The Numbers Behind Protecting Health
See how to demonstrate the real value of a clean work environment

by Dianna Steinbach — One of the many benefits of a clean facility is the reduction of harmful contaminants in the indoor environment. A clean and hygienic facility gives building occupants a visual comfort level and reduces the potential risks associated with less-clean buildings. Although there are many studies that address improved indoor air quality and the risks associated with dust and bacteria on surfaces, few have demonstrated how health risks due to inadequate cleaning impact a building occupant’s personnel costs and, ultimately, the business’ bottom line.

Member studies shared in the recently released ISSA Value of Clean whitepaper, along with calculations that can be done via the Value of Clean Calculator, help make the monetary connection between cleaning and reduced spread of illness. See the featured article on FMLink on the Value of Clean.

To do so, you first must understand how to calculate an organization’s current annual absenteeism costs and how it relates to its current cleaning program. Then, you can calculate the annual cost of your recommended cleaning improvements and use third-party research to estimate the expected reduction in absenteeism. The Value of Clean Calculator will then make this connection between increased cleaning and increased absenteeism-related savings.

Calculating Absenteeism

Protecting health seems to be an intangible benefit until you start to define the financial impact of sick workers or occupants. For a school district, a 1 percent to 2 percent absenteeism rate among students can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursement funding.

A study published in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine reported that, based on a random sample of 28,902 United States workers, health-related lost productive time (LPT) costs employers US$225.8 billion per year, or $1,685 per employee per year.

That study calculated absenteeism as the sum of hours per week absent from work for a health-related reason. Cost impact is estimated by multiplying lost productive time (absence hours plus hours lost from reduced performance) by the individual worker’s hourly labor cost. This is the recommended method of calculating the basic impact of absenteeism and its cost to the organization.

A 2008 survey conducted by Mercer/Marsh identified that, in addition to the payroll cost of the absent employee, organizations must hire temporary labor or offer overtime to cover the absent employee’s responsibilities and that the “hidden costs” should be factored into absenteeism calculations. To do so, multiply the additional hourly costs by the number of hours incurred and add this figure to the absent employee’s direct costs.

ISSA In the Field Trying to convince a customer and need our help? Bring them to one of the following facility management or purchasing events where ISSA will be exhibiting this year. As your association, we believe it’s our duty to head into the marketplace, where your customers might be, so we can reinforce the value of clean message through one-on-one discussions as well as seminar presentations.

June 23-25—Building: Owners and Managers Association International Every Building Show

August 2-4—APPA Leadership in Educational Facilities Annual Conference

August 24-28—National Institute of Government Purchasing Forum

October 2-4—International Facility Management Association World Workplace Facility Conference & Expo

For a company utilizing a highly skilled workforce, it is harder to replace sick workers to maintain productivity rates. In this case, work output or results suffer, which could impact production time, sales results, and/or customer satisfaction.

Worker Productivity Impact

An even greater problem is “presenteeism”—when people come to work sick and are only partially productive. According to a 10-month survey of more than 25,000 individuals conducted by Advance PCS Center for Work and Health, off-task workers cost businesses an average of $250 billion a year—or approximately $2,000 per worker annually. In addition, sick workers increase the likelihood of cross contamination. The Harvard Business Review documented this issue as one that companies increasingly face as they struggle to rein in health care costs.

Proper or increased cleaning can reduce these costs and lost productivity hours as well as minimize the number of people who get sick. In fact, a recent study of Kimberly-Clark Professional*’s Wash. Wipe, and Sanitize program, cited in the Value of Clean whitepaper, demonstrated that proper cleaning can reduce cross contamination. The study found that, after implementing the program, the probability of infection for common cold and influenza can be reduced by approximately 80 percent and can reduce the number of surfaces contaminated with viruses by 62 percent. Even more significant was the finding that implementing the program can reduce absenteeism by as much as 46 percent.

You also can turn to health care reports cited in the Value of Clean whitepaper and other publications to find statistical support for proper cleaning and its tie between health and financial benefit.

The adoption of best cleaning practices averted approximately 85 cases of HA-CDI annually at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, resulting in an estimated annual savings of $413,000 in direct hospital costs, according to a controlled study conducted by the Center’s Dr. Michael Phillips to measure the effect 3M’s™ Clean-Trace™ Hygiene Management System.

When you combine results such as this, with the results of time-lapse studies that show how quickly common surfaces can become repopulated with contaminants, you have a strong story to tell facility decision-makers regarding the importance of proper cleaning frequencies. For instance, the American Journal of Infection Control reported one study which showed that within three hours after wiping handrails on hospital beds, the level of bacteria returned to that of prior to cleaning.

The frequencies of where you clean also have greater impact on reducing cross contamination. The University of Arizona compared cleanliness of elevator buttons and toilet seats, finding elevators had 40 percent more contamination from bacteria than toilets.

With the expertise you have from working in the cleaning industry, you inherently know the value proper cleaning can bring, where to perform it for best impact, and how often it needs to be conducted. But when arguing the case to people who are not as familiar, it is vital that you include hard data to prove that it not only is better for health, but that it saves money. In today’s data-driven world, its numbers that will open the door for you, enabling you to have the right conversations about where to invest funding for real results that impact the bottom line.

That is why ISSA is working to put the right tools into your hands as well as helping to get the value of clean message in front of customer groups to make it easier for them to appreciate what you bring to the table (see sidebar). To download the Value of Clean tools, including a set of PowerPoint slides and links to customer-focused articles ISSA has published in facility management magazines and newsletters, visit

Dianna Steinbach is ISSA director of industry outreach. She can be reached at; phone, 800-225-4772 (North America) or 847-982-0800.

Copyright by ISSA®

ISSA Today is published by ISSA, the leading trade association for the cleaning industry worldwide. ISSA has a membership that includes more than 5,500 distributor, manufacturer, manufacturer representative, building service contractor, in-house service provider, and associated service members. ISSA offers the industry¹s largest cleaning shows in conjunction with Amsterdam RAI under the brand name ISSA/INTERCLEAN®, the popular Web site, educational products, industry standards, periodicals, and legislative and regulatory services that specifically focus on the professional cleaning industry.

The association is headquartered in Lincolnwood, IL, USA, with regional offices in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Leicester, United Kingdom; Monterrey, Mexico; Singapore; and Shanghai, China. ISSA also works with more than 75 associations, alliances, and government agencies around the world to represent the cleaning industry. For more information, visit