How Indoor Air Quality Affects the Productivity of Workers
Man breathing in fresh air. Photo: Centermez/Flickr
Productivity is one of the most important metrics for any business to prioritize. If you can raise productivity levels, profits will inevitably stand a better chance of going up too. It's no surprise, therefore, that business owners across the world are always looking for new ways to boost productivity and motivate their workforce.
Common methods for raising productivity include providing more perks for workers, improving the office culture, streamline services to save time for staff, and so on. Another surprising method for helping to boost productivity could involve improving the indoor air quality.
A recent study by a group of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) that was published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics confirmed that working in polluted conditions is not great for productivity. Contaminants in office air could not only be harming workers’ health, but also slowing your business down.
“We found that an increase in PM2.5 [fine particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter], by 10 micrograms per cubic meter sustained over 25 days, reduces daily output by 1 percent, harming firms and workers,” said lead researcher of the NUD study, associate professor Liu Haoming. “The effects are subtle but highly significant.”
Impact of Indoor Air Quality on Productivity
The concept of indoor air quality having an effect of business productivity could sound strange at first, but there's a lot of scientific evidence to back up these claims.
Numerous studies from the likes of Harvard University and others have shown that workers in offices and other spaces with contaminants and pollutants in the air will tend to work at a slower rate, being less alert, attentive, and focused than those in better air quality conditions.
One of those studies, for example, looked at how workers in different environments performed on cognitive tests. Those who were taking the tests in healthier rooms with better air ventilation and lower levels of contaminants were able to achieve near-perfect scores, while those in spaces designed to resemble typical offices, with lower standards of air, tended to make more mistakes.
So why exactly do workers tend to struggle when the indoor air quality is low?
One reason might be that contaminants in the air can actually harm their health in both the short and long-term. Research has shown that working in greener environments leads to workers having fewer headaches and respiratory problems.
Meanwhile, those who are stuck in dirty offices with all kinds of volatile compounds in the air can struggle with fatigue, eye strain, and other issues on a more regular basis.
Naturally, when workers are struggling with pain and tiredness, they're much less likely to be able to put in 100% of their efforts and work at the maximum capacities, leading to lower productivity rates.
It's not just in terms of physical health that the effects of poor-quality air can be seen. Studies and reports have also shown that those who are made to work in offices and workplaces with dirtier conditions and lower standards of air can suffer from mental health complaints and mood issues as well.
Various contaminants and pollutants in the air can increase stress levels, lower attention levels, and generally make people feel more lethargic and less concentrated in general. This can translate into reduced focus on their work and a less positive workplace culture overall, with knock-on effects for the entire company as a result.
Tips for Managing Your Indoor Air Quality
It's clear to see that indoor air quality can have a real, tangible effect, both physically and emotionally, on workers. This can lead to various consequences for a business too, as workers who are less happy and motivated will be less likely to give their all, resulting in lower returns for the business, less energetic teams, and less appeal for talented recruits to join the company too.
This is why it's vital for business owners to focus on managing their indoor air quality and improving conditions for all, and there are quite a few different ways in which this can be done.
One of the best methods is to perform tests and actually check the air quality to identify pollutants and start getting rid of them. By taking tests, you'll be able to know what you're dealing with and then use the appropriate cleaning products and air filters to improve the conditions in your workspaces.
Deep cleans may be needed for mold and serious dust problems, for instance, and your office may need more fans, more open windows, and even more plants to release oxygen into the air and improve the quality for everyone.
The most important takeaway is to act fast and don’t let poor air quality ruin your business.