Recent studies suggest that indoor air quality and productivity of employees are related factors and that healthy air quality directly contributes to the performance of staff. Understanding the relationship between the two topics will help employers improve both air quality and the health and performance of their employees.
While corporate wellness programs often include instructions on diet and exercise to improve employee health and performance, wellness programs may want to start focusing on the environment of the office building itself. Recent studies have found a link between indoor air quality and productivity of staff. A good ventilation system will not only maintain the health and comfort of employees, it will also enhance their cognitive performance and efficiency. Why does poor air quality mean poorer employee performance, and what can be done to ensure the high quality of both?
Better air quality translates to fewer pollutants in the air and more oxygen. Improved oxygen flow to the brain results in better cognitive performance, while symptoms of oxygen deprivation include a decline in cognition. (1)
A joint study done by Harvard University and Syracuse University investigated the relationship between indoor air quality and productivity. The research teams tested employees under a variety of simulated office environments with various levels of carbon dioxide, emissions from office products and ventilation. The employees were tested and monitored under two different circumstances. One of the test conditions involved employees doing regular tasks in “green” conditions with improved ventilation where carbon dioxide and emission levels were reduced, while the other condition had the employees doing their tasks in regular office building conditions. (2)
“The employees who carried out their tasks under the green environment performed around 60% better in cognitive tasks than the employees who were tested in a standard office environment,” explains Kevin Wood, Camfil USA Vice President Sales & Marketing. “When ventilation was doubled in the green testing conditions, their cognitive performance increased by more than 100%. These findings are compelling reasons to get serious about indoor air quality and productivity in offices and other workplaces, it affects not only the health of your employees but your bottom line.”
In addition to the helpful effects of improved air quality on cognition, good air quality also improves general health. Yet another study was conducted which examined 10 green-certified buildings and found that employees in these circumstances dealt with around 30% fewer headaches and respiratory problems than employees in the average office building. This was on top of a 27% boost in performance on cognitive tasks. Employees even slept better at night.
Investing in the clean indoor air for employees quickly pays for itself. Recent research suggests that spending around $40 a person every year on indoor air quality results in around a $6500 increase in productivity.