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Press Coverage: Survey reveals indoor air quality is affecting our productivity and wellbeing in the workplace

Press Coverage: Survey reveals indoor air quality is affecting our productivity and wellbeing in the workplace

Work In Mind cover our latest survey here.

A survey undertaken by the Remark Group and leading environmental psychologist Dr Nigel Oseland has revealed that 57% of UK office workers think that indoor air quality is affecting their mental and physical health.

Remark Group are advocates of workplace wellbeing and strive to make workplaces healthy, which is why they produced the survey ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing at Work’, to understand whether indoor air quality has a negative impact on an employee’s productivity and wellbeing.

80% of UK office workers think that poor indoor air quality could be having a negative impact on their health

The survey results include data from workers based in open-plan and shared office spaces, ranging across multiple sectors including financial, healthcare, legal, education, transport, manufacturing and property.

The latest survey has been completed by over 1,000 UK office workers. The initial findings showed that 80% of UK office workers think that poor indoor air quality could be having a negative impact on their health, with the same amount reporting it could be having a similar effect on their productivity at work. When you think that we spend 90% of our time indoors, it’s worrying to hear that this is having a negative impact on our health and productivity.

Remark Group wanted to understand the topic further, so they also conducted research amongst its own employees to determine whether poor indoor air quality affected an employee’s productivity and/or wellbeing.

The air quality was monitored over two separate environments – windows closed, and windows open. Employees were asked to answer a series of questions at 9am and 3pm every day the air quality was being monitored. It was interesting to note there was a considerable decline in productivity levels when windows were closed, which coincided with the rise in CO2 levels. On one occasion the CO2 levels reached 1664ppm – a healthy level of CO2 levels in the workplace is between 500ppm and 1000ppm. At this point, employees started to make complaints about headaches, irritated eyes and skin, tickly throats and lethargy – all signs of sick building syndrome.

Penelope Harrall of the Remark Group commented:

“Remark’s office is located outside the city centre and close to open space, so it’s interesting to see that even here we have an issue with indoor air quality.

“Today’s office environments can drain happiness, health and even productivity but ensuring that air quality is regulated can reduce symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and eye irritation, while increasing productivity and general wellbeing.

The ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing at Work’ survey also highlighted a rise in sick building syndrome symptoms. It was revealed that 86% of UK office workers get headaches at work, with 23% reporting that they suffer from headaches on a daily basis. It’s not just headaches that they’re suffering from, 91% reported that they suffer from tiredness or lethargy at work with a quarter reporting that their sleep quality is poor during the working week.

We can see from both the ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing at Work’ survey and the results from the air quality monitoring at Remark premises, that poor indoor air quality is having a negative impact on employee’s wellbeing and productivity. With 56% of UK office workers worried about the air quality in the area in which they work and 30% worried about opening windows due to poor exterior air quality, surely employers should be doing more to improve the air quality in the workplace, which in turn would enhance their wellbeing and improve productivity.

Dr Nigel Oseland commented; “I am shocked by the results of this survey, but not entirely surprised. Whilst we are producing some great looking modern offices, we need to pay more attention to basic human needs, to the so-called hygiene factors, such as good indoor air quality, temperature control and noise reduction. The various disciplines within the workplace industry need a concerted effort for a marked step change from sick buildings to healthy buildings. Everyone has the right to work in a healthy workplace.”

There are multiple solutions to poor indoor air quality. For some companies, simply opening the windows and adding more plants into the office is a great solution. Air purifiers can assist in removing contaminants from the air in a room to improve air quality. There are also active living walls that combine the benefits of nature with technology to improve indoor air quality and enhancing wellbeing.

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