Face masks at work: 4 tips for more comfort

Wearing a face mask while working can be annoying or uncomfortable. How do you ensure the well-being of your employees, in conformity with the corona measures? Our tips help you get started.

When exactly is a face mask required these days?

During corona times, employees must wear face masks in a variety of situations. A mask is obligatory in certain places (supermarkets, stations, places where food and drink are served …), at busy public areas and also where dictated by the local regional guidelines. Employees must also wear one when social distancing cannot be guaranteed.

Few exceptions

Only those employees who have a medical certificate from the company doctor are exempt from wearing a face mask at their workstations. From a medical point of view, there are virtually no reasons for such an exemption. The company doctor will, therefore, not issue a certificate like this very often.

A face mask makes the job uncomfortable. With these 4 tips, you can keep the discomfort to a minimum.

1. Point out the importance of breathing calmly

A face mask can give the wearer a feeling that they are not getting enough fresh air, making them breathe more rapidly. But breathing more rapidly only reinforces the feeling of distress. Inform your employees about this vicious circle by telling them that ‘breathing calmly’ is an important rule of thumb. You can also share some simple breathing exercises with your employees.

2. Provide face masks that are not too heavy

For many employees, working in high temperatures is a challenge under normal circumstances. If possible, opt for cotton masks and avoid synthetic fabrics. This allows the skin to breathe more easily, and reduce any skin irritation reactions. In addition, opt for a lighter model without a filter but still made of two layers. And finally, choose a light colour. Lighter colours will absorb less heat than darker colours. In addition, hypersensitive skin could have an allergic reaction to dyes.

3. Having enough masks is a must

When it gets hot, sweat can cause the face masks to become moist very quickly. That is a risk: wet face masks lose their protective capabilities. So, make sure to have a stockpile of face masks available at the workplace, so that employees can change their sweaty masks. And also on rainy days extra face masks are a must.

If you are providing fabric masks, the used face masks must be washed on at least a 60 degree wash. Only then can employees wear them again safely.

4. Ventilate the workplace safely

According to the National Crisis Centre, natural ventilation is the best way to air out rooms. So, if the safety regulations in your organisation allow this, open the doors and windows during the coolest hours of the day.

The chance that the corona virus spreads via the ventilation or air conditioning system is very small. To minimise this limited risk even more, the Superior Health Council has formulated 4 guidelines. Follow these guidelines carefully when you ventilate the workplace.

Closeness versus shortness of breath

If an employee is experiencing breathing problems, that does not automatically mean a COVID-19 infection. The feeling of closeness – difficulty getting enough fresh air – is often caused by stress and anxiety.

Only when an employee must interrupt some form of exertion, such as walking up the stairs, to wait to stop panting and gasping, can we refer to shortness of breath. That is one of the symptoms of corona. If an employee is experiencing shortness of breath for the first time, he or she must contact a doctor. Based on the employee’s medical history, the doctor will determine whether a corona test is needed. 

Besides all this, extra attention is also required for those who are sensitive to heat stress. Long-term exposure to heat can cause dehydration and weakness, making the employee more susceptible to illnesses such as COVID-19.

Normal heat measures remain in force

Corona or not, during a heat wave, you must take actions to ensure the health and safety of your employees. Examples of these actions include providing protection measures and offering refershing drinks free-of-charge. Discover more measures in our infographic.