It's National Sick Day - How can you beat office bugs and colds?
Today is the first Monday in February, and that marks ‘National Sick Day' – the day British employees are most likely to ring into work sick. It is thought that the grim weather, post-Christmas blues and seasonal coughs, colds and bugs are all contributing factors for the up to 400,000 workers expected to phone in sick today.
Allergy symptoms can be a big contributor to sick days too, with a study by Allergy UK reporting over a quarter of employees (27%) experiencing exacerbated allergy symptoms in the workplace, such as nasal problems, breathing difficulties, headaches, lethargy and skin irritations.
At The Healthy House, we are asking workers to consider the potential causes of allergies in their workplaces, and for employers to take practical steps towards minimising potential allergens.
There is a general lack of awareness of allergies in the workplace, which can have serious affects on productivity and wellbeing. The symptoms of a workplace allergy may range from a mild headache to, in the case of MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) sufferers, debilitating reactions such as depression and muscle pain.
There are a number of potential causes of allergies in the office:
- Dust mites may be hidden in carpets, curtains and furnishings. The allergen from their droppings can provoke sneezing, wheezing and a runny nose when released into the environment. Even walking on carpets can release allergens.
- Poorly ventilated buildings may lead to increased levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), pollen and other allergens.
- Dust build-up and mould in air conditioning systems can lead to allergens being released into the air.
- Carpets, furniture and synthetic building materials can emit VOCs which can provoke adverse reactions in those with chemical sensitivities.
- Fumes from photocopiers and printers can cause reactions in asthmatics and those with a tendency towards chemical sensitivity.
- Pet allergens can be brought in on co-workers’ clothing, which may provoke reactions in the 34% of the population with a pet allergy.
- Perfume on co-workers may lead to headaches and dizziness in MCS sufferers.
- Office plants can collect moulds; mould allergycan cause all sorts of symptoms from wheezing and asthma to depression, rhinitis and even panic attacks.
At The Healthy House, we have employees with hay fever, mould allergy and MCS. If you’re an employer and you're going to make one change in your office environment to reduce staff sickness levels and increase wellbeing, try installing an air purifier. As they help to remove allergens from the air, they are ideal for reducing symptoms of mould allergy, hay fever, pet allergy and MCS.
Some air purifiers also remove bacteria and viruses, such as the Radic8 range. With open plan office environments, which are often not properly ventilated, and workers sitting in close proximity to one another, it’s no surprise that sickness rates are through the roof. We have a Radic8 air purifier running in the office, and as a result, we have a well below-average staff sickness rate, and staff report feeling healthy and productive at work.
 Mintel survey, 2010 (http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/beauty-and-personal-care/not-to-be-sneezed-at-almost-half-of-all-brits-are-allergy-sufferers)
 Allergy UK study, 2012 (http://www.allergyuk.org/downloads/Work-Fever---FINAL-VERSION---NOV-2012.pdf)
 Allergy UK study (http://www.allergyuk.org/downloads/Work-Fever---FINAL-VERSION---NOV-2012.pdf)