Offices and other public buildings don’t always have the best air quality. Whether it’s due to equipment emissions, a lack of efficient ventilation or contamination from other sources, poor indoor air quality can be detrimental to employee wellness.

Read on to learn how air quality affects employees and what businesses can do to improve it.

Studies show that air quality directly affects how productive employees are during their work shifts. A study completed by Syracuse and Harvard universities tested the productivity of workers at different ventilation, emission and carbon dioxide levels. The employees tested at improved air quality levels performed roughly 60 percent better on cognitive tasks and experienced fewer headaches and respiratory complaints than those working in a poorer air quality environment.

Many employers balk at spending money to improve air quality, assuming that it’s expensive, but that’s oftennot the case. If a company spends just $40 per employee annually, it could mean more than $6,000 worth of improved productivity.

Indoor environmental quality

Employee wellness is contingent on four criteria, which are indoor environmental quality or IEQ:

  • Visual comfort
  • Thermal comfort
  • Acoustic comfort
  • Air quality

Visual and acoustic comfort is often the job of the business owners. Thermal comfort and internal air quality are in the hands of HVAC service technicians.

There are three threats to air quality in public buildings — particles, which includes dust, dirt and other floating contaminants, chemical pollutants like tobacco smoke and cleaning product fumes and biological contaminants such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Improving IAQ

What steps can be taken to improve indoor air quality?

Upgrade or update HVAC systems: Older buildings are often equipped with inefficient or poorly filtered HVAC systems. Investing in updates for existing systems or upgrading to a new system can be a great first step toward improving air quality.

Be aware of problem areas: Employers or HVAC technicians should take the time to determine what areas of the building are experiencing the worst air quality. Take steps to either improve the overall building air quality or zone the building’s air handling so the problem areas can be kept separate from the rest of the building’s ventilation system.

Keep up with HVAC maintenance: Employers should be made aware of their building’s HVAC usage, and when to maintain it. Even up-to-date HVAC systems can get clogged or dirty when being constantly used, which many employers may not be aware of.

Choosing an HVAC system

What can you do to help building owners choose the best HVAC system for their business needs?

Start with your square footage — a small unit isn’t going to be powerful enough to manage the needs of a large building. The building itself will also come into play — specifically the building’s energy efficiency rating. A well-insulated building with energy efficient windows will require a smaller HVAC unit than an older or uninsulated building.

Pay attention to the unit’s efficiency rating as well. HVAC systems ratings include four conditions — seasonal energy efficiency, fuel utilization per annum, heating seasonal performance and energy star.  New units will be more efficient than older ones.

Choose appropriate filters for your needs — areas with higher air contamination will require higher quality filter than areas where the air quality is inherently better.

Help employees by improving air quality

Air quality plays a bigger part in employee productivity than most people think. Taking steps to improve air quality in your customers’ business or offices can improve your profits and the health of your customers’ employees at the same time.