The quality of the air we breathe is a fundamental aspect of living a proper life, and to be able to feel well and healthy.
However, while the quality of the air outside is something that we always notice, and any sign of bad outdoor air quality usually raises concerns as soon as these signs are perceived; this is not often the case when it comes to indoor air quality, which is not always taken into account for overall wellness.
There are cases though, when bad indoor air quality is evident, mostly due to factors such as chemical odours, or other types of odours that are not what we are used to; or also due to sneezing and coughing attacks..
We would never like to be exposed to bad air quality, no matter if we notice it or not, as the sole idea is certainly not pleasant. But this issue can be especially bad in the working environment, where groups of people breathe the same air for many hours, making it fundamental to raise awareness on the importance of ensuring good air quality in the workspace.
The air quality in the office
One of the problems when considering the air quality in the working environment, is that it is not always easy to know if the air we breathe is “good” or not. Except when there are too clear signs.
Offices and working environments are some of the more prone indoor spaces to get poor or suboptimal air quality because of the needs of such spaces, which often involve more than ten people together, often in old or not often maintained buildings.
When the air breathed for many hours by workers who require to be productive and effective, is not good; workers productivity and concentration decrease considerably.
This is why testing the quality of the indoor air in the office or working environment is something that should be essential, as this is yet another way of showing the employees that their health and wellness are important.
However, ensuring that the air breathed in an office is as good as it should, is not only a task for employers, managers or owners of the building. Employees and members of an organisation, as occupants of a building or indoor space, must ask for air quality tests to be performed periodically.
There are many ways to determine the quality of air in the working environment. Testing the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the temperature and humidity of the air, as well as repeated symptoms among workers must all be determined in order to reach the best conditions.
How are employees affected by bad indoor air quality
There are many factors that can improve or detriment the comfort and wellness in the working environment, making it worse for the employees to stay productive and feel well, or, conversely, making it harder for them to perform as well as they are expected to, during the long hours of work.
Particularly, how good or bad is the air in the working environment is one aspect that can affect the performance of employees at varied degrees, and in some cases, it might be the main cause of a negative performance in the office.
But not only this, a bad indoors quality of air can make the environment feel heavier, and workers to feel more tired, in some cases even dizzy or to produce them a headache, which turns a situation such as a regular meeting into a very hard to perform task. Here are some symptoms we experience as well due to bad air quality: sneezing, running nose and coughing, amongst others.
Bad odours can also reduce the quality of the work environment, as workers might want to avoid performing certain tasks that involve going to those places where the concentration of these unpleasant odours would be greater, making it very hard for anyone to focus on the job.
Overall, dealing with either allergenic or concentration of gases that might be detrimental for the health, even if the consequences are not easily perceived, it is indispensable to make sure to prevent any risk of health issues for the human capital.
Causes of bad indoor air quality
Indoor air quality is one of those aspects that might be caused by several variables, sometimes more than one at the same time, which could make it harder to spot what are the causes of the issue, even if the consequences are being manifested among those affected.
One of the main causes of a reduction in the indoor air quality are pollutants that come from outside. This is one of the first causes that should be tested out when bad indoor air quality is suspected, though there are many ways or reasons for which pollutants might be contaminating the air inside.
First of all, organisations or companies might be located at places where levels of pollution are high, due to industries nearby, or overall being in a city where the levels of pollution are high, making it easier for these contaminant agents to make it into the office.
Cooling and heating systems are yet another factor that might be causing pollutants to get into the building, due to elements such as a lack of maintenance of the ducts, or a not optimal installation of these systems, which are essential on their own to ensure wellness in the working environment.
There are many other factors that can reduce the indoor air quality, such as the use of chemicals for cleaning, the use of pesticides in the case of working environments when these products are necessary for the production, and even office equipment, especially printers and copy machines.
In many cases, more than one of the mentioned factors might be present in the working environment, and many of these might not be the main causes and therefore be easily fixed or even ignored in the short-term. In the meantime, others could be affecting the working environment at greater rates.
Overall, anything that affects the wellness of employees, and that might even have a negative impact on their health should eventually be targeted and fixed. However, it is fundamental to start with those that are making the biggest negative impact to the workers or employees.
How can you improve air quality in your working environment?
Luckily, there are several actions that can be made to start improving the indoor air quality without the need of considering more extreme solutions such as moving the office to a different building; which is not cost effective, nor is it feasible for the organisation.
Hereafter, you will find the 9 Tips to improve Air Quality in your working environment.
1. Several tests must be performed in the building; either if there is an evident case of bad air quality, or if there is the desire of making sure that this is not an issue in the working environment: from air flow to humidity levels, ventilation, odours, leaks, standing water, water damage, mold growth and more.
The first test that is usually performed when indoors air quality is being measured, is a carbon dioxide or CO2 test, which, if the results are low levels of this gas, indicates that there is the need for more outdoors air.
2. Use fresh air whenever possible. If your office has windows, open them up
3. Air-conditioning and heating systems are some of the first factors to be considered when it comes to improving the indoor air quality, especially, by performing periodic maintenance of substitution of the ducts of the system, to prevent contaminants and pollutants from affecting the indoors air.
4. Keep your air vents open and unblocked and replace air filters frequently.
5. Maintain a healthy level of humidity in your workplace. Humidity between 30-50% helps keep dust mites, mold and other allergens under control. Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners to control the humidity level in your installations.
6. Add some plants. They absorb toxins and produce more oxygen, which means employees will be able to breathe more easily.
7. Keep your office clean by using soft or natural alternatives to chemicals.
8. Another minor but yet important way of improving air quality, is to seek low-pollutant materials for the furniture and fittings of your workplace and make sure to choose materials that are certified by the International WELL Building Institute (WELL Building Standard). Some fittings are even made out of potato peelings glued together with potato starch! You can learn more about the WELL Standard and other Green Building Certifications, here.
9. We also recommend you to read our article about the 7 Measures to prepare your buildings for reopening after COVID-19, where we give you detailed advice with technical information.
Employees are also fundamental when it comes to ensuring the good quality of air in a working environment, as they are the ones who are usually most exposed to this, and can be the best tests, making it important for them to communicate any situation that is affecting their overall comfort.
Last but not least, there are SaaS Platforms that can give you real time data about the air quality of your workplace.
DEXMA Air Quality Monitor for example, can help you improve the environmental quality of your installations by showing you recommendations. Access all the key data from an easy-to-use dashboard! Ask for a personalised DEMO.