To reduce costs and improve energy efficiency, companies built offices to be airtight.
This choice led to indoor air becoming lower quality than fresh outside air. As a result, “sick building syndrome” became an issue still affecting people today. SBS symptoms can include headaches, chest tightness and other sickness-related symptoms. But the difference is these symptoms disappear after a person breathes fresh air.
To combat SBS, the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health created The 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building.
Studies estimate that improved ventilation can increase employee productivity by 8%. This productivity translates to around $6,500 to $7,500 in extra revenue per person per year from just improving ventilation. .
To improve ventilation, you can:
- Use air filters with a minimum efficiency of 75% for all particle sizes.
- Increase air intake from outside.
- Position air intakes away from potential sources of pollution.
- Schedule regular maintenance and cleaning.
2. Air Quality
Research estimates that improving air quality can add $20 billion to the US economy each year.
On top of this, improved air quality leads to:
- Greater employee satisfaction.
- Improvements in employee wellbeing.
- And clearer thinking.
Ways to improve air quality include:
- Using office supplies and furnishings with low chemical emissions.
- Investing in high-efficiency air purifiers such as HEPA air purifiers
- Adding plants to the space (as long as they are allergen-friendly).
- Maintaining optimal humidity levels (30 – 60%) to avoid mould growth.
3. Thermal Health
Researchers found that temperatures above or below the optimal range of 22°C – 23°C result in lower output.
One caveat is that individuals have different heating and cooling preferences. These preferences change with age, gender ,office location and many other factors.
So that’s why it’s a good idea to offer individual thermal control options, such as standing fans and heated seats. Aside from that, you can survey employees to figure out their temperature preferences.
Excess moisture can lead to:
- Mould growth
- Airborne contaminants
- And foul odours which aren’t great for productivity.
To combat this, you should schedule regular inspections of areas prone to leaks. Ensure employees are also on the lookout for mould and damp spots.
5. Dust & Pests
Dust and pests are allergens that affect millions of people worldwide. So if indoor pollution levels are too high, it can lead to illness symptoms and poor productivity.
To combat this, you should:
- Use HEPA vacuum filters.
- Schedule regular cleaning.
- Create a pest management plan.
6. Safety & Security
Buildings should meet all safety requirements to protect employees from injury.
These requirements include:
- Fire safety and carbon monoxide monitoring.
- Adequate lighting in and around the office.
- Using video monitoring and security to watch the building.
7. Water Quality
The human body is about 60% water. So it’s no surprise that water intake is beneficial for concentration and productivity.
On top of this, 20% of workers are more likely to stay at their job if it provides access to free filtered water.
Research shows that noise in the workplace affects productivity levels in 69% of employees.
Some of the top distractions include:
- Loud conversations.
- Ringing phones.
- People walking around.
You can supply employees with noise-cancelling headphones or create quiet spaces for deep work to combat this.
9. Lighting and Views
Light, in particular sunlight, has a direct effect on our productivity as humans. Light stops melatonin production while increasing cortisol to keep us alert and productive. But indoor lighting is often much dimmer than natural sunlight.
That’s why it’s a good idea to use blue-enriched lighting and create as much access to natural light as possible.
By following these nine foundations, your employees can enjoy increased productivity, health and happiness.