Many employers focus on providing competitive salaries and applying employee management techniques to increase productivity. But aside from monitoring every employee’s day-to-day work accomplishment, financial rewarding and granting promotions, another factor that will influence their productivity and performance is indoor air quality.
Employees spend all day sitting at their desks, which also means they spend the entire day breathing the same air circulating in their offices. This makes a good reason why employers need to evaluate indoor air quality at work before it badly affects staff health and work performance.
Common sources of poor indoor air quality at work
There are a hundred of air pollutants commonly found in office environments, among the most common and dangerous sources are:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Carbon dioxide is a natural component of the air, however, high levels of this type of gas – higher than 5000 ppm can be risky. In offices, carbon dioxide is usually due to the occupants. People release CO2 by breathing and without adequate ventilation, CO2 can accumulate.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – these are emitted as gasses from solid or liquid materials. VOCs include a variety of chemicals which include benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, xylene, and 1,3-butadiene. Office furniture, upholstery, flooring, walls, paint, cleaning products and air fresheners are materials that release VOCs.
Dust – Dust are fine particles that are formed from dirt or other substances drawn into the office facility from the outside, but this can also be produced by indoor office activities like printing, photocopying and operating equipment.
Tobacco smoke – smoking is prohibited inside offices, but even if employees smoke outdoors, it can still be taken inside the building as tobacco smell clings to a smoker’s clothes and body.
Molds – Condensation inside offices can generate high concentrations of moisture which contributes to the growth of molds. Molds are commonly found in comfort rooms, tiles, windows and walls.
Indoor air quality and productivity: what’s the connection?
Indoor air pollution is associated with a wide variety of health problems. Short-term exposure to stale indoor air quality at work can lead to headache, dizziness, sore throat, cough and sneezing while long-term and more serious impacts include asthma, lung cancer and bronchitis.
If the workspace that you are providing for your employees has negative health impacts, it is quite obvious that their productivity will also suffer. Exposure to poor air results in employees taking more frequent leaves due to ill health or continuing to work at a reduced speed and efficiency.
Moreover, indoor air pollution in the workplace can adversely impact employees’ mood and cognition. It can lead them to experiencing fatigue, mood swings, loss of ability to concentrate, irritability and depression. Employees who are repeatedly exposed to indoor air pollution may also feel less comfortable at work and would feel that their employers are not considering their health, resulting in a demotivated workplace, weakened productivity or worse, higher turnover rate.
Having poorly performing staff and the inability to retain talents due to poor workplace air quality can cause immediate and severe consequences for the business and the economy. Reduced productivity at work ultimately affects the quality of deliverables, this can lead to customer dissatisfaction, delayed business growth and lower economic outcomes.
The link between indoor air quality and productivity in workplaces is becoming increasingly clear. If you think your office has an indoor air quality problem, it is best to act immediately. Here are some tips that you can use to improve your workplace air quality:
- To improve indoor air quality and productivity, having the right device in place is a good start. Indoor air quality sensors like the uHoo Aura can take measurements and accurate readings on the presence of pollutants in the air. uHoo Aura also comes with a simplified dashboard that provides insights, trends and IAQ analytics that are useful in creating strategies to improve your indoor air.
- Once you have your facility’s IAQ data, you can now start establishing ways to improve it. Strategies may include increasing ventilation, conducting regular HVAC system inspection, opting for eco-friendly products and using humidifiers. Take note that strategies to improve IAQ may depend on the air pollutant and the risks it presents.
- Implement air quality goals and well-defined standards to set the target for indoor air pollution reduction and achieve an air pollution-free office in the long run.
A study conducted by the Harvard and Syracuse Center of Excellence have shown that cognitive scores were 101% higher in enhanced green building conditions compared to the conventional building across nine functional domains, including crisis response, strategy, and focused activity level. Another study has also found that healthy workplaces have 35% less employee absences from sick leave.
These figures prove that putting attention to air quality produces happy, healthy and alert employees, which are a great factor in making a business grow.
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