Whilst we all long for those beautiful long summer days and the smell of freshly cut grass, hay fever sufferers dread the high pollen counts, and the itchy, sneezy, wheezy symptoms that are associated with it.
A 2013 study showed that anywhere between 10-30% of adults suffer with hay fever, and research from the Met Office suggested that UK employees who suffer from severe hay fever need an average of 8.4 days away from their desk.
Many people believe that hay fever simply manifests as itchy eyes and sneezing that can be managed with a cocktail of antihistamines, eye drops and nasal sprays. Whilst this may be true in some cases, we know that as many as 57% of adults will have sleep disturbance as a result of their hay fever.
Poor sleep results in daytime fatigue and problems with alertness and concentration. Many hay fever sufferers describe this as “brain fog”. There is therefore no surprise that productivity is significantly reduced in perennial hay fever sufferers.
Pollen has three waves, with the result that staff can be affected by hay fever from January right through to the end of summer, but there are things that employers can do to create a pollen free work environment throughout hay fever season.
Top Tips to Lower the Pollen in your Workplace
Keep the windows closed
Good quality air conditioning is much better than having the windows open during the summer period. Opening windows allow the minuscule pollen particles to find their way in and settle around the office.
Plush carpets tend to harbour both dust and pollen, which creates a problematic environment for hay fever and dust allergy sufferers alike. Sweepable and moppable floors are better for pollen free working conditions. If there are carpets, ensure they are thoroughly vacuumed on a daily basis by the cleaning staff.
Remove plants and flowers
Whilst they can make an office look nicer, these should be removed from working areas, as people seemingly forget that flowers create pollen.
Remove soft furnishings
In the age of the trendy office, cushions and beanbags have become common. It may be beneficial to remove these during the hay fever months, or at least ensure they are vacuumed daily.
Store coats and jacket separately
It would be great to have a separate cloakroom for coats and jackets. Clothes pick up small pieces of pollen each time you go outside, these small particles are then deposited into the working space, especially if your staff are in the habit of hanging their coats on the back of their chair.
Allow flexible working
If these measures have not helped, consider offering flexible working on high pollen days, allowing staff to work from home or starting/finishing early. Pollen counts are different throughout the day. If the 9am pollen is high, an 8am or 10am start may be preferable when levels are lower. The Met Office website is an excellent source of information, and offers a pollen count map to help you to plan.
Help your staff to see a doctor
Allow your staff to see their doctor to discuss hay fever treatments. If the standard over the counter medications have not been helping, there are a range of prescribable medications that can be offered, including tablets, nasal sprays, and even a hay fever injection, which is used to help the most severe sufferers.