Why Good Air Quality is So Important in the Office
The air quality in an office plays such a major part in keeping us fit and healthy at work, and if it's not up to par it can have serious effects on wellness and productivity. We've all been ill in the office - dry eyes, itchy skin, sore throats, headaches dizziness, and nausea. Now we're ever more conscious about bringing illness and germs to work, but how much illness and germs is the office giving to us?
1. What is air quality and why is it important?
Air quality is a measure of the purity of the air in a given area. It is important to maintain good air quality because polluted air can cause health problems. Pollutants in the air can cause respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer. In order to protect the public, the government has set standards for air quality. These range from air containment levels and working temperature levels (in offices).
2. What are common problems?
There are a few common problems that crop up when dealing with office air quality. Let's have a look at them:
Air temperature is the first thing most people think about when you mention the air in an office. The 'office air-con wars' have long since dominated offices, and can sometimes lead to quite heated debate! It seems whatever temperature you have the office set to, someone will always be freezing cold or sweltering hot!
The air in our offices is a lot more contaminated than we realise. Germs, leaked VOCs, and exhaust fumes are only just a start! Coughs and sneezes quite literally do spread diseases, as germs can easily be carried around the office, especially with air-conditioning systems. We're psychologically wired to think 'fresh air' when we open a window - however, in most offices, that simply doesn't stack up. Outdoor air pollution from exhausts, floating dust, and other particulate matter such as tyre and brake pad wear can easily be carried into the office environment through an open window.
It's also worth noting that a lot of manufactured furniture releases VOCs such as formaldehyde during its life, as the glues and processes used in the manufacturing process use these compounds. Printer inks are also a culprit for adding VOCs into the office.
Humidity is possibly the most overlooked of the three areas we are focussing on today.
Ideally, the relative humidity in an office or indoor space should be between 40-60% relative humidity (%rH), a figure recommended by HEVAC, CIBSE, BSRIA, and BRE. The Health and Safety Executive laid out in their Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 that employers should work to maintain a level of relative humidity that prevents discomfort and problems of sore eyes where people work at computer terminals for long periods.
Here’s the thing though - offices throughout the UK are often well below this level of 40-60%rH. Volvic, the bottled water company, did a study into 500 workplaces and found that one in five offices in the UK was as dry as the Sahara desert, with a relative humidity of only 25%. Even more shockingly - one in ten was as dry as California’s Death Valley, with only 23% relative humidity!
3. How can you improve it?
Offices can be a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses if the air quality is poor. By keeping the air quality in your office clean and healthy, you can help keep your employees healthy and productive. There are a few things you can do to improve the air quality in your office. The first is to make sure that your office is well-ventilated. Make sure that there is good airflow and that the windows and doors are opened regularly. You can also install an air purifier to help improve the air quality. Make sure to choose a filter that is effective at removing VOCs and other pollutants. Plants are also a great way to help reduce the VOC levels in an office. Plants also increase air humidity in too, which helps reduce ailments as mentioned above.
Also, if people are ill but want to work, then you can request they work from home to avoid spreading germs around the office.
4. What are the benefits of good air quality?
There are many benefits to good air quality in the office. For one, it can help employees feel more productive. When the air quality is poor, employees can often feel tired and irritable, which can impact their work.
Good air quality can also help to improve morale. Studies have shown that when the air quality is poor, employees are more likely to report feelings of stress and anxiety. This can lead to a negative work environment and decreased productivity.