To those who delight in beautiful spring blossoms or cheerful birdsong hailing from above, know that these attractions aren’t free. Nature charges a “spring tax,” and suffering humanity calls it allergies. Yes, in this simultaneously beautiful and difficult time of year, businesses must get ready to accommodate their employees while shoring up their own defenses, especially in terms of paid time off policies and other measures.
They say misery loves company. Maybe, but no company should love misery, so let’s look instead for constructive ways to manage seasonal allergies in the business environment.
What to Know About Allergy Season
Many businesses know the symptoms all too well. The morbid voices, those bloodshot eyes, a nose so infernally itchy one could just scratch it off their face… people use the term “allergy season” for that special time of the year when so many friends and colleagues descend into abject misery.
This is the time for understanding all around. A fruitful working environment demands cooperation from all involved and requires more strenuous efforts when there’s pollen in the air. Some have a habit of speaking lightly about allergies, but this is a real medical condition with potentially serious side effects. Everyone needs to work together to ensure a safe landing after springtime.
It’s a hard time for businesses all around, but knowledge and prep work can ease the pain for employer and employee alike. Remember, the human immune system is itself the source of allergies. It reacts defensively to the same pollen bees reserve for flowers, treating this foreign substance as an aerial intruder it must fight off.
Peoples’ sinuses, lungs, and eyes simply get caught in the annual crossfire. Those who are liable to allergies often endure several debilitating symptoms, among which are:
- Tearful eyes that look like they’ve been next to a cut onion all day
- Clogged nasal passages, as if the body considered the merits of breathing but decided against it
- Mouth breathing, for the reason just mentioned
- Sudden breakouts of hives, rashes like bad sunburn, and sometimes even painful blistering
But there are ways to relieve these symptoms, and maybe even stop them from arising altogether. Bitter experience shows that masks can stop pollen from entering the nostrils. One can also reduce exposure to it entirely by avoiding overly flowery terrain. Remember that pretty flowers are traps, so drive by them with car windows firmly closed.
It also helps to keep indoor environs spick and span. That is especially important in the workplace, where employers can go the extra mile to make the office comfortable and allergy free. As tempting as it is to throw open all the windows at the first hint of spring, be mindful of how that affects those with bad allergies.
This is an excellent season for the “Brother Vs”: vacuuming and ventilation. Use them both prodigiously to air out the environment, keep dander and other hostile particles off the furniture, and help staff breathe cleaner air. An in-office air filter would not go amiss during allergy season.
Allergy Season for Employees and Employers
Businesses don’t need to fight against allergy season for strictly humanitarian reasons either. Having so many sick days in such a short period, from such detrimental symptoms, would burden anyone’s operations — and for small businesses, it could be outright destructive. CEOs are looking at lost productivity, squandered resources, delayed work schedules, and other negative outcomes better avoided.
Human resources teams must get involved in the solution. Allergies don’t impact every employee the same way — some blessed souls feel nothing at all — and that could invite jealousies or conflicts of interest when some but not others are out sick. An employer must show neither favoritism nor neglect at this time of year. It takes a balanced hand and open lines of communication with staff to do this right.
In the spirit of allergy season understanding, think about extending more flexible sick leave policies. That could mean adding extra days to employees’ annual quota just for allergies or lowering the company’s advance notification requirements for employees who unexpectedly awaken on the horrific side of the bed. Let people know that it’s OK to take breaks when they need them.
And while keeping a clean space is paramount, business owners’ options don’t end there. They can also ease the burden of allergy season by:
- Mercifully stocking the workplace with allergy relief medicines
- Offering remote work for a while so their employees don’t have to leave their home while things are bad
- Delaying the company picnic plans for sometime after allergy season
- Looking up some natural remedies for allergies they can keep around the office — some nettle tea could be a good idea
Review the company’s health insurance offerings. Does it offer sufficient provisions to get people through allergy season in one piece? If not, that’s something to look into, either by offering more regular checkups or negotiating more expansive coverage with the insurer. One might also try to educate staff members about the hardships people undergo during allergy season so that they know what to expect.
Businesses also want to consider any potential effects on their seasonal profits. If this becomes a regular thing, the company could go through a downturn period annually around this time of year. Think about how to frame unique strategic marketing goals around this — maybe try aiming for a seasonal audience during these months?
Regardless, planning is key to keeping business operations running smoothly at this time of year. Don’t underestimate allergy season. It has the ability, and perhaps even desire, to set productivity back for months. Team leaders can avoid that, and even make forward progress, by just implementing a few common-sense workplace policies.
The Benefits of Paid Time Off (PTO) Policies
Businesses use paid time off policies as a way to systematize employee absences: under what conditions, during what times, for what causes, and so on. While every business has its own approach, these policies usually take one of three forms:
- Discretionary: Employees use their own judgment to decide when to ask for time off, but employers might lie down a specific quota of absences they can’t go over.
- Unlimited: Employees are free to ask for as many days off as they want. That might sound risky, but in practice, employees rarely abuse the privilege.
- Interval: Rolling sick leave periods that reset at fixed intervals of time: monthly, quarterly, etc. They can ask for time off if they’re still within the designated quota for that period.
Most businesses have historically used rolling periods of sick leave, but it can be too inflexible for things like allergy season. The issue here is to balance the needs of the organization with those of the individual worker. One can be as understanding as possible with allergies, but CEOs also have responsibilities toward their business and the other employees in it. It’s not fair to weigh their shoulders down with someone else’s workload unless truly necessary.
Using clearly stated, carefully delineated PTO policies can help balance those competing needs. The HR team can draft policies with a certain level of empathy toward people living with allergies, keeping in mind the time of year they’ll most need to use their paid time off. It keeps team leaders and members on the same level, avoids miscommunication due to confusing policies, and keeps interoffice tugs of war at a minimum.
And for employees, these have plenty of advantages. They can:
- Confidently plan for their own healthcare needs during a difficult time of year
- Keep themselves from requiring more time off, as might happen if they tried working through their symptoms and their condition worsened
- Take the time to treat their condition while still contributing to business operations remotely
When businesses take care of their valuable employees, those employees can only grow in value. Allergy season places a lot of stress on them: Feeling like one has to come into work no matter the symptoms can make their situation worse than it has to be. Don’t underestimate the sense of officewide well-being that comes from an inclusive, extensive, and transparent PTO policy supporting business ops.
Integrate PTO Into Business Ops This Allergy Season
Look, no one can beat Mother Nature, but why should any business bear the full weight of allergy season’s blow? There are many perfectly viable and cohesive steps anyone can take to soften the impact, whether for their company, their profit margin, or their allergy-stricken employees. Take such measures by optimizing paid time off policies before the allergy season kicks off.
By fixing their PTO policies now and clearly conveying the results to the office, CEOs can save themselves the hassle of surprise absences, administrative bickering, and an unhappy (and sick) workforce. They can protect their profits during a hard time of year and keep an efficient workforce to boot. That’s why coordinating with the HR team on this is such a no-brainer.
Working with a company like Resourcing Edge is a smart play for beleaguered companies facing down allergy season. Our team has a broad understanding of PTO policies, including how to adapt them for seasonal concerns like allergies. Forming a comprehensive policy that aids employer and employee alike is what we do best, so get in touch with us to find out how we can help.