UPDATE: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of air quality has only increased especially in refined spaces such as meeting rooms and offices.
It’s no secret that UK productivity has dwindled, in a report from the Bank of England, it was found that Britain has endured the worst decade for productivity growth since the 18th Century, whilst the Office of National Statistics has announced that between January 2018, we saw just 0.1 percent growth in GDP, the slowest recorded since 2012 – but why?
In our most recent survey ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing at Work’ there was some worrying data in regard to meeting spaces and productivity.
CO2 and meetings
In the survey of over 1,000 UK office workers, a worrying 90% of UK office workers say they find themselves nodding off or losing concentration in meetings. Lethargy and drowsiness are direct impacts of high CO2 levels, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and high levels of humidity.
In the same survey, it was found that 34% of meeting rooms don’t have any windows and only 38% have some form of natural ventilation. Carbon Dioxide can create uncomfortable ‘stuffy’ atmospheres, resulting in low concentration levels caused by the lethargic, drowsy environment, which can reduce workplace productivity. One of the main origins of high CO2 levels is poor ventilation; however, increasing the air circulation will bring in fresh air and disperse CO2.
UK offices have a huge culture of meetings with 90% of people having up to 10 meetings per week, yet only half actually leave the meetings thinking they were successful. A further 80% think that poor indoor air quality could be having a negative impact on their productivity at work.
When you consider that 72% of UK office workers spend up to eleven hours in meetings every week and that half consider them not to be successful that’s five and a half hours a week wasted just on having an unsuccessful meeting that could have been avoided.
Fresh, clean air has been proven to improve employee’s productivity, although 66% of meeting rooms have windows, 30% of UK office workers won’t actually open windows as they are worried about exterior air quality.
Air quality isn’t the only reason meetings aren’t productive, not all meetings rooms are up to scratch with the latest collaboration technologies. In the ‘Air Quality and Wellbeing and Work’ survey we found that 40% of UK office workers don’t think their meeting rooms facilitate collaboration or productivity, which defeats the object of a meeting room in the first place.
So, should we stop having meetings, or should we just take into consideration where we are having those meetings. Rooms with no ventilation or fresh air will decrease productivity and increase feelings of fatigue and lethargy, making meetings superfluous. Having air conditioning doesn’t help unless the system includes proper filters, as the outdoor air – potentially filled with pollutants – is sucked indoors and circulated around the office.
What to do
Actions to monitor and maintain healthy indoor air quality levels can be taken. Installing air filters are a great way of getting rid of some of the most harmful pollutants. Air quality monitors continuously check the levels of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates in the air and raise a warning if they reach an unacceptable level.