The air we breathe may not be something that we think about much. In reality, though, it is a vital factor that we should pay more attention to, especially when working in an office setting.
Over the last few years, we have moved from working outside to spending more time inside. Whether for work or just in our general home life, the recent pandemic saw more of us closing our doors and isolating ourselves from other people even more.
This means that the air around us tends to decrease in quality. Allergens and pollutants become trapped with us and can lead to health issues. Some people may refer to this as “sick building syndrome”, where the air is so bad in one building that you feel sick just by walking in.
What Makes Up Air Quality
Air isn’t just air; it’s a mix of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and other trace elements. It also carries microscopic bacteria, viruses, and other allergens that can make life uncomfortable for some.
The outside is typically a lot cleaner than the inside; therefore, it’s the inside quality we should focus on.
When measuring indoor air quality, there are a number of parameters that are measured. These include:
- Carbon dioxide
- Indoor temperature
- Relative humidity: Inside the whole building, not limited to one area.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): These are comprised of cleaning products, paints, and coatings, disinfectants, both natural and chemically produced.
- PM2.5 and PM10: This is how the dust suspended in the air is measured. The numbers refer to the size of the dust particles by measuring the diameter of the micron.
- Biological pollutants: These include the presence of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other organic or biological elements.
Contributors to Bad Air Quality
Your company may have a policy that recommends staying home if you are sick. This helps the air control system effectively keep the air quality good without having to work harder to do so.
Sneezing and coughing cause small particles carrying bacteria or viruses to move through the air, allowing them to infect others. Also, pet owners can carry pet dander on their clothes or pollen from outside, which brushes off into the air and disperses through the building.
Even people on a smoke break can have their smoke pulled in and circulated if they stand too close to an air filter or other similar devices located outside the building. All these factors will lessen the air quality and can cause illness in the workplace or make the work environment feel thick or sticky.
There are many systems that your company can employ to help combat these allergens, VOCs, and other pollutants. Dehumidifiers, thermostats, and air purification devices all work hard to clean and remove the excess build-up of these particles.
Staying home when you are sick, avoiding vents when smoking outside, and keeping work clothing away from pets all help to prevent these systems from becoming overloaded and ceasing to function adequately.
The Potential Health Risks and Benefits
People with allergies are more susceptible to poor air quality issues because their immune system is already compromised. Still, even healthy people can feel the strain that bad air can take on the body over prolonged exposure.
For example, respiratory issues can worsen, an already existing cough or cold can become more serious, and hay fever or other allergies can be harder to control and manage.
Mould and mildew often thrive in warm, humid conditions. Should these spores get into your lungs, it can lead to health issues that may not be simple to resolve. This can also complicate other medical issues, such as heart conditions and blood pressure.
Studies show that buildings with cleaner air have healthier and happier employees. Clean air means that less people are staying home sick. Thus, more work is conducted, and profits increase.
It has also been shown that blood pressure, allergies, respiratory issues, and other health concerns improve when workers are in a clean-air environment. This means that people are more likely to come to work and be productive throughout the day without “hitting the wall” after lunch when focus becomes harder.
How to Clean Indoor Air
Many devices on the market will display the air's quality, allowing you to measure it and ensure everything is within the safe ranges. There are several different systems you can install to help with this issue.
Additionally, there are a number of cost-effective and budget-friendly ways of helping these systems out, including the following:
Clean Your Workstation
You can reduce the dust particles in your workspace by regularly cleaning and wiping down the surfaces. Try to set up a natural light source, as this will also help to reduce the amount of bacteria and other germs that can settle on surfaces.
Keep clutter away and garbage emptied to reduce bad smells. Office-cleaning services are a fantastic way to help manage this.
Use Air-Cleaning Devices
Dehumidifiers help to reduce humidity, and fans will keep your work area cool. If these systems are not in place for the building, you can get small portable devices to use in your office space.
HVAC and air filtration systems are usually part of a building’s construction. These help filter particles and allergens from the air as it circulates throughout the building.
If you can open the windows while you are at work, it’s a good idea to do so. You don’t need to open them so wide that a slight breeze can send papers flying off your desk, but just enough to allow fresh air in, pushing the old stale air out.
Keep window blinds and other window dressings up to allow light in. This brightens your workspace and helps to eliminate germs.
How to Maintain Good Air Quality
Maintaining good air quality will help your employees to stave off recurrent sicknesses, allowing them to work more efficiently.
Fresh air from open windows and good circulation is more inviting for staff and clients alike. And a clean building prevents the buildup of particles that can lead to sick building syndrome.
Air quality matters, and so do your staff. Keeping the quality up is worth the investment in a sound air purification system, and combined with regular cleaning, you’ll be on the right track to create the perfect work environment.