Poor air quality is often overlooked in offices. Yet, this invisible threat has been ranked as one of the top 5 risks to public health by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With many of us spending around half of our lives in an office, poor air quality may be doing more damage than we think. In addition to causing various health conditions, poor air quality may also lead to reduced productivity.
Thankfully, improving workplace air quality isn't difficult, nor does it require an expensive overhaul of an office's current design. Keep reading to find out how to improve office air quality and the benefits employees can reap as a result.
Side Effects of Poor Air Quality
It's easy to imagine that poor air quality only exists outdoors and that by retreating indoors to our offices, we can avoid pollutants and allergens. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. The amount of pollution indoors can be up to 10 times higher when compared to city air outdoors, as the already polluted air is drawn in and mixed with indoor pollutants such as dust and chemicals.
As you can imagine, this causes some side effects, ranging from mild to life-threatening.
Asthma and other respiratory illnesses
Heart and cardiovascular system conditions
Eye, nose, and throat irritation
Shortness of breath
Reproductive and central nervous system dysfunctions
Additionally, the effects of poor air quality can negatively impact office productivity and lead to increased employee absences, costing employers both time and money.
Benefits of Improved Air Quality
Thankfully, even minor improvements in an office's air quality can provide plenty of benefits to those who work there.
Studies have shown that spending just $50 a year, per employee, on indoor air quality improvements saw an $8,400 increase in employee productivity, on average. Furthermore, a study from Harvard found that employees working in an environment with improved air quality and ventilation performed 61% better on cognitive tasks than those working in standard conditions. This is because fresh air increases our ability to reason, retain information, and maintain focus.
Along with a dramatic increase in employee productivity and cognitive behavior, improved air quality also reduces common health ailments, thus reducing employee absences. Research shows that fresh air increases the flow of oxygen in the body, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, strengthens the immune system, cleanses the lungs, alleviates stress, energizes the body, and sharpens the mind.
Tips to Improve Office Air Quality
There are many ways you can quickly and easily improve the air quality within an office space, each of which takes very little time to implement. We've outlined these below.
The simple act of opening an office's windows regularly can allow fresh air to flow in and stale air to flow out. Additionally, if there are doors within the office that lead to private, outdoor spaces, these should also be opened from time to time to ensure adequate airflow.
Unfortunately, not all offices feature windows that can open or doors that can be safely propped open. If the office is equipped with fans, these can also be turned on to increase indoor air circulation.
Keep The Space Clean and Tidy
Office spaces should also be cleaned several times per week to reduce the build-up of dust, dirt, mold, and mildew, all of which decrease the overall quality of indoor air. Ensure garbage is kept in an air-tight vessel to prevent chemicals, bacteria, and unpleasant odors from escaping, and make sure this is emptied regularly to avoid spillage or overflow. If trash cans tend to fill quickly in an office, it may be necessary to add additional bins to ensure that none are becoming over-filled before staff has a chance to empty them.
Finally, surfaces and equipment should be cleaned regularly using eco-friendly products to reduce harmful pollutants such as chemicals being released into the air.
Organize Regular Maintenance
Offices should also ensure regular maintenance is carried out on their air conditioning units and filtration systems. Doing so can guarantee that these systems are working correctly, contributing to the improved air quality within the workspace. Furthermore, regular maintenance allows filters and air ducts to be cleaned, preventing the build-up of dust and other harmful allergens from circulating back into the air you breathe.
Add Plants to the Office to Naturally Purify the Air
Rather than investing in more air filtration systems or air purifiers, offices should look to nature's very own air purifying solution: plants. We owe the cleanliness of our air to the vast rainforests that span the globe, and indoor plants allow us to enjoy cleaner air on a smaller scale.
According to NASA's Clean Air Study, potted plants can contribute significantly to healthier indoor air. Therefore, they should be used as a tool to improve indoor air quality by up to 85.8%.
Along with improving indoor air quality, having plants in the workplace also provides multiple other benefits. These include noise reduction, increased productivity, improved creativity, stress reduction, reduced levels of sickness and absenteeism, and more attractive workspaces for job applicants.
One of the easiest and most aesthetically pleasing ways to introduce plants into an office is by adding a living wall. Living walls, such as our Model Z, contain hundreds of air-purifying plants, making them a highly effective solution for removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air we breathe.
Not only are living walls low maintenance, but they can easily be positioned in various places throughout your office, making them a stylish and straightforward way to improve — and maintain — optimal air quality.
Make the Switch to Better Workplace Air Quality
Poor air quality is an office hazard that has been overlooked for far too long. Thankfully, making the switch to better workplace air quality isn't difficult to do, and the benefits are ten-fold.
The most effective way to start is by installing a Living Wall within your workspace to combat harmful indoor air pollutants naturally. At Zauben, we even offer ongoing plant care to keep your living wall looking lush and beautiful while performing at its best.