Simple Solutions Alleviate Allergy Discomfort at Work

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Athena Gray

To think some of the scents we smell every day — perfume, soap or lunch food — could be overwhelming enough to physically disable a person might sound unbelievable. For one employee with extreme allergies caused by fragrance sensitivity, it was a very real, burdensome issue. She began to have severe reactions, which began to limit her ability to perform on the job and increase her absences. Some creative thinking from our Workplace PossibilitiesSM on-site consultant, along with suitable accommodations, steered her situation into a positive direction. See more of this story in my video below.



When the employee’s absences started to become more regular, we realized there was a medical issue. We wanted to help her stay at work, but we needed more information before approaching the problem. We asked our Workplace Possibilities on-site consultant to step in, review her medical information and help us identify a potential solution. The consultant confirmed the employee was severely allergic to certain scents. Making matters worse, the consultant also pointed out that her current work location was contributing to her medical condition because it was close to a walkway, where she was exposed to scents all day long. It got to the point where she could barely breathe.

Our consultant moved quickly to put the following changes and interventions in place:

  • Moved the location of her desk, far away from highly trafficked areas
  • Worked with the building’s maintenance team to have the air and ventilation flow changed
  • Added warning signage in halls and stairwells to minimize scents

After the changes were made, her absences were significantly reduced. She was happier and more comfortable, and the company was able to avoid a disability claim and retain a good employee.

Aside from these positive results, the consultant also helped me. As you know, working with employees who have disability claims or absence issues is only part of an HR manager’s job. But it can be very time-consuming. Before the consultants came on board, serving as the liaison between employees, doctors and supervisors used to take up a huge portion of my time.

The Workplace Possibilities on-site consultant became part of our HR team and now helps take on many onerous responsibilities, such as working with doctors, tracking down information and assessing medical information. I am grateful for the time this collaborative partnership has saved me in my role.

Even the smallest of changes can make a positive impact on an employee’s well-being and productivity — not to mention satisfaction — at work. And intervention, when handled with delicacy and privacy, allows employers to offer individuals dealing with medical issues an alternative to a disability leave or re-occurring absences that can be very costly to a company.

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