We spend a considerable part of our lives working in closed air-conditioned spaces, without giving much thought to the office air quality.
Since office windows are rarely opened, the office air quality is often not as fresh as it should be. Chemical sprays used to clean windows and carpets worsen the situation. Electronic devices such as computers, printers, copiers, and even the telephone on your desk harbour dust and other common allergy triggers. It is not uncommon for mould/ mildew to infest the office storage and other damp spaces.
Poor office air quality should be of great concern for businesses because it has a direct affect on employee health. Poor indoor air quality can lead to sneezing, coughing, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nasal congestion, skin allergies, sore throat, nausea and eye irritations. Investing in the indoor office environment is not just about improving the well-being of employees and visitors to your office; it can significantly improve the bottom-line as well. A healthier workplace improves workforce comfort, increases employee productivity, and reduces absenteeism.
According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (2013), while most chemical contaminants originate from within the building, chemicals can be drawn into a building from the outdoors as well. Reducing exposure to chemicals in the workplace is a preventative action that can lead to improved outcomes for worker health and the environment.
CDC (2013) states that many products found in the office environment may have the potential to release VOCs. Examples include:
- Caulks, sealants, and coatings
- Paints, varnishes and/or stains
- Wall coverings
- Cleaning agents
- Fuels and combustion products
- Vinyl flooring
- Fabric materials & furnishings
- Air fresheners and other scented products
- Personal products of employees like perfume, shampoos, etc.
Healthier, happier employees deliver better results!
As a business owner or manager of an office location, there is a lot you can do to reduce and remove sources of indoor pollution at your workplace. Office workers who spent the majority of their time at the office in conditions of 30%‐60% relative humidity experienced 25% less stress at the office than those who spent the majority of their time in drier conditions according to Razjouyan et al (2019). Here are a few suggestions:
1. Smoking should not be allowed both inside the office and within a few feet of the entrance. The designated smoking area should be located a sufficient distance from office doors, windows and ventilation systems.
2. Place large doormats at the office entrance to reduce the amount of dust, pesticides, pet dander and other pollutants that are carried in stuck on people’s shoes.
3. If you are moving into a new office, you may want to avoid wall-to-wall carpeting. If you do have carpeted area, use vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters.
4. Where possible clean the dust in the office with a damp cloth or mop. An experimental field trial showed that comprehensive cleaning reduces the airborne dust in offices, and also can reduce mucosal symptoms and nasal congestion according to Skulberg et al. (2004)
5. Air fresheners are popular in offices, but they add to the chemical air pollution. Stop using air fresheners.
6. Use cleaning products with natural ingredients. Avoid products with chlorine or ammonia.
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7. Check any seepage in the pipes, pantry, toilets, and walls immediately to prevent mould and mildew.
8. Indoor plants are a great way to splash some colour in the office space, and naturally cleanse the air. Here is a list of 10 indoor plants to improve the office air quality.
9. Do not use pesticides inside the office, instead choose non-toxic pest control methods.
10. Use low VOC paint when remodeling your office.
11. Ensure regular maintenance of the office heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems. Change air-filters in these devices regularly. HVAC systems most often consist of mechanical parts which should provide air to building occupants at a comfortable temperature and humidity that is free of harmful concentrations of air pollutants according to NIOSH (2013). Improved ventilation can improve task performance and productivity in the office environment (Seppänen, Fisk, Lei, 2006).
12. If possible, open office windows for natural ventilation.
13. Use furniture made from solid wood. Alternatively, apply water-based sealant to pressed wood furniture to prevent chemicals present in the pressed wood from polluting the indoor air.
If the problem persists even after you have identified and rectified obvious sources of indoor air pollution, seek outside help, such as local or state health departments or consultants in industrial hygiene.
What initiatives has your office taken to improve the indoor quality in your office?
Towards healthier living, Carol Parr ♥
As a result of working with me, women and their families thrive, work places and their personnel prosper, mouldy and chemical / electrical sensitive occupants heal. They’re healthier, they’re alert, they’re happier, more relaxed, more productive, and enjoying life.
Together we bring about healthy indoor environments and create rooms that provide calmness, healthy sleep, relaxation and restored energy for you and your family, create workplaces that provide ideal personnel attendance and elevated productivity.
By returning indoor spaces to more natural conditions, we strengthen you and your family and your personnel’s mind, body and spirit. It’s nice that it also sustains our planet’s ecology, you’d agree.
You can find my latest enterprises by clicking here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/carolparr
Razjouyan, J., Lee, H., Gilligan, B., Lindberg, C., Nguyen, H., Canada, K., Burton, A., Sharafkhaneh, A., Srinivasan, K., Currim, F., Ram, S., Mehl, M., Goebel, N., Lunden, M., Bhangar, S., Heerwagen, J., Kampschroer, K., Sternberg, E. and Najafi, B. (2019). Wellbuilt for wellbeing: Controlling relative humidity in the workplace matters for our health. [online] Wiley Online Library. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ina.12618 [Accessed 1 Feb. 2020].
Cdc.gov. (2013). CDC – Indoor Environmental Quality: Chemicals and Odors – NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/indoorenv/chemicalsodors.html [Accessed 6 August 2015].
Cdc.gov. (2013). CDC – Indoor Environmental Quality: Building Ventilation – NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/indoorenv/buildingventilation.html [Accessed 6 August 2015].
Researchgate. (2019). Ventilation and Performance in Office Work. [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7353069_Ventilation_and_performance_in_office_work [Accessed 6 August 2019].
Skulberg, K., Skyberg, K., Kruse, K., Eduard, W., Djupesland, P., Levy, F. and Kjuus, H. (2004). Epidemiology. Volume 15 – Issue 1 – p 71-78, doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000101020.72399.37 The Effect of Cleaning on Dust and the Health of Office Workers. [online] Available at: https://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2004/01000/The_Effect_of_Cleaning_on_Dust_and_the_Health_of.12.aspx [Accessed 6 August 2015].