Does Workplace Air Quality Affect Productivity?
With remote workers gradually returning to the office, even if it’s just for a couple of days a week in some cases, should we be worried about workplace air quality? Without an air purifier designed for office environments, employees can be exposed to a heady cocktail of pollutants and dust. That can have a dramatic effect on workers’ well-being, health and productivity levels. In the short term, lower productivity impacts your business performance. In the long term, you could be opening yourself up to litigation if you fall foul of health and safety regulations.
How Does Workplace Air Quality Affect Productivity?
Both office managers and employers need to be aware of the biological, chemical and particle sources of indoor pollution.
- Biological: bacteria and airborne viruses (eg. Covid-19)
- Chemical: gasses and vapors (eg. paint, smoke)
- Particle: dust, dirt and mold
Indoor air pollutants can also affect allergies in a variety of ways, including:
- Dust mites: These tiny bugs are a common allergen and thrive in carpets, bedding, upholstered furniture and stuffed toys. Their droppings also cause allergic reactions.
- Mold: Mold spores are a common indoor allergen. They grow well in damp areas like bathrooms, basements and around leaks. Exposure can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
- Pet dander: Skin flakes, urine and saliva from pets contain proteins that can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. Cats and dogs are common culprits.
- Chemical irritants: Things like scented candles, cleaning supplies, air fresheners and paint fumes contain volatile organic compounds that can irritate the nose and lungs. This leads to allergy-like symptoms.
- Smoke: Cigarette smoke, wood smoke from fireplaces and smoke that drifts indoors can all trigger allergy and asthma flares. Secondhand smoke is especially problematic.
- Pollution: Outdoor pollutants like pollen, mold spores, car exhaust and dust particles can be brought indoors on clothing, shoes and pets. This exposure can bother those with allergies.
- Poor ventilation: Stagnant indoor air allows allergens to accumulate. Without fresh air circulation, irritants are concentrated and more likely to cause reactions.
When these pollutants are not removed from the air, or HVAC systems, air ducts and carpets are not cleaned regularly, workers may report headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, and fatigue (to name a few). These are the signature symptoms of “Sick Building Syndrome” and it can transform your place of work into a wasteland in terms of inspiration, energy, commitment and communication.
Poor air quality isn’t in the mind — it’s very real indeed — and it can lead to diminished cognitive function according to a 2021 Harvard study. Sustained exposure can even lead to more serious issues, causing valuable employees to take sickness leave.
Improving Air Quality in Large Office Spaces
Clean air is crucial for employee health and productivity. It’s just as important as providing the right protective and safety equipment, enforcing no smoking policies, and giving staff adequate training for machinery and equipment.
Managing workplace air quality is a proactive process. It’s not as simple as opening a window or placing a few plants strategically. Offices are large spaces that need a large area purification system as well as ducts and HVAC systems to facilitate airflow and filter particles as the air circulates.
We can sum up the challenge as the “3 M’s of workplace air purification”:
- Manage indoor air with HVAC systems and air purification units designed for large spaces like the Airmega ProX, which covers 4,253 square feet in 60 minutes. There should be a planned system in place to allow proper ventilation, and it should be compliant with OSHA regulations.
- Monitor air quality regularly. Air quality can be measured and data compared over time. In particular, you want to be able to see readings for carbon monoxide levels, the presence of radon or volatile organic compounds, smoke, and dust. When you select a Coway Air Purifier, your air quality is continuously monitored and you will receive alerts if levels rise above an acceptable level.
- Maintain your systems. Air ducts need to be checked, filters need to be cleaned. These aren’t “set and forget” systems. Particularly in office environments where large volumes of air are being filtered, you can expect filters to accumulate dust quite quickly and mold to grow in any ducts or filters that are allowed to remain moist for long periods.
Coway boasts a strong pedigree in air purification for large business spaces, with the added benefit of units that blend in seamlessly with modern office design. Whatever the volume of air, our Airmega filtration systems collectively remove 99.999% of airborne contaminants in a matter of minutes.
Choose from a selection of Coway’s purifiers for freshening your office air and empowering your employees to be their best.
Environmental Protection Agency Regulatory and Guidance Information by Topic: Air | US EPA