Happiness & Wellbeing

Is the Indoor Air Quality in Your Office Affecting Your Health?

By wizu | 21 February 2023

Most of us work a standard 9-5 job, where we spend up to 40 hours a week (or more) in the workplace. That’s a huge chunk of our lives spent in one place. And we stay indoors much of that time, in a confined space where germs and diseases can easily spread. 

Another issue in the workplace is poor indoor air quality. Have you ever noticed when at work that you have headaches or sore throats? These symptoms can be caused by poor indoor air quality. 


Have You Heard of SBS? 

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the US has said that a person can develop symptoms of illness, such as a sore throat, itchy skin, and headaches from being indoors for long hours. There’s usually no apparent cause for these symptoms, though indoor air pollution may be one reason for poor indoor air quality. These can be symptoms of SBS. 

SBS stands for “Sick Building Syndrome,” which is a name for a condition that may be caused by staying in a building or another type of enclosed space. This syndrome is caused by poor indoor air quality; however, the precise cause is not always apparent. 

Some believe that an air conditioning system may help clean the air. However, that’s not the case. These systems work to recirculate the same air, causing some of the symptoms mentioned above. For instance, these systems can spread viruses that cause colds, flu, and more, along with other types of infectious diseases. 

However, these issues can be aided by the use of an air ventilation system. These systems trap particles and pollutants in the air, preventing them from spreading throughout the workplace. An air ventilation system can make the office environment healthier and safer. The systems use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filtration) filters to clean air of germs, mould, smoke, dust, and more. 


What Can Cause Poor Indoor Air Quality? 

Indoor air pollution can be caused by a variety of issues, and it’s usually not easy to find the cause. In fact, most offices only notice a problem when one or more employees start to not feel well at work. If this happens, it’s best to take the following steps: 

Inspection of the ventilation system: check to see if a sufficient amount of outdoor air is taken in and properly distributed throughout the office. It’s a good idea to also check the filtration systems to ensure they’re working properly. 

Testing for air pollutants: testing for the presence of air pollutants is also essential. These can include mould, asbestos, carbon monoxide, toxic gasses, and other chemicals. Tests can be done with air testing kits; samples are submitted to the lab for analysis. 

As you can see, indoor air pollution can be a real issue, and it can have dramatic effects on employees working in an office with poor indoor air quality. 


Air Pollution & Poor Productivity

Not many realise that poor air quality can cause reduced workplace productivity. Most people may ignore the symptoms of SBS and go on with their work, not realising their productivity is slowly getting worse over time. Indoor air pollution can cause issues with the following: 

Concentration: unpleasant odours in the workplace can make it uncomfortable for employees and put them off from their work. Headaches and other symptoms can also be distracting, causing a loss of focus. 

Mood: mood can also be affected by poor indoor air quality. Bad smells and poor air quality can cause headaches and make a person feel generally bad all over. That can’t make for a good mood! 

Sick leave: when employees are constantly sick in the office, they may need to take time off work. That can mean a high sick leave rate for the company. With lower attendance at work, productivity flags and can even cost the business revenue. 

Fatigue: poor air quality can also be responsible for fatigue in the office. Employees who are constantly tired have low productivity levels. 


How to Prevent Poor Air Quality in Your Office

Along with installing industrial products, there are several ways you can help make sure indoor air quality is high: 

Fresh air: allow fresh air into the workplace by opening doors and windows. This allows “new” air into the space, improving indoor air quality. However, be careful when doing this during allergy season, as those who have allergies may become sick. 

Control odours: prevent strong odours and scents from developing in the office by regularly removing garbage and keeping fridges clean. It may also be necessary to develop a scent/perfume policy for the office. Some perfumes and other scents can be quite strong and add to indoor air pollution. 

Keep the office clean: a clean office environment can also prevent disease from spreading and improve indoor air quality. Regular cleaning means less dust, dirt, and other debris that could contribute to indoor air pollution. 

Clean HVAC filters: it’s also essential to ensure HVAC filters are changed regularly to prevent dust and other pollutants from circulating. Dirty filters can also stop air from circulating as it should, worsening indoor air quality. 

Proper ventilation: another issue that can add to indoor air pollution is air that’s not able to circulate. Vents can be blocked with furniture, boxes, chairs, and other items, preventing air from circulating. The workplace may feel stuffy. It’s a good idea to ensure vents are open and can freely circulate the air. 

Conduct regular air tests: performing indoor air tests also provides you with information about indoor air quality. Doing the tests on a regular basis lets you know when there’s a problem, making it easier to fix the issue quickly. Air quality tests that are best to conduct include humidity levels, airflow, ventilation, mould growth, odours, and water damage. 


Summing It Up

Poor indoor air quality can be a serious problem that causes health issues, high sick leave rates, and a decrease in productivity. The goal is to ensure all ventilation systems are working as they should and to develop policies that reduce indoor air pollution. Regular testing can also help pinpoint issues before they become serious and affect employee health. 

Taking care of the indoor air quality of your office makes sure employees have a healthy place to work. It also ensures that they can stay productive and do their best work. 

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