How your staff is affected by a pest infestation

Businesses spend significant money to recruit, hire, train, and retain employees. With unemployment nearing record lows, competition for well-trained staff is at an all-time high, making retaining your employees more important than ever. Could a pest infestation cause your good employees to leave?

Our research says yes.

Rentokil Initial, our parent company, commissioned the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) to survey decision-makers in over 1000 companies across the USA, UK, France, Australia, and Italy to gain insight on the business and economic impacts of pest infestations. The results found that not only did pests cost businesses $9.6 billion in increased operating costs and $19.5 billion in decreased revenue, but an infestation can also significantly affect business costs related to employees.

How much do pest infestations cost businesses?

Companies in heavily regulated industries such as food, agriculture, or healthcare are accustomed to the heavy pressures that can come with pests. Having to recall a product to ensure the safety of consumers could potentially cost millions of dollars, as can having to destroy pest-infested products or materials.

But what about businesses not involved with customer-facing industries? The risks of a pest infestation may seem remote, but the reality is, the direct and indirect costs could add up quickly.

Rentokil Initial’s research, which can be found in the Business Impact of Pests report, revealed that pest infestations caused a $9.6 billion increase in operating costs as well as a $19.5 billion decrease in revenue for the companies interviewed.

Many common commercial pests, such as rodents and cockroaches, can multiply quickly, which can turn an unchecked pest problem into a full-blown infestation within a matter of weeks, causing a disruption to regular business. Of the businesses surveyed, 42 percent reported losing at least one working day per year as a result of an infestation, and 36 percent of all infestations reported lasted for more than two weeks.

The intangible cost of pest infestation: your employees’ morale

As staggering as the loss of revenue and product may be, the detriment doesn’t stop there. One of the biggest negative impacts suffered by pest infestations were business costs due to an unseen variable – the toll pest issues can take on your staff.  

On average, employees spend more time at work than they do at home with their families. Having an environment dealing with the added stress of a pest infestation can negatively affect employees in a variety of ways. Here are a few:

  • Morale – When dealing with a pest infestation, staff can becoming demoralized, perhaps even refusing to work in a “dirty” or “unsafe” environment.
  • Lost productivity – Dealing with the stress of pests and loss of moral can lead missed deadlines, unproductivity, and decline in job satisfaction. Not to mention, employees may spend time away from their jobs to deal with fighting a pest problem.
  • Negative social media and press – In today’s online environment, employees concerned about pest problems at work can choose to express those concerns via various channels of social media. Employees can also report issues they feel are a threat to public health to local media outlets or even the health department.
  • Brand reputation – Employees are often left in the uncomfortable position of having to work with customers who have either seen a pest in your facility, received pest contaminated products or worse. That’s not only stressful for employees  – it can lead to a damaged reputation for a brand, no matter how well an employee handles the problem. Even more so, if your public-facing business has a pest infestation that your employees know about, they may steer their friends and family away from your business. More than 10 percent of businesses surveyed for Rentokil Initial’s report said they suffered a negative impact on revenue due to reputational damage.
  • Turnover – If a pest infestation persists, leading to employees feeling unsafe or unheard, it could lead to them deciding to leave the company.
  • Threat of compensation claims – Ultimately, if employees feel that their health or safety was put at risk from a pest infestation, they can choose to seek compensation, further increasing the possible expenses related to a pest infestation.

With today’s tight labor market, many businesses would agree that retaining staff is a top priority. But many business leaders are thinking about “bigger issues” such as payroll, benefits, and training, not necessarily day-to-day working environment. Do you know if pests are causing a morale, media, or health issue at your location?

7 ways to empower your employees with your pest control program

It is clear that the potentially detrimental impact of a pest infestation makes effective and proactive management of pests a business-critical issue, to protect employees, revenue, and brand reputation. Regardless of industry, it is important that your pest control solutions be tailored to your business.

Every business has different needs and faces different pest pressures. However, every pest control program should empower employees to help keep your facility free of pests. Here are a few general points that should be incorporated into every business plan.

  1. Employees should understand their business’s commitment to keeping them, their customers, and their facility safe from pests.
  2. A business should appoint a key contact or contacts for pest control.
  3. Employees should understand how to report or record pest sightings, and who the key pest control contact is for emergency situations.
  4. Employees should have a protocol for handling customer-facing pest incidents (that can be as simple as reporting to their manager).
  5. Employee stakeholders who may face regulatory or health department officials should understand how to access and read pest control reports.
  6. Employers should share with employees tips to help prevent pest issues in their area.
    • Employees should understand the importance of sanitation in break areas to reduce the likelihood of pest infestation.
    • Employers can use signage to remind employees of tasks that can reduce pest issues – such as not feeding birds, keeping doors closed, etc.
  7. Employers should have a clear policy for the storage of personal items, as well as regular clean outs of this area, and pest control treatments.

How to select a pest control vendor

It’s important to select a pest control vendor that can help you keep your employee morale high by eliminating pest issues. As you consider pest control vendor options, be sure to assess your candidates’ experience with servicing your type of business, as well as one that has staff that understand the pest pressures in your community. This will ensure that your vendor has a solid grasp of the challenges your employees face each day with pest control.

For more detailed information on determining a good fit for your pest control solutions, see our guide on How to Select a Pest Management Vendor.


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