• Rentokil Initial managing director for the Pacific region, Andrew Stone.
    Rentokil Initial managing director for the Pacific region, Andrew Stone.

Rentokil Initial managing director for the Pacific region, Andrew Stone, explains how to protect your business from Australia’s third biggest killer in 2023.

It’s been three years since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic. By 2023 we were all hoping the crisis would be over, but unfortunately, we’re far from it.

As we enter the fourth year of the pandemic, COVID-19 is now the third biggest killer in Australia, and it’s clear that its impact cannot be ignored.

COVID has not only affected people’s health, it has impacted productivity and the economy, and businesses can’t afford to be complacent.

Rentokil Initial research into the cost of workplace absenteeism revealed the devastating economic impact on businesses, with one in 10 employees absent from work on any given day last year and workplace absenteeism costing Australian businesses $24.2 billion in lost productivity in 2022.

As Australian businesses look to the new financial year ahead, implementing a comprehensive hygiene protocol to reduce the spread of COVID-19 needs to be a priority to protect employees and customers against its long-lasting health and economic impacts.

We know simple measures such as handwashing and disinfecting high traffic areas are not enough to combat this highly contagious, airborne virus.

With reports suggesting the new XBB.1.5 subvariant is the most transmissible and spreading faster than previous versions, it’s a reminder that COVID keeps evolving and therefore, so must we.

Businesses need to be doing more to take hygiene seriously, starting with adopting a best-practice, 360-degree approach.

This means prioritising the four core pillars of air, hand, surface, and washroom to not only help to keep the most vulnerable in our community safe, but prevent the spread of illness.  

Many employees spend a significant amount of time at their workplace, mixing with co-workers, customers and other workplace visitors and expect their employer to be protecting them while they’re there.

Workplace safety comes in all shapes and sizes depending on the organisation, but hygiene should be a key pillar in every safety policy, regardless of industry.

Considering that COVID-19 is an airborne virus, and a lot of indoor spaces don’t have natural ventilation, it’s concerning that air hygiene isn’t being prioritised.

Air purification plays a crucial role in improving the quality of indoor air, particularly in spaces where natural airflow and ventilation, including opening windows and doors, is not possible. In this scenario, a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which removes most micro-particles from the air, including dust, pollen, mould, odours, and smoke, should be the bare minimum. 

Businesses looking to protect themselves from future subvariants should also be considering devices that decontaminate the air. UV-C technology uses short-wave ultraviolet light to essentially deactivate viruses, bacteria, mould, and other pathogens that manage to pass through the filter system, preventing them from spreading.

As well as minimising infections, a 360-degree hygiene approach can increase employees’ confidence to be in the workplace.

From Rentokil Initial research, we know that almost four-fifths of employees are concerned about workplace hygiene, with nearly one-fifth claiming that it is preventing them from returning to work. Some employers are feeling the pain as a result, with working from home reducing teamwork and collaboration, as well as customer service and satisfaction levels.

Implementing a comprehensive hygiene protocol that instils confidence in staff to return to work is beneficial not only for the health of employees, but the health of the business too and should be a necessity, not a ‘nice to have’.

About the Author

Andrew Stone is the managing director of the Pacific region at Rentokil Initial. Prior to this, Andrew was the finance director with the company and has worked at Rentokil Initial for over 8 years. Andrew also has a strong cross functional background in FMCG having previously held senior sales and finance leadership roles with Unilever. He is a finance graduate of the University of Sydney and has a Masters of Management from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.