For several years now, the NPMA (National Pest Management Association) has held morning physical fitness workouts in the early morning of its’ National Academy. When I last attended the academy, the overwhelming response of fellow participants was that the workout was fun, relevant, engaging and a great team activity. Kudos to the NPMA for opening up members to consider their physical health as an important part of leadership and organizational well-being. As I reflect back on the activity, I think the NPMA approach was a positive and gentle step in the right direction.
In the age of reality TV, specificially when “The Biggest Loser” is highlighting the problem of obesity in America, could or should the NPMA take a more introspective and scientific approach to physical and mental health in the pest control industry? This is not a jab at the organization. The first focus of the NPMA should be the pest control business as a whole, not the individual health of members. But perhaps the time has come to investigate the health status of employees and employers in the industry? Are we simply as heavy, overworked and stressed out as the rest of Americans? If so, that would be bad enough. Or are we in a class by ourselves when it comes to obesity, smoking, drinking, stimulants, depressants and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Are we more depressed than the average American? Does anyone know? How much do we really care? (Note that as this post is published I have just received a copy of the latest Pestworld Magazine, a publication of the NPMA. I’m dying to read the article, “Re-engaging Burned-Out Employees.”)
Consider for a minute the scope of the problems caused by obesity in the workplace. Check out this worker’s compensation dispute pitting the employer against a 400 lb employee. If you don’t care for anecdotal information, check out the Alabama Fat Tax.
Personal observation over the years at NPMA conventions and just poking around the industry, watching my own employees at Hearts Pest Management and those I have met up with at shopping malls and on side streets tells me that there is a serious problem here, both in the physical and mental health picture.
The following chart identifies simple loss of productivity due to chronic ailments. The second chart identifies a rather scary problem with mental health issues in the workplace.
I am extremely happy when I say, Hearts Pest Management is almost 100% smoke free. With the exception of a few pounds here or there around the waist, our team is actually very fit and trim. I’m proud to have a team that not only acts professional, but that smells and looks professional. I’m tremendously happy to be fielding a team that is not plagued by physical and emotional handicaps.
But to be perfectly honest, it hasn’t always been the case. I always worried about physical health problems seeping into, causing or being symptoms of mental health issues. I could point to these physical and emotional issues as the underlying cause of worker’s compensation claims and general liability nightmares. I can look back and see warning signs in the poor habits of prior employees, ones who showed many strengths, but who were brought down by a lack of self-awareness and personal failings, including obvious poor physical care.
Our industry does a good job covering entomology, pesticide advances, business news, marketing and sales and recognition of industry stars. Is it time for us to focus on the average Joe/Jane employer or employee who is physically and mentally running himself into the ground?
I suggest it is time for the industry to take a look in the mirror. It may be painful. But self-awareness is the start of the healing process.
In coming weeks I will be talking more specifically about a variety of health topics.