When we talk about businesses in urban centers, images of bumper-to-bumper traffic, exhaust fumes, and layers of smog hovering over the skyline spring to mind — and rightly so. The sad reality is that many of the world’s largest cities are plagued by one of the greatest health threats of our time, the effects of which are responsible for an estimated seven million premature deaths worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organization1.
Indoor air pollution
While we may seek solace from air pollution by retreating inside, the truth is that our precious indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than that outside2, and with employees spending even more time indoors than ever before3, our health and wellbeing are at risk from its harmful effects throughout the workday.
Air pollution is the modern-day equivalent of tobacco smoking4 and as such, continues to threaten wellbeing at all stages of life. The global events of 2020 drew our attention to the need for increased air safety measures, and it’s only a matter of time before the indoor air in our public and private spaces is regulated as tightly as tobacco smoking currently is. But that doesn’t mean businesses can’t get ahead of the curve and begin tackling poor indoor air quality (IAQ) in their buildings — and potentially reap the bottom-line benefits of doing so.
Indoor air quality in the workplace
As the world becomes more aware of the toll of our environmental impact, businesses have begun adopting more eco-friendly practices to reduce their carbon footprint to win the favor of employees and customers alike. Green buildings, renewable energy, and plastic-free alternatives are all commendable approaches to improving working environments. However, IAQ strategies are commonly overlooked solutions that can have a profoundly positive effect on a business’s reputation and commitment to staff wellbeing.
The need for an IAQ strategy
When a business implements an IAQ strategy, a useful tactic can be to appoint an IAQ Team5 made up of all stakeholder groups within a company. This inclusive approach not only makes employees feel more valued and empowered to improve workplace hygiene within the office but also provides them with a sense of reassurance that their wellbeing and comfort is a priority to their employer.
An elected IAQ Team leader can represent the greater employee population and lead discussions around IAQ issues with building managers and other decision-makers within the company. This proactive approach can help to mitigate the health risks posed by indoor air pollution and save money in the long run by tackling IAQ issues before they become bigger problems for a business, making them less susceptible to liability.
Opportunity cost and collaboration
Remote working has been invaluable in many ways but real-life communication can allow employees to communicate clearly and efficiently while interpreting body language and facial cues in real-time. By investing in IAQ enhancements in the workspace, businesses can bring employees back into the office — a more productive environment for high-level strategy development, sprints, and brainstorming sessions as well as overall team collaboration and project dynamics.
Relationship building amongst co-workers is an essential part of creating and maintaining company culture. Building a culture that lives and breathes its company values is far easier in person where employees can connect with their co-workers and feel that they are valued and looked after. A business with an effective IAQ strategy will demonstrate to its employees their value, and in turn, create a working culture that enables them to fully express their capabilities and skillset.
The ROI of clean indoor air
Investing in clean air technology is both a short- and long-term investment for businesses. Looking after the people that make a business tick is one of the smartest things a company can do for its bottom line. By prioritizing the health and wellbeing of employees, enhancing the strength of the brand through market leadership and innovative thinking, and aligning the business under the shared vision for employee and business wellness, it will reap the rewards of a healthy workforce and bottom line.
- World Health Organization. “Air Pollution.” WHO. https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Indoor Air Quality”. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality
- Klepeis, N.E. et al. “The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants”. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology vol. 11, 2001:231-52
- A. Pogosian. Clean Air Program. “Air Pollution — A call to action by the Medical and Health Professionals.” 2021. https://www.ukcleanair.org/2021/05/27/air-pollution-a-call-to-action-by-the-medical-and-health-professions/
- Lungs at Work. “A Toolkit For Improving Indoor Air Quality In Office Workplaces.” 2007. http://www.lungsatwork.org/pdfs/LungsAtWork_LR.pdf