Friday, 18 April 2014

How Air Quality Contributes to Employee Productivity

We all know that homes and offices need to have ample ventilation. With the boom in corporate style offices since a couple of decades, it has become inevitable for all offices to be multistoried complexes with centralized air conditioning. This has given rise to concerns of indoor air quality.

What is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of the air inside your home or office. Closed air conditioned offices do not always have enough ventilation to keep away air pollutants. This can make the indoors unhygienic and affect the health of the employees.

There are three strategies normally used to improve indoor air quality. They are:
  • ventilation,
  • reduction of indoor pollution sources and
  • cleaning
Ventilation eradicates air pollutants that originate inside the building. These pollutants include bio-effluents. Studies have found that the outdoor air supply rate provides subjectively acceptable indoor air quality. Preventing the accumulation of moisture in the building is usually sufficient to maintain the pollutant concentration at healthily low levels. Periodic cleaning such as vacuuming is essential as well.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Productivity

People who work in offices spend over 90% their time indoors. This holds true for people who live in apartments too. Increasingly, people are found indoors at malls, shopping centers, or in vehicles. Studies on realistic experimental exposures have shown that common indoor sources of air pollution are floor-coverings, air filters of the centralized air conditioners, personal desktops, mold growth from damp or wet porous areas such as carpeting, ceiling panels etc.., and much more.

Exposure to these indoor air pollutants can be short-term; but these short-term effects were demonstrated repeatedly in a study to employees. These employees developed subclinical SBS symptoms such as headache. Temperature and noise distraction were also studied and it has been found that the performance of real office work, measured over a period of time over time, will be would be significantly affected by the indoor environmental quality.

How can we Reduce Indoor Air Pollution?

A number of national organizations, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Lung Association, and the Environmental Protection Agency, have studied and stated that air pollution in our indoor settings, could be more of a health concern when compared with the air pollution outside.

Here are some actions that employers or the management of a company can take to reduce ‘employee exposure’ to pollution inside the office:
  • Reduce the source of the pollutants: Using products or methods that do not release or stir up high amounts of particulates or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Choose products that are less toxic, when you have a choice. The Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS will help you in determining the product with reduced health hazard.
  • Take care in storing chemicals properly. The storage area should not be occupied by people. Ensure that there is a vent that opens directly to the outside of the building.
  • Control exposures at the source. It is better to refrain your indoors from getting polluted, rather than trying to do rigorous cleaning later. Install that mechanical exhaust vent directly over a place that is frequently used, such as a copier machine.
  • Periodic examination and/or replacement of filters in the air conditioners and vents is a must.
  • Prepare a maintenance schedule for the office equipment and stick to it.
  • Increase the ventilation (fresh air) inside the office. Ensure that your air handling system Is well designed and functions smoothly.  Merely opening windows can also help a great deal.
  • Filter the air that blows out from the vacuum cleaners, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners, before it is inhaled.
  • Stop or reduce pollutant pathways and prevent them into the office. Physically separate the areas of occupancy and the areas where high levels of pollutants can be generated.
  • Reduce the use of carpeting. This is a breeding ground for most biological pollutants like mold, dust mites, and bacteria.

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