Allergy season is in full swing, and since more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, including seasonal allergies, it is no wonder that this is an issue which impacts the workplace.
Indeed, a recent survey found that allergy-sufferers often have to take a day off work due to their allergy symptoms, yet when they do, they lie about the reason.
“This survey is very important not only because it highlights the sometimes-painful realities of living with an allergy, but because it highlights how hesitant people are to be honest with their employers about their condition,” says workplace leadership expert Jack Skeen, PhD. “The majority of survey respondents say that they lie when they need to take a day off due to their allergies. Over 51 percent say that they feel people do not view allergies as a serious condition, and 47 percent say that they feel guilty when they need to take time off due to their allergies.”
Skeen says that employers can learn a great deal from this study, and it’s not just about creating an allergy-free workplace.
“There are many things employers can do to make their workplaces allergen-friendly, like banning overpowering fragrances and aftershave, and investing in air purifiers,” explains the CEO coach, who is the co-author of a new book, “The Circle Blueprint: Decoding the Conscious and Unconscious Factors that Determine Your Success.”
However, Skeen says these measures are the tip of the iceberg.
“Even more than creating an allergen-friendly workplace, we need to start creating workplaces where employees don’t feel like they have to lie, beg or barter in order to get time off for health reasons, whether it is because of allergies, mental health issues, insomnia, or other concerns,” says Skeen. “As long as employees are infantilized and unable to talk to their bosses as they would an equal human being, we are going to have employees who are dishonest.”
The fear, of course, is that being too understanding about sick days or personal days may lead to an uptick in employees lying to take time off.
However, Skeen says, “As this new study proves, people are already lying about taking time off, even when they are genuinely sick. They are doing this out of shame and fear that their condition won’t be considered serious enough. So, those elements (fear and shame) are already in place, and they aren’t working the way employers want them to. If we create workplaces which prioritize employee health and well-being, rather than workplaces that treat sick days like ‘slacking,’ I would argue that we may actually see less sick days, not more.”