It’s that time of year again – the sound of lawnmowers, the smell of freshly cut grass, the bees and wasps buzzing around and the dreaded sound of the SNEEZE! That’s a sound we will be hearing more and more in the coming weeks as allergy season arrives. For some people this time of the year can be truly miserable – sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes – and it doesn’t bode well for a productive day at work.
Allergies are one of the top reasons for absenteeism particularly, at this time of year. It’s therefore important for employers to understand ways to reduce the trigger factors and minimise the effect on suffers in the workplace.
It’s easy for allergans such as dust mites, pollens and moulds – which are the most common triggers – to get trapped in office buildings. Carpets, soft furnishings and cluttered desks can be hives of activity!
So what can you do to help those affected?
1/ Dust away those dust mites
Dust mites are commonly found in the home and the eggs can easily be transported into the work environment on clothes, quickly making themselves a new home at work. Regular carpet cleaning and dusting the work area with a microfiber cloth or wet rag can help to reduce the mites in the area. Curtains should be washed frequently and if possible coats and jackets should be hung outside of the office space.
2/ Breathe easy
Ensure there is clean filtered air circulating the work environment to help reduce pollen and allergans. For hayfever sufferers this is vital, particularly at this time of the year. Make sure that windows are kept closed in the early morning and late afternoon which is when the pollen count peaks.
3/ Clean cleaning products
Many cleaning products including air fresheners release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air which can irritate the lungs causing breathing difficulties. If possible use cleaning materials that are VOC free and avoid any use of plug-in and aerosol air fresheners.
4/ Allergy testing
It can be a good idea to have employees take an allergy test if many are presenting themselves with symptoms. The cause can be identified and steps taken to help minimise exposure. For example if the results show a high reaction to mould it may be that you have an underlying problem that needs addressing that you weren’t aware of. Often allergy suffers believe they are allergic to one thing when in fact it is something completely different that is setting them off.
5/ Support the sneezers
Allergy sufferers really do suffer! Supporting them by simply ensuring there are plenty of tissues available, providing sympathy, empathy and understanding can go a long way. They are less likely to be absent from work if their needs are being met and addressed and the sneezing and snuffling isn’t seen as an annoyance.
Spring is delightful time of year, even if it is a little late arriving, unfortunately though for some it’s not such a welcome relief from the long winter!
Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager