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Air Quality, COVID-19 and the Return to the Workplace

Air Quality, COVID-19 and the Return to the Workplace

'Air Quality and Wellbeing at Work' Report

It’s been a year to the day since we launched our ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing at Work’ survey results, which worked in partnership with workplace strategist Dr Nigel Oseland. With the design of the office more topical than ever, we thought it would be a great opportunity to re-visit these results a year later and see how they can assist us with the return to the office following COVID-19.

The original survey came about as we wanted to investigate how air quality affects productivity in the workplace. It was reported as a complaint in the workplace following on from our ‘Noise and Wellbeing at Work’ survey, published in 2019. The ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing’ survey had over 1,000 respondents with 50% being male and 50% female.

It’s interesting to see how our results from last year are relevant today, and how it could be used to help to create safe and comfortable workplaces for employees to return to.

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and humidity can have an impact on disease transference. Most people associate low humidity with the winter, but faulty air conditioning can also decrease summer humidity levels well below the recommended level of 50 - 60%.

The ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing at Work’ results report that only 47% of UK office workers have control over temperature in the workplace, and only 38% of participants’ meeting rooms have natural ventilation. With air flow being crucial to ensuring a healthy temperate and humidity levels, it’s important that offices revaluate their ventilation in meeting rooms and open plan offices alike, before inviting employees back to work.

In the UK, not many office buildings monitor the air quality levels. But, businesses can install low-cost indoor air quality monitors to measure these factors in real time and sharing this data directly with employees, giving them a measure of confidence that they are working in a healthy work environment.

Effects of CO2 on Productivity

Measures like carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, and the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are indicators of indoor air quality.

CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are about 410 parts per million (or ppm). Research has shown that productivity and wellbeing levels start to decrease when ppm starts to go over a concentration of 1,400 ppm. This is a level frequently encountered in conference rooms and open plan offices. Stuffy or ill-ventilated rooms often measure higher.

High levels of CO2 can also make employees start to feel lethargic and cause headaches. Nearly 90% of UK office workers reported that they find themselves nodding off or losing concentration in meeting rooms.

Installing air quality sensors that monitor in real-time, are a great way of knowing when to open the window, or when it’s time to upgrade your meeting room facilities. Remark Group have worked with many companies on their meeting rooms and open plan offices, making sure that they are fit for purpose and suitable for employees to return to work. Get in touch today to discuss your office needs.

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