You can’t log onto any news site on the internet without seeing at least one article on how to improve your productivity. Whether it’s taking breaks, having snacks during the day or meditating during your lunch hour, everyone has a solution to flagging productivity during the work day.
One thing so many people overlook is the air quality of their office — can the air you breathe during the day actually affect your productivity? And how can you improve the quality of the air in your office?
Stale Air = Stale Thoughts
You know the smell — the stale, fluorescent, tainted cardboard smell that is standard with most offices. It’s the first thing that assails your senses as you walk in, and it’s the reason — or at least one of the reasons — you’re so grateful to get out of the office at the end of the day.
But that stale-office smell might actually be reducing your productivity.
Both Harvard University and Syracuse University have been studying the air quality in offices to see how it affected workers. They had two offices to study — a standard office with unregulated air quality, and a ‘green’ office that had better ventilation and reduced levels of carbon dioxide and other emissions.
Workers in the green office showed improve cognitive function, upwards of 60% better than their peers in the unmodified office. Improving just the ventilation of the office increased the cognitive improvement by over 100%.
This improvement in air quality helps outside the office too — employees slept better at night after working in a well-ventilated office, and they reported fewer headaches and/or respiratory complaints while in the office.
This isn’t the first time researchers have looked at office air quality as ways to improve productivity and help your employees. Energy conservation efforts in the 1970s made it harder to improve ventilation because buildings were locked up tight to save electricity. It even got its own name — sick building syndrome — causing things like headaches, coughing and eye irritation, among other symptoms.
If you have a rash of people calling out, complaining of headaches, respiratory problems or just general feelings of unwellness or lethargy, improving the air quality in your office might be the best way to improve productivity.
Tips and Tricks to Improve Air Quality
How can you improve your office air quality? Try these suggestions:
- Ventilation — Keep the air moving. Stale air gets stagnant and encourages the buildup of dust, irritants and pollutants in the air.
- Manage Pollutants — Pollen, pet dander and dust mites all tend to cause problems and lower your internal air quality. High-quality filters in your ventilation system can prevent these pollutants from getting in your building in the first place, and they can remove any that might be introduced by the occupants of the office.
- Control Temperature and Humidity — The temperature and humidity in your office will depend on where you live. In humid climates like Florida, you want to keep the air cool and dry, but in cooler climates, adding a bit of humidity to the air can help prevent dry sinuses and skin.
- Go Green — No, we’re not talking about saving the environment, but actually adding some greenery to your office. There are 10 easy-to-care-for plants that NASA has found improve the air quality of indoor spaces by filtering out harmful chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde.
- Listen to Your Employees — The air quality in your office might be just fine, but if you don’t spend time in the rest of the building, you might not know what the air quality is like. Listen to complaints and do what you can to address them.
- Get Your Air Tested — Testing your air for microbes, contaminants and CO2 levels will give you a good idea of what kind of changes need to be made across the building to improve overall air quality.
Improving the air quality of your office or workspace can be a quick and easy way to improve your overall office productivity. Even if your office seems like a pretty well-ventilated area, take the time to get the air tested to see if there are any improvements to be made.