How Air Quality Impacts Employee Health

Office indoor air quality Office indoor air quality

Most of you are probably familiar with how unclean air can make you feel. Smokey, dusty, and dirty air can make people tired, cause headaches, and make it hard to breathe. If we are exposed to unhealthy air for extended periods of time, it can have more serious and long-lasting health impacts.

A recent study from The Lancet Commission found that 6.5 million people die every year as a result of poor air quality. 800,000 of these deaths are from poor air quality at work.

Many workplaces, especially those in more industrial areas, have issues with poor air quality. As employee wellbeing declines, their performance at work can also be affected. The Lancet Commission study also found the productivity of workers dropped by the equivalent of 41 cents per hour.

What affects our indoor air quality?

Pollution

Smoke, smog, and other air pollutants are very detrimental to human health. Inside air can only be as good as the air outside, and in fact, inside air is often worse. Many people assume that you can get away from polluted air by going indoors, but the United States Environmental Protection Agency has found that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outside. In high pollution zones, it could be up to 100 times worse!

Bacteria

Workspaces and communal areas are potentially full of harmful bacteria. With many different people coming and going every day, our workplaces can become very unhealthy if they are not properly cleaned and maintained. Much of this bacteria transmission is the result of poor personal hygiene, for example not washing our hands after using the bathroom.

Bacteria such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Helicobacter are all commonly found in office buildings. Research has found that illnesses can spread incredibly fast around an office space. One study established that a virus could be spread from a doorknob to up to 60% of workers in about 4 hours!

Allergens

Common allergens like dirt and dust particles build up over time as a result of a lack of cleaning. These can cause coughing, sneezing, tiredness, and headaches among other symptoms. There are also other substances inside workplaces such as paints, building materials, carpets – all of which pose potential allergy or chemical risk to employees. Poor ventilation or air circulation can cause a build up of allergens and other substances, which can take a toll on employee health.  

Consequences of poor air quality

Common health symptoms caused by poor air quality include respiratory and lung issues, lethargy, skin rashes, low mood, and headaches.

Sick Building Syndrome

Yes, it has a name! Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) describes acute health effects that are thought to be linked to spending time in a particular building, but no specific cause can be identified. Building Related Illness (BRI) is used when the illness can be traced directly to an allergen or contaminant in the building. It is thought that the following are contributing factors to the development of SBS:

  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Indoor chemical contaminants
  • Chemical contaminants from outdoors
  • Biological contaminants (mould, pollen, bacteria)

Reduced productivity

A study from the National University of Singapore (NUS) further highlighted the impact that poor air quality has on work performance. They found that day-to-day changes in pollutions levels did not immediately affect work productivity, but that prolonged exposure of about a month created a definite reduction in output. Associate Professor Liu Haoming of NUS says, “The effects (of poor air quality) are subtle but highly significant.”

What you can do about it

Regular cleaning

Keeping your workplace clean of dust and allergens will help improve the quality of the indoor air. Daily cleaning, vacuuming and disinfecting, especially in a large or busy office, is a must. You should also be sure to remove rubbish and recycling regularly.

Keep air cons and vents clean

Your ventilation system is a very important part of maintaining healthy air quality. Regular servicing and cleaning will keep on top of any build up inside the vents and keep them working as they should. Also, be sure that no furniture or large objects are blocking air cons or vents, as this reduces the airflow.

Get some plants

Plants produce oxygen, which mean they are great for improving air quality indoors. They also absorb unhealthy air to keep office spaces fresh.

To improve the air quality in your workplace, a great place to start is with regular professional cleaning. And that’s where Crewcare comes in! You can rely on us to provide thorough and reliable cleaning services to your office, restaurant, or educational facility. We are dedicated to providing professional cleaning while being responsible for the health of people and the planet. Our cleaning products and services are even accredited by Environmental Choice New Zealand. So get in touch with Crewcare today to find out more about how we can help you and your business!