How Health Influences Workplace Activity & Productivity
It has been known for decades that fresh air and sunlight are beneficial to our health, and there is tireless work being done to preserve and protect the quality of the outside world and the air that we breathe. From combating air pollution that surrounds the skyscrapers of Tokyo to efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in cars, air quality should be a focal point of any health-focused efforts.
Considering the Covid-19 pandemic, the efforts to improve indoor air quality and air flow are gaining momentum in hopes of one day returning to indoors without fear of spread or infection. But there are other advantages to improving air flow indoors that we could all benefit from.
Forming healthy workplaces for the benefit of employees is both an ethical choice as well as financially responsible one, ensuring a productive workforce and lack of turnover in staff. Healthy workplaces are environments that put health and wellness first, ensuring the promotion of health and integrating it into its physical space.
What makes a healthy Workplace?
Health can be characterized by several factors, the integration of proper lighting, water, ventilation, air quality, and heating all play an important role in forming a healthy workplace.
Scholars at Harvard identified how each of these contributes to the overall health of a workplace and its employees.
Benefits of Healthy Workplaces
Your office space should be more than a room or building with desks and meeting areas, a workplace prioritizing health will have a positive impact on the employees mental & physical health.
Scientists have found links between better ventilation and increased cognitive function, and as improved ventilation becomes a priority following Covid-19, some of us may not need that morning coffee as much as we once thought.
Air Flow & Air Quality
Air quality indoors has a profound impact on employee health and overall productivity while at work. Not only does better ventilation prevent unwanted particles and dust from permeating our airways and impairing cognitive function, or worse our physical health, but it can improve these if leveraged effectively.
Prioritizing Indoor Air Quality
Making better air quality a priority starts with understanding the current state of a building’s air flow and ventilation. Is it ineffective HVAC? Lack of outdoor air circulation? Moisture or lack thereof? These are all attributes of air quality that contribute to what is called ‘sick building syndrome’ which is prevalent only when inside the building and symptoms usually subside once the person has left.
Productivity & Health
How many times have you been able to effectively get work done while suffering from a cold? Headache? These can also be symptoms of poor air quality and air flow impacting your workplace.
Additionally, clean, outdoor air has been shown to play a role in increasing cognitive function and overall productivity when compared to stale and potentially stuffy office air we are used to, explaining why many experience brain fog while at work.
Investing in improving air flow and ventilation systems for effective circulation of clean air while filtering out harmful particles could be the difference in making an office a healthy, more productive space.
Green buildings and Health
Green buildings are undoubtedly beneficial for environmental sustainability, but their role to play in the health of occupants is an additional reason for their importance going forward. Ventilation is essential for a green building to decrease its carbon footprint, as well as improving air flow and air quality.
This can be complimented by adding green space to a building as well, which not only improves psychological well-being of employees, but the addition of plant walls has a positive effect on indoor air quality just as plants and green spaces do in the natural world.
Green buildings & the workplace
The workplace and modern offices benefit from the integration of green technologies and green spaces due to the impact they can have on the mental and physical health of employees. Green buildings often incorporate and monitor lighting, heating, and air flow levels to maintain levels that are not only energy efficient and sustainable, but also that are optimal for physical and mental health.
Leveraging of green technology in a workplace environment ensures that all factors that may have previously been a negative impact on employee quality of life (for example harsh light fixtures that were not energy efficient, or poor ventilation and air quality) are no longer an issue, and instead are monitored by the systems installed that keep them at set levels.
The discussion of indoor environments and health cannot be held without discussing the most optimized environments for health and healthcare facilities. Hospitals, their labs, and clinics alike must have top of the line environments for the health of patients and guests as well as to prevent any disease and bacteria from spreading.
Healthcare Facilities & Air Quality
Ventilation and air flow in hospitals and other healthcare facilities is an utmost priority, without this vital aspect of their facilities, harmful bacteria and airborne particles could spread throughout the building and to other occupants. Effective management of air flow and quality in healthcare settings whether it be for labs or treatment rooms ensures the best possible environment for health and wellness.
Healthcare Design Lessons
The same principles can be used to design ventilation and air quality processes for commercial real estate following the Covid-19 pandemic. Some buildings are already incorporating higher standards into their air flow and facilities protocols, elevating these practices to try and meet the same standards as healthcare facilities.
As we find new ways to optimize health in indoor settings, air quality must be a priority and mainstay in the processes that are integrated. Effective use of IWMS as well as smart technology can ensure a building or workplace sustains a healthy environment for the future. These practices and the benefits they give to employees in terms of wellness and productivity can turn offices into an area that promotes health and productivity, while stuffy, humid offices become a thing of the past.