Indoor air quality, as the name suggests, is the condition of the air we breathe in an indoor space. Considering the amount of time we spend indoors, the quality of the air we breathe can have a big impact on our health, comfort, and overall productivity.
While people may give great importance to the indoor air quality (IAQ) in their homes, this usually isn’t the case in many office spaces. But if we take the amount of time employees spend in the office into consideration, poor indoor air quality, if left unresolved, could lead to productivity problems as well as increased absences due to health issues in the long run.
What Causes Air Quality Problems in the Office?
When it comes to indoor air pollution, there are often several factors that can go unnoticed. Whereas outdoor pollution can be easily sensed (e.g. dark smoke, unpleasant smells), indoor pollution hides behind comforting breezes from air conditioners, and pleasant scents from air fresheners. And because people don’t see it, it is easy to dismiss its existence.
Here are some common contributors to poor office or indoor air quality:
- Naturally Occurring Pollutants - Mold, dust, bacteria, pollen, and animal dander are just some of the many naturally occurring pollutants in indoor spaces. These types of contaminants can affect both old and new indoor areas, and can be particularly harmful to those who suffer from asthma or other allergies.
- Chemical Pollutants - Another group of pollutants that negatively affect the air we breathe are chemical pollutants, such as tobacco smoke, gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, and waste products from everyday things we use (e.g. paint, cleaning supplies). Virtually every commercially manufactured item can also emit harmful chemical pollutants. This list is a long one, but some more common ones include polyurethane, formaldehyde, and VOCs.
- Small Particles and Other Waste Products - Contaminants from outdoors can also easily make their way inside, which can have large effects on your health. Particles from dust, dirt, smoke, and materials from construction are just some common pollutants that impact air quality in the office and promote indoor air pollution.
How to Detect Air Quality Issues in the Workplace
Since many teams spend a big part of their lives in offices, poor air quality at work can take a serious toll on their health. Before health conditions arise from poor air quality, here are some approaches organizations can adapt to detect air quality issues before it’s too late:
- Inspect the ventilation system and see if there is a sufficient amount of outdoor air flowing inside every workspace. Also make sure that the air is properly distributed throughout each area, and that all filtration systems are working.
- Rule out all possible triggers of symptoms such as thermal discomfort, psychological stress, noise, vibrations, poor lighting, ergonomics, etc.
- Test for the presence of any air pollutant (mold, carbon monoxide, asbestos, etc.) via air testing kits. These usually require samples and are submitted to labs for analysis.
5 Tips to Improve Workplace Office Air Quality
While there isn’t a solution to control all potential air contaminants, there are several ways to significantly improve overall air quality and prevent indoor air pollution.
Keep Your Workspace Clean
This one should be a given even if you aren’t trying to improve air quality at work. Cleaning up messes and spills right away, and addressing leaks as soon as possible would mean less dust, mold, and possible allergens that could spread through the air.
Additionally, switching your cleaning products with strong and toxic chemicals to eco-friendly alternatives also helps in avoiding harsh chemical compounds to be spread in the air.
Use Air Cleaning Devices
There are a lot of ways to keep office air quality in check without the help of a professional. Having an air-purifier, dehumidifier, air scrubber and other commercial grade equipment are just some tools you can use to keep IAQ at healthy levels.
Change HVAC filters regularly
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filters must be cleaned regularly to prevent dust and other air pollutants from circulating back indoors. Be sure to change the filters from time to time too, as clogged filters can also expedite build-up of pollutants and interrupt airflow in enclosed spaces.
Observe Proper Ventilation
If possible, occasionally turn off your HVAC system and open the windows to let fresh outdoor air enter your workspace. Just make sure that there aren’t any storage boxes, furniture or other possible obstructions in front of your air vents, as this will disrupt air circulation and make the workplace feel stuffy.
Another way to improve indoor air quality is adding indoor plants to your office. Not only are they refreshing to see, but they also reduce carbon dioxide levels in the workplace and release fresh oxygen into the air.
Conduct Regular Air Tests
As mentioned earlier, performing indoor air tests will give you a good picture of your current indoor air quality condition, and help you come up with a more efficient and well rounded IAQ improvement plan. These tests often include checking airflow, ventilation, humidity levels, mold growth, odors as well as water damage.
Say Goodbye to Poor Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality should be a top priority in the workplace, as it directly affects the overall health and wellbeing of employees and workers. Poor indoor air quality in the office increases the risk of many health problems such as respiratory illnesses, infections and even mental health.
By simply keeping workspaces and the indoor air quality clean, managing your HVAC system well and regularly conducting air tests, you can make your office space a safer and happier place to work in.