets satisfaction from the knowledge that his customers’ expectations have been exceeded. He relishes the genuine joy and pride that the customer feels when her home has been cleaned so well. This house cleaner has very low client turnover, a loyal staff base, and a backlog of clients wanting his service. The house cleaner who sees her business simply as a way to make a living struggles to keep both clients and staff, as she continually pushes to find efficiencies (i.e., cut corners) in her engagements.

The examples above are composites based on real business owners I have encountered, both passionate and otherwise. There is a common thread in the passion displayed. It’s all about the customers. All three passionate business owners are truly committed to helping their customers have the best possible service experience. Their passion for great customer service drives business success. Those who cannot find passion in their businesses are doomed to mediocrity.

Now, can you find something to be passionate about in your business?

Wellness In Your Workplace

What are the telltale signs you work in a healthy, thriving work environment?  

The team hits target and gets bonuses? The company is generating good revenue and profits?  You’re bringing on a good quantity and quality of new clients? Your clients are happy? What about your employees, are they healthy and safe?

An ongoing challenge in the world of health and safety, is how do you know you’re doing it well?  If you’re injuries are low, is that because you’re in a low risk environment? Is it because you’re employees are following the right processes and procedures?  Are you just lucky? Perhaps a blend of all three?

The only real way to measure if your employees are working in a healthy and safe environment is to consider what that is, and measure it.  Traditional health and safety often relied on lagging indicators, things like injuries, and damage. Proactive safety programs often consider more leading indicators such as positive inspection results, near misses reported (can also be lagging), hours of training, hazards identified and corrected etc.  So if you’ve got all of those in check, you must be doing safety right, right?

Maybe, maybe not.  You’re certainly identifying key aspects of safety, such as monitoring, and responding to findings, but what about the less subtle aspects?  What about employee wellness? Have you considered aspects such as:

  • Employee work loads and stress levels?
  • Employee engagement?
  • Employees at work, but not focused, not effective, or in other words presenteeism?
  • Time pressures for targets and deadlines?
  • Length and time of hours worked and risk of fatigue?
  • Bullying, harassment, or even social pressures?
  • Employee burnout and turnover?
  • Employee nutrition and dietary habits at work?

The above are just some aspects of employee wellness, which can be seen as a broader term that encompasses the engagement, and involvement of employees and both their in work environments, and out of work environments.  The days where these environments were seen as separate, or less connected are behind us.

It is difficult for many roles, and individuals to simply stop work at the end of the shift, or simply leave personal life at the door before entering work.  The two overlap, and the stresses, challenges, and pressures of these environments can work synergistically to influence employee wellness in a healthy or harmful context.  They can balance each other, and they can work to cause health or harm depending on how they are managed.

Health and Safety isn’t the same concept it was 60 years ago when my father started his career, and neither is the world we live in. Employers and employees can work together to identify key sources of harm in the workplace, that may be typical health and safety related harm, or perhaps more subtle workplace harm such as work related stress, health habits, or uncertainty.  These sources of harm can be reviewed, ideally while engaging the workers, and addressed to reduce the potential for exposure of workers to the harm, and the process doesn’t have to be time consuming, or expensive.

Some solutions may seem to be more people focused, rather than directly related to health and safety, but can lead to a sense of engagement, trust, and community in the workplace, and improve relationships, and culture.  Wellness, health, safety, they are all about people after all. Some examples of a range of solutions that can be considered are:

  • Utilization of a health, safety, or wellness committee to focus on trends and priorities
  • Considering how existing benefits can be complimented with greater wellness benefits
  • Flexi-time for workers to manage work and personal life priorities
  • Reviewing nutritional habits within the workplace
  • Working remotely on occasion particularly with infectious colds or flus
  • Exercise breaks for a walk or short run to get a break from sitting at a desk
  • Enforcing regular breaks throughout the day
  • Review workload and project management needs to consider sustainability
  • Collaborative lean thinking type problem solving exercises between workers and management
  • Employee career development and succession planning to provide structure, stability, guidance

These are just some of the less obvious, but related examples of adjustments in the work environment that help impact wellness in the workplace.  They can contribute towards addressing some of the challenges preventing organizations from truly creating a healthy, thriving work environment.

Creating Value – Part III

Belief.

A Belief that you have and share, about the marketplace, about your customers – this is the third big powerful wagon to hitch your business to.

How you view me shapes our relationship. Back to Seth Godin’s Tribes: don’t just understand me: believe in me, uplift me. Speak to your customers with a shared language and beliefs and values. Find the stories and associations that work for your people.

I love this one. You are a smart, powerful woman who can compete in a man’s world by being yourself.

Together, you and the book are shutting out the cacophony of the world; you are in independent thinker in the sea of sameness. You are resisting!

My customers love where they live, they have a sense of place. They have memories about these special places.

Know your customers intimately, and express your shared belief about your marketplace in:

  • tag lines
  • images
  • thank yous

Find the stories and associations that work for them and for you. Here’s one more:

So that’s the 3 “wagons” you can hitch your business to, in order to create big value that justifies higher margins for a small business:

The Big Idea

  • Problems in your marketplace
  • What do your people want?
  • What hasn’t been pillaged?

The Future

  • What’s in the future that you can identify with?
  • Where can you take your customers that they want to go?
  • Occupy the high ground early

A Belief About Your Marketplace

  • Who are your customers?

What stories and associations work for them?

Make this a topic at your next BforB Round Table conversation!