You might not think your habits are harming your colleagues, but you could be contributing to billions of dollars in lost productivity. New research shines a light on potentially unhealthy office behaviours.
Personal behaviours that were once widespread and generally accepted are coming under scrutiny as we learn more about possible health effects. And that’s led to suggestions that, where health is affected, workplaces ought to take action to increase productivity, save lives and reduce costs.
Your spritz of perfume = someone else’s asthma attack
While we often talk about the unpleasant smells lingering in our offices (we’re talking to you, James in sales with your microwaved fish), we don’t pay much attention to the “nicer” smells inhabiting our office walls; the perfumes, body sprays and colognes that our colleagues often douse themselves in.
That expensive spritz of perfume or aftershave may work for you but it might as well be poison for your colleagues and others, new research has found.
Around one million Australian workers have taken time off work in the last year from exposure to various overwhelming fragrances, says researcher Anne Steinemann, professor of Civil Engineering at Melbourne University, speaking to 3AW News Talk.
Her research has also shown that 3 million Australians have experienced “very severe” negative health effects from fragrances, causing asthma attacks, migraines, dizziness, seizures, rashes and difficulty concentrating. Likening the risks to secondhand smoking, Steinemann is calling for the products to be banned in the workplace.
Air fresheners are also emitting hazardous pollutants, which could pose a liability if a client or customer uses the bathroom and has an adverse reaction.
Steinemann conducted similar research in the U.S. where 34.7 per cent of respondents noted they had experienced health problems and 15.1 per cent had lost work days.
Raising the environmental steaks
Coworking space WeWork has made headlines this week, telling their 6,000 employees that they can no longer claim as a work expense meals that include red meat, poultry or pork.
In a memo to staff, co-founder Miguel McKelvey said: “research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact … even more than switching to a hybrid car”.
By consuming less meat products, we could reduce global food-related emissions by nearly a third by 2050 and if the majority of people opted for a vegetarian diet, emissions could be cut by 63 per cent, according to research from Oxford Martin School.
While environmentalists and vegetarians might be feeling pretty chuffed with the move, it has attracted its critics.
The policy will “cause a ridiculous amount of agita for its frontline staffers and, especially, the benighted HR folks tasked with enforcing the policy”, wrote Felix Salmon in Slate.
It will cause “massive HR headaches” and employee resentment, Salmon says, stating that it’s “arrogant paternalism of the highest order for a billionaire American co-founder…This is a policy that will gain McKelvey plaudits and social status among woke billionaires”.
Will employees have to ash their cigarettes for good?
We’re all aware of the health implications associated with smoking but new studies, revealing lower productivity levels among smokers, might cause some employers to think twice about allowing their employees to take a break to light-up.
Researchers at Monash University have calculated that, at today’s smoking rates, Australia is facing losses of $388 billion dollars over the lifetime of the current Australian population.
The Cancer Council is calling for a ban suggesting that employers provide staff with support to finally quit.
“This study reinforces the need to continue advocating for strengthened tobacco control laws,” says Chris McMillan, CEO of Queensland Cancer Council.
She says that banning smoking breaks for workers would not only improve health but also reduce the social and economic burden associated with smoking.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland spokesman Dan Petrie agrees that employers should change the culture of the ‘smoko’. Australian employers are paying workers for smoke breaks, he told the Courier Mail. “Getting rid of smoking does improve productivity,” he says.
Do you think any of these things should be banned in the workplace? Share your comments below.
Image: George Becker via Pexels.
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