Picture a typical office – employees have their desks/ cubicles/ cabins; there is often a common area for snacks, shared coffee machine, refrigerator and microwave. People often sit together and eat, and often share their food too, along with juicy stories! However, food sharing might not be as enjoyable if you suffer from food allergies. And incidences like travel for work, business lunches and dinners with clients, business events or celebrations at the workplace, networking events, etc. probably mean additional stress for you.
The workplace is a place where you spend a major part of your time every day. It is certainly not a pleasant experience when you are forced to isolate yourself because of your food restrictions. Why not make the effort to manage your food allergies instead? In fact, you must implement a food allergy plan for the workplace right when you are interviewed for the job. Here is what you can do –
- When you are hired, tell your supervisor/ manager about your food allergies
- Ask for a separate space in the kitchen where you can keep your food as well as utensils, so that there is no risk of cross contamination
- Check with the HR department if you need to furnish any supporting documents for accommodations like separate kitchen space, time to manage your medical appointments and such
- You can choose to keep your allergies private, but then you might not be able to ask for special allowances
- Your coworkers / clients also need to be told about your allergies, and you can do so only when you feel comfortable sharing this information with them.
- You may wear some medical identification at all times to alert people around you
- Keep a humorous poster or sign about your food allergy in your cubicle or on your workstation – that will spark curiosity instead of confusion
- Keep your epinephrine auto injectors handy
- Entrust someone among your coworkers with all the essential information in case of a severe allergic reaction – whom to contact, where to take you, what medicine to administer, etc.
- Let your colleagues know how you manage your allergies, and tell them why you don’t share food, or accept food from others readily
- Make people around you aware of the first signs of an allergic reaction
- Specify what foods or what practices trigger the allergy, and how it can be prevented
- Check with the person/team in charge of food when events that involve food are organized. Offer to help with the planning for such events. Ask for packaged and labeled foods, so that you know what to avoid
- Always show your appreciation to your colleagues for supporting you and being considerate
The management can also do its bit by conducting awareness sessions about food allergies, by providing employees with food allergies with a designated spot to store their utensils and food, being flexible with such employees when they need leaves for medical appointments and ensuring that they are not left out at the time of official events.
A workplace must be as comfortable as possible so that an employee can be at her productive best. It is in the best interests of the employee suffering from a food allergy to take utmost precautions and have best practices in place so that she can enjoy working and giving her best without constantly looking over her shoulder.