While food allergies are prevalent with the school-age set, there are many of us adults out there who have been dealing with the potential of an anaphylactic reaction for 20+ years. While we’re used to asking for accommodations at school, asking for an allergy free workplace can be a different challenge.
This year, I found myself for the first time ever working in a cubicle. I was down a little when I entered the cubicle farm thinking about how I like my privacy, but didn’t realize that this change in working environment had the potential to put my health at risk. You see, after a few weeks I discovered that two of my cubicle-mates (who are not in my department) had a fondness for nuts of all kinds. I kept quiet for a week but then the smell got too much for me. I feared that sitting this close to nut eaters might lead to a reaction.
I brought the subject up with my manager and she was very respectful of my concern. She’s in another state so she and her manager worked with the facilities people at my building to come up with a plan. A workplace physician actually called me and asked about my accommodation preferences. He shared that at a large company like ours, they run into food allergies issues from time to time.
In the meantime, while we worked out the details, I was able to work from home. Because no private offices were available, the physician talked to my cubicle-mates’ manager and he said that his team wanted to the option to eat nuts. I never thought we’d have to come up with a nut eating schedule, but we did! My preference was to work from home three days a week and let my cubicle-mates eat nuts on those days. The days I’m in the office, they don’t eat nuts. I love the outcome of this and I’m so happy that my company was able to accommodate my severe food allergies.
If you face a similar situation in your professional career, here are some tips for workplace accommodations.
1. Alert human resources of your food allergies and any accommodations you require. This way you’re covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
2. Educate your collegues about the seriousness of your allergy if they show interest. Just be careful not to be annoying about it.
3. Post an anaphylactic action plan in your workspace and give your manager a copy.
I’m eager to hear about how you manage your food allergies at work. Please let me know by leaving a comment below.