How Indoor Air Quality Affects Employee Comfort in the Workplace
No matter your industry, indoor air quality should always be a consideration in maintaining a healthy work environment for employees. Whether you’re a building owner, facility manager, a member of the human resources team, or an employee, you can benefit from better indoor air quality in the workplace.
Most Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, and for many of us, much of that time is spent in an office environment where indoor pollutants are often 2-to-5 times higher than outdoor concentrations. EPA reporting even shows that indoor air quality can result in more productivity among a workforce and fewer sick days.1 Clearly, the quality and subsequent outcomes of your indoor air deserve attention!
In this blog, we’re discussing the factors of indoor air quality, and how it can affect the overall workplace experience, not to mention the health and well-being of everyone within your building.
Common Factors of Poor Indoor Air Quality
According to the EPA, the top five air quality problems in the US are all related to indoor air.2 Indoor air pollutants are common in both homes and businesses, affecting human health, causing odors, and impacting comfort. Generally, pollutants and their sources are separated into three categories – chemical, biological, and particulate.
Chemicals that impact indoor air quality can be found in a wide variety of products that are used in homes and businesses every day. Common chemical pollutants include:
- Paints, strippers, and solvents
- Aerosol sprays
- Cleaning products
- Pesticides and insect repellents
- Stored fuels and automotive products
- Office equipment such as copiers and printers
- Graphics and craft materials, including adhesives, markers, and photo solutions
Biological contaminants are, or are produced by, living organisms. Some of the most common sources of biological pollutants include:
- Viruses and bacteria
- Pet and animal saliva and dander
- Insect and pest droppings and bodyparts
- Rodent urine
Sources of particulate matter pollution are often indoor combustion devices and equipment. Proper ventilation is the best way to keep all particulate matter pollution from fuel-fired sources out of your air. Common sources include:
- 3D printers
- Cooking stoves
The Link Between Air Quality & Employee Comfort
Each type of pollutant can cause problems ranging from minor discomfort or inconveniences to serious health hazards, including:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation, including asthma
- Loss of coordination
- Damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system
- Heart disease
- Some organics are known or suspected carcinogens in humans and animals
Recognizing this link between indoor air quality and the health of your building’s inhabitants is paramount to helping those people maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible. Simply allowing workers to have input in workplace temperatures can lead to a decrease in absences from illnesses by up to 34%!3
One study shows that improving indoor air quality can have a 4%-to-16% increase in the speed or accuracy of work tasks such as typing, mathematics, and general office duties.4 Those improvements were achieved by simply replacing a contaminated air filter within the building’s ventilation system.
Another study found that employees who were uncomfortable at work due to environmental factors had a 30% decrease in their ability to focus and produce deliverables.5
Furthermore, another report states that comfortable workers can be up to 10% more efficient in terms of output per hour.6 There’s no shortage of examples showing how an uncomfortable work environment can impede employee health, happiness, and workplace productivity.
So, what can be done about it?
We’re All Responsible for Maintaining Healthy Indoor Air Quality
Every workplace inhabitant plays a part in maintaining clean, breathable air. While some only consider indoor air quality a job for the HVAC system, there are usually many natural sources of ventilation in a building such as windows and doorways. All building occupants have a role in caring for and respecting these ventilation features.
Promoting workplace cleanliness among employees, through these essential tips, is the responsibility of all building inhabitants to maintain a healthy and happy work environment:
- Keep air vents clear and open to allow the ventilation system to remove contaminated air
- Clean up spills and report leaks promptly to discourage mold and fungi growth
- Dispose of garbage in the proper receptacles to avoid attracting pests
- Keep food stored securely to avoid attracting pests and creating offensive smells
- Only smoke in designated areas to keep cigarette smoke as far from building entrances as possible
How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality With Roast
Business owners, facility managers, and HR professionals can take their workplace health, comfort, and productivity initiatives even further with Roast, a workplace productivity tool that allows for a comprehensive analysis of comfort in the workplace. That includes any indoor air quality issues your employees are facing. While one corner of the office might be too warm because of a weak air vent, another may require the use of sweatshirts to deal with a drafty window. Here’s how it works:
- Build your survey from a curated list of questions and answers influenced by ASHRAE and other building standards. These questions cover indoor air quality, as well as temperature, humidity, movement, light, noise levels, cleanliness, and more.
- Upload a floorplan of your workplace so Roast can map survey responses to their location within the building. This allows you to easily identify trends and problem areas at a glance.
- Track, analyze, and share the results of your survey with your team. Create filters related to date, time, and questions to get a complete picture of how your coworkers experience your building.
Use the insights you gain from Roast to address the indoor air quality in your building, along with a variety of other workplace comfort factors.
In addition to being a fantastic tool for communicating with your workforce and understanding their needs, Roast gives them a voice! Improved perceptions of, or satisfaction with, indoor air quality are directly associated with work performance improvements. Some task performance increased by approximately 1% for each 10% reduction in indoor air quality dissatisfaction.7 What might look like a small improvement on paper can make a serious difference over the days, weeks, months, and years that you continue to listen to your workforce.
To implement an in-depth analysis of your workplace and pinpoint the issues your building’s inhabitants are facing, try Roast for free with a 14-day trial. For more detail on how you can make the most of Roast, download our whitepaper, The Case for Comfort: Improving Productivity With Comfort Surveys.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about using Roast, don’t hesitate to contact us.
- Report to Congress on Indoor Air Quality: Volume II – Assessment and Control of Indoor Air Pollution, Sec. 5-1, pg. 115, US EPA
- Indoor Air Pollutants, Smarter House
- Indoor Environmental Effects on Productivity, David P. Wyon – ResearchGate
- Indoor Pollutant Sources and Work Performance, Berkley Lab
- Environmental Quality and the Productive Workplace, D.J. Clements-Croome
- The Impact of Working in a Green Certified Building on Cognitive Function and Health, US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health
- Perceived Indoor Air Quality and Performance, Berkley Lab