According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 10–30 percent of the population suffer from allergic rhinitis (“inflammation of the nasal airways caused by breathing in allergens”), and allergies are among the top three reasons people miss work. Absence and presenteeism of course affect productivity and quality of work at your business, so you’ll want to consider following some of these tips for curbing seasonal allergies in the workplace:
- Cleaning. Many allergens are brought into your office from the outside, so cleaning and vacuuming the carpets and dusting office furniture help remove irritants from the office environment. Schedule regular cleanings of parts of the office you may not think about, like window treatments and windows.
- Air cleaners. Install HEPA cleaners to remove airborne allergens.
- Air filters. Schedule frequent checks of filters on HVAC systems.
- Scent-free policy. Many allergy sufferers are particularly sensitive to scents used in personal products such as cologne, perfume, lotion and shampoo. You can combat this by adopting a scent-free policy in your office. It will take some diligence in communicating the need to all employees and monitoring for compliance. It may even be necessary to include the policy in your company code of conduct.
- Cleaning products. Air fresheners and cleaning fluids may release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can trigger respiratory distress for allergy sufferers. Ask your cleaning service to use only non-VOC products in your office.
- Restrict flowers and plants. Fresh flowers and flowering plants may brighten up your work space, but they may also be a problem for employees who suffer from seasonal allergies. If possible, restrict flowers in the office, or limit them to areas of the office that have less traffic.
- Reduce animal allergens. If your office has a no pet policy, efforts should be made to keep it that way. As much as everyone loves their pets, dog and cat hair are major triggers for allergies. For some people, even working in proximity to a pet owner is a problem, so be flexible about work space and seating plans. If possible, try to have a seating arrangement where allergy sufferers are in an area that is as allergen-free as possible.
- Encourage allergy testing. Most health insurance plans will cover allergy testing, which involves having a medical professional develop and coordinate a course of treatment. Work with your employees to allow reasonable time off to complete testing and receive treatment.
It’s important to make needed adjustments to enhance the comfort and safety of your office. The efforts will improve office morale, as well as reduce absences among those who fight allergies every spring.
Mary Parsons is retired from a 30-year career in the insurance industry. She worked in the claims department of a major insurance carrier as a claims adjuster, manager and a member of a catastrophe team. Since her retirement, she has developed a career as a freelance writer. As an insurance professional, she has been a contributor to several insurance websites.