The Bottom Line: Stale Office Air Reduces Productivity
Posted on July 12, 2022 | in Ergonomics
VelocityEHS’ Blake McGowan, certified professional ergonomist, takes a closer look at air quality in the office environment and how it impacts worker performance.
Reference – Allen JG. (2017). Research: Stale Office Air is Making You Less Productive. Harvard Business Review. March 21, 2017.
Hi, my name is Blake McGowan, and I’m a certified professional ergonomist with Humantech (now VelocityEHS Ergonomics).
It’s always good to remind ourselves what the primary purpose of ergonomics is: it’s to improve employee health as well as optimize human performance through the proper design of the workplace.
Research continues to show that increasing or improving indoor air quality, as well as increasing ventilation rates, has a positive impact on employee health, and that makes sense. However, how often do you consider what the impact of indoor air quality and ventilation rates is on worker performance? Not often.
Well, in 2017, Joe Allen and his colleagues from Harvard University conducted a series of studies to address that question. They exposed workers to different levels of indoor air quality and ventilation rates and measured their worker performance based on cognitive tasks.
So, they exposed office workers to three different variables: standard and double the amount of acceptable ventilation rates, normal and high levels of volatile organic compounds or VOCs, and low, typical, and high levels of carbon dioxide.
So, what did they find?
Well, they found that by improving the indoor air quality by increasing the ventilation rate, it significantly improved worker performance. It also had a significant financial benefit. The cost of doubling the ventilation rate is about $40 per person per year; however, the benefit in worker productivity is in the amount of $6,500 per person per year.
So, what does this mean? What’s the bottom line? The bottom line is that improving indoor air quality by increasing the ventilation rates improves worker performance, as well as it makes financial sense.
Thanks, and have a great day.