Indoor Allergies at Work

For allergy sufferers, summer is the season of finding ways to avoid allergies, whether at home or on the daily commute—at least until you head indoors and find that cherished air conditioning that is. But not so fast. What may be seen as a sanctuary may also be another safe harbor for the very particulates you’re trying to avoid. Unfortunately, wherever humans go, they can carry allergens with them. That’s potential bad news for workplace productivity. In fact, in 2015 alone, four million workdays were lost due to hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Not only does that hurt employers, but for employees that means spending valuable PTO. Thankfully, there are measures for reducing environmental allergies at work, some of which can be accomplished alone or with a team, while others may require reliable building maintenance.     

Reduce Dust Mites

Here’s one you and your coworkers can tackle without too much effort. Dust mite eggs can migrate via clothing and spread throughout your office space. Since many offices are carpeted, request multiple carpet cleanings throughout the year. If your building is stingy on the cleaning, you can rent a carpet cleaner from big box stores like Home Depot or pool your money and hire an outside company. On the individual level, you can dust your desk with a microfiber cloth and, if space allows, install a small HEPA air purifier nearby.     

Reduce Pet Dander

Without ostracizing pet owners, there are ways to subtly provide ways to remove pet hair that has gone along for the ride. Providing community lint rollers can help trap hair while also being useful elsewhere. After all, who wants to go into the big meeting covered in Mr. Snuggles’ white fur?  

Replace a HEPA Filter

This one is on the building, but it starts with you. Inquire about the building’s HVAC and whether filters have been replaced. If not, put in a request, saying how it will improve the overall office environment. You can also place HEPA air purifiers in your office’s more trafficked areas. This is a great opportunity to team up with management and make the workplace respiratory-friendly.  

Avoid Scented Cleaning Solutions and Air Fresheners

While the smell of fresh rain may bring tranquility for some, it can just as easily agitate others’ respiratory systems. Instead, opt for natural products while being aware that some of these may still be problematic or unpopular.   When it comes to cleaners, favor unscented options that still get the job done without a fake lemony scent.

Encourage Coworkers to Take an Allergy Test

“I’m not sick; it’s just allergies.” If you hear this often, it might be time to suggest allergy testing.  Just be sure to position your suggestion as a way to help them feel better as opposed to implying, “Your sniffly nose bothers me. Please stop.” Explain how testing might reveal the true cause for their allergies and potential cure through long-term immunotherapy rather than relying on antihistamines. If you have an ENT doctor that does allergy testing, by all means recommend them. Otherwise, encourage them to find someone in their insurance network. Odds are high that both of you share similar plans and benefitsA