It’s May, and spring is in the air. Unfortunately, those warmer days also signal the arrival of allergy season. Coughing, sneezing, runny noses—these symptoms may not seem like such a big deal, but allergies are actually a major contributor to lost workplace productivity. According to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, an estimated 3.5 million workdays may be lost each year due to the effects of allergies. Furthermore, medical spending related to allergies may be as high as $4.5 billion annually, including costs related to physician visits, over the counter and prescription medications, and environmental controls. Clearly, allergies can have a major impact on both employers and employees.
Because Americans often spend the majority of their day in the workplace, it makes sense for employers to address common allergy triggers around the office. In addition to seasonal allergy triggers that are naturally present in the environment, such as pollens and molds, typical workplace triggers can include animal dander, dusty office equipment, and cleaning solutions and other chemicals. Employees may also be sensitive to perfumes and cigarette smoke that are trapped on colleagues’ clothing. Organizations may consider implementing an allergy education program to raise awareness about these potential allergy triggers.
There are a number of simple environmental modifications that can ease uncomfortable symptoms for allergy sufferers. First, ensure that work areas are well-ventilated and have low humidity levels, which will minimize mold growth—aim for 50% or lower humidity. Workplaces should be professionally cleaned on a regular basis, including thorough dusting of often-overlooked areas, such as baseboards and upholstered furniture. Renovations can also trigger allergies in many people, so move employees to a temporary office area during any remodeling.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that organizations accommodate employees with allergies. Examples of appropriate accommodations may include providing gloves or barrier creams for skin protection, and respirators for respiratory protection. Employees with allergies may also benefit from moving to a new office or workspace, away from the allergy trigger.
Onsite clinics can be an excellent resource for employees who suffer from allergies. Oftentimes, employees can be hesitant to take time off work to visit their physician for “mild” ailments like allergies. Onsite clinics remove this barrier by offering convenient healthcare in the workplace. Additionally, onsite clinic healthcare practitioners are available in the event that an employee experiences an acute allergic reaction while at work.
Reducing the effects of allergies in the workplace can be an important measure for improving employee health and wellness, as well as a great way to boost productivity and decrease absenteeism. Convenient access to healthcare at work is pivotal, particularly for employees who suffer from allergies. At Healthstat, we excel in providing onsite clinics and other innovative solutions for enhancing the health of your workforce.