There are many things within a workspace environment that have the potential to negatively impact on staff well-being, morale and productivity. From temperature to lighting and availability of resources, getting things right from an employer perspective can make a huge difference. Another factor that can significantly influence workplace well-being and employee satisfaction is indoor air quality. Join us as we explore how the two are linked, and how to achieve the ultimate conditions for your workforce.
What is the meaning of ‘indoor air quality’?
Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of the air inside and directly outside a building. It can be affected by a range of factors, some of those being contaminants originating from within the building, and others coming in from the outside.
Where a building is situated can impact upon its indoor air quality. For example, buildings in built-up areas close to major roads may suffer more from lower quality indoor air, whereas those in more isolated locations may be less affected by outdoor contaminants. However, there is always the issue of indoor contaminants that are produced within the building.
Indoor air quality may also vary from one area of a building to another, and this could depend on the nature of the activities in certain locations or their proximity to outdoor sources of pollutants.
Some of the most common contaminants that can impact upon indoor air quality include:
Volatile organic compounds
Pollutants emitted from office machines, appliances, furniture and furnishings, floor coverings, building materials, paints and cleaning products.
These are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Not only can they adversely affect indoor air quality, they can also cause health related issues for those breathing them in, which makes them a common cause of workplace ill health and sick building syndrome.
Airborne dust and bacteria
Heating and cooling a building can also produce contaminants. This is because, over time, heating and air conditioning systems collect bacteria and dust which are released into the environment, sometimes causing a variety of health problems.
Ambient dampness can also lead to the growth of mould and bacteria, and viruses such as flu and Covid 19 are all spread through the air where they can become rapidly contagious.
Traffic emissions and industrial contaminants that come in from outside the building are also a major influencer of indoor air quality. Outdoor and indoor air is rarely separate, and it is quite easy for contaminants to enter a building.
When an office feels stuffy, a lot of people tend to open the windows to let some ‘fresh air’ in, but often the air won’t actually be so fresh. Even if all the doors and windows are closed, polluted air from outside can still get in through gaps and cracks, especially the case in older buildings which are not airtight. Wind and rain can also cause the seals of a building to break down, letting contaminants in.
It is also possible for the likes of carbon monoxide and other traffic pollutants to be drawn into a building from underground garages, through stairwells and lift shafts.
What’s more, changing climatic conditions can impact upon air quality. Hot weather can lead to poor air quality, with stagnant air increasing the amount of pollution in the air.
There are plenty of ways to combat poor indoor air quality. But the key thing is to be able to identify it in the first place.
How can good indoor air quality promote employee satisfaction and well-being?
A large volume of airborne contaminants have the potential to trigger or worsen respiratory illness. They can also contribute to sick building syndrome.
Headaches, dry and sore eyes and throat, coughing, wheezing, blocked and runny nose, dry and itchy skin, rashes, lethargy and trouble holding concentration can all be symptoms of sick building syndrome.
For the employer focused on improving employee satisfaction and well-being, taking steps to create a healthy building is vital, and working towards healthy indoor air quality plays an important role in this respect.
Employee satisfaction is conducive to a productive and creative workforce, which in turn boosts business growth.
How to run an indoor air quality check?
It’s not always possible to fill a building with fresh air. Sometimes there are no opening windows. Perhaps the outdoor air quality is considered too hazardous to risk letting it in through open windows.
In such situations, a building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is responsible for maintaining good air quality within the workspace.
The HVAC system is used to filter inbound air so that the likes of allergens, dust and pollutants are removed. Air purifiers with carbon filters can also be employed if deemed necessary to reduce the presence of volatile organic compounds and harmful gases. These are sometimes recommended in the higher traffic areas of a building.
The important thing though has to be continuous monitoring to ensure indoor air quality is maintained at healthy levels. So what’s the best way to run an indoor air quality check on a regular basis without draining resources and without too much margin for error?
The solution lies in smart HVAC technology.
A smart HVAC system is powered by Internet of Things technology. It consists of a network of interconnected motion and noise detectors, humidity sensors, thermometers, geo-fencing and location indicators, together with live online weather data.
All of this information is fed into a central dashboard, where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning trigger automated changes to the HVAC system, making alterations in line with changing environmental conditions and any fluctuations in the indoor air quality.
As well as maintaining healthy levels of indoor air, a smart HVAC system also sends valuable data to facilities managers which they can use to make informed decisions, such as whether to invest in dehumidifiers or humidifiers; to identify when it’s time to repair or replace ‘leaky’ appliances and plant, and to keep track of how efficiently ventilation systems are operating.
All of this means that when it comes to creating a safe working environment in the name of employee satisfaction, nothing is left to chance.
Smart HVAC with Smart Spaces for the ultimate in automated indoor air quality monitoring
Smart Spaces is an Internet of things powered, app-based platform that has the ability to automatically control the HVAC element of a building management system. It makes it possible for managers to analyse, regulate and maintain healthy indoor air quality with ease.
Request a free demo or get in touch to discover how Smart Spaces could help you improve indoor air quality, and promote that all-important employee satisfaction you are looking to achieve.