Updated: Aug 10
How air quality monitoring can lead to greater returns.
Find out more about air quality pollutants and how these impact workplace productivity as well as the top 3 steps to improving this.
The Dangers of Poor Air Quality
The quality of the air we breathe everyday at work demands our attention - A survey of over 11,000 European office workers has shed light on the significance of air quality within workplaces. Startlingly, 86% of respondents acknowledged the importance of air quality as a crucial factor in their workplace, while a concerning 37% expressed dissatisfaction with the air quality in their respective offices. These findings emphasise the urgent need to address and improve air quality within our workplaces. Employees and employers alike are right to be concerned about air quality, as it has a real impact on workplace productivity and efficiency. Peer-reviewed studies have highlighted the impact of poor air quality on a workforce, costing business time and money. In addition, poor air quality may exacerbate the existing health conditions of employees, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
3,000,000 sick days are taken each year in the UK due to poor air quality
Cognitive ability can reduce by 40% due to poor air quality, according to Harvard academics
The estimated cost of poor air quality on the UK's GDP was £2.7bn in 2012
Sick Building Syndrome
Sick Building Syndrome is where the occupants of a building experience acute health issues or discomfort that appear directly linked with the amount of time spent in the building. Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome can include headaches, sore eyes, a blocked or runny nose, and throat irritation . According to the W.H.O., up to 30% of buildings suffer from Sick Building Syndrome . Previous research has indicated that air quality is an important contributing factor for Sick Building Syndrome in offices. The importance of Sick Building Syndrome is such that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publish advice on the obligations of employers to mitigate it, and on best practices when it does occur.
Air Pollutants and their Impact
To fully understand the consequences of poor air quality, it is important to know the impact of different pollutants in the air we breathe.
Nitrogen Monoxide (NO) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2 )
Nitrogen Monoxide (NO) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2 ) are two nitrogen oxides that are commonly associated with combustion sources. Both NO and NO2 are toxic gases.
Low level exposure to NO and NO2 can cause respiratory issues, and cause irritation to the mucosa of eyes, nose and throat. Exposure to higher doses, or to NO and NO2 over a longer time period can contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis.
Particulate matter (PM)
Particulate matter (PM) refers to tiny particles composed of liquids or solids, that are so small that they can be inhaled. PM can come from a range of man-made and natural sources, and are commonly classified by their size.
Evidence indicates that PM can cause a series of adverse health effects, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and in some scenarios, even death.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
Volatile Organic Compounds refer to a large group of chemical substances that can be emitted as gases from some liquids and solids. Examples include benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylene glycol. They can come from a variety of sources, including from building materials and paint, to cleaning products, amongst many others.
VOCs can cause a wide range of health impacts, including irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, to cancer if exposed over a long time period .
The Benefits of Improving Air Quality
Whilst the health effects of poor air quality are clear, investing in air quality improvements yields significant economic benefits to your organisation.
A study conducted by Harvard academics found that employees cognition improved by 61% with moderate air quality improvements, and improved by more than 100% with high air quality improvements.
Research from Germany14 has found that increases in PM2.5 values result in a 26.3% chance of a person making a poor decision. Additional research from Harvard has shown that improvements in air quality result in better decision-making.
Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism
The average UK worker takes 4.4 sick days per year, and the productivity loss when a employee turns up to work ill is 20% . Research has shown that the number of sick days increases where air quality is poor. The CBI estimate that improving air quality can save businesses more than £550 per employee, per year.
A real return on investment
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that an investment of $40 per employee, per year, results in a $6,500 increase in employee productivity each year.
Improving Air Quality at Work: Top 3 Effective Steps
Maintaining healthy air quality levels at work can be challenging, considering the numerous air pollutants that could contribute to reduced air quality in your surroundings. However, there are three key steps that you and your team can take to enhance air quality and promote a productive work environment:
Continuous Air Quality Monitoring
It is crucial to monitor air quality levels consistently and in real-time to gain an understanding of the daily exposure you and your team face. Air quality levels can vary depending on specific work tasks, seasons, and background activity. Therefore, there may be certain days when you are exposed to higher concentrations of air pollutants without being aware of it.
You and your team need to have clear visibility of air quality levels within your work environment. This allows you to identify the most polluted areas and determine which staff members are most likely to be exposed. Dashboards are an effective tool for achieving visibility. They provide visualisations and insights generated from the analysis of air quality levels across your workplace.
Implementation of Mitigation Strategies
Armed with information about air quality levels, identified pollution hotspots, and potentially affected individuals, you can now initiate discussions on implementing strategies to mitigate air pollution and minimise exposure. These strategies can range from introducing better ventilation systems, air purifiers, or adjusting work processes to minimise pollutant emissions.
We are Atmo
Atmo are a leading provider of advanced software and data analysis solutions. Our innovative technologies empower businesses to transition to cleaner and more cost-effective operations on-site. We specialise in partnering with businesses to unlock the hidden potential of their known data as well as untapped dark data. Our expertise lies in harnessing all types of data to extract valuable insights and drive transformative outcomes for our clients.
Introducing AtmoCore™, the new real-time portal from Atmo. Designed to unlock actionable insights, enabling businesses to make informed data driven decisions. AtmoCore's highly configurable setup, intuitive interface and advanced analytical features make it the ideal solution for businesses seeking to harness the full potential of their data.
Our solutions are developed using the latest technologies, ensuring top-notch performance, reliability, and scalability.
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We leverage data analytics to uncover valuable insights and drive continuous improvement, enabling you to make informed decisions and achieve sustainable growth.
With years of experience across diverse industries, we possess the domain knowledge necessary to understand your unique challenges and deliver tailored solutions.
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