How does indoor environmental air quality impact workers?

Several studies have been conducted on factors that affect employee
performance at the workplace. Office climate is one topic of interest among
researchers, especially its impact on workers’ wellbeing and productivity,
which has prompted facility managers to purchase indoor air quality
instruments to record temperature and humidity data as well as detect
carbon dioxide.

Understanding the impact of temperature
on the workforce

A study published in the Journal of Environment Health Science and
Engineering reveals that employee performance may increase 10 per cent if
they’re working in ideal indoor environments. Another study conducted by
researchers Komalanathan Vimalanathan and Thangavelu Ramesh Babu recommends the
Goldilocks solution – not too hot, not too cold, but just right – as the ‘optimal
office ecosystem’.

This study observed negative attitudes and behaviour among employees
performing tasks in particularly cool or warm atmospheres. Even slightly hot or
cold conditions affected worker productivity. For instance, call centre
personnel became 2.4 per cent less productive for every degree increase between
21.9 degrees Celsius and 28.5 degrees Celsius. Their performance decreased as
much as 7 per cent when room temperatures rose past 25 degrees Celsius.

Maintaining temperature
stability

Building managers can install wireless digital data loggers to
ensure indoor temperatures remain in the optimal 25-degree Celsius range. With
their ability to record indoor climate data in real time, these data loggers are
particularly useful in monitoring rooms with different temperature
requirements.

For example, a walk-in blood storage room and university lecture hall
may be located within the same facility but will require different temperatures
to be maintained in the two areas. The blood storage room must be maintained at
a temperature between 2 degrees Celsius and 6 degrees Celsius, as per
recommendations by the World Health Organization.

With instruments such as the Saveris wireless monitoring system, an HVAC
technician could gather temperature data from multiple rooms and
receive alerts when room climates deviate from normal conditions.

Eliminating emissions

In addition to temperature, another factor that affects indoor air
quality is carbon dioxide (CO2). The World Green Building Council (WGBC) found
that reduced levels of CO2 and other airborne pollutants from the workplace can
raise employee productivity by 8-11 per cent.

The presence of harmful substances in the environment including CO2 can
impact the decision-making abilities of people. The WGBC also found that
even when indoor CO2 levels hit 1000 parts per million (ppm), which
is considered an acceptable level among professionals, people’s ability to take
action in response to problems declined 11-23 per cent.

WGBC recommends integrating exhaust ventilation systems into printer
rooms and constructing buildings with zero-emission carpets, adhesives and
finishes to reduce the prevalence of CO2 and other pollutants in the
workplace.

Additionally, building managers should continue to use multifunction
indoor air quality monitors even if the building has been constructed with due
care using all the right materials. These instruments not only detect CO2
levels, but also register carbon monoxide, air velocity, volumetric flow and
turbulence, alerting facility administrators to other possible issues.

Adhering to national
regulations

It’s imperative that employers do not ignore the recommended guidelines
and standards dictated by Australian authorities. For example, Safe Work
Australia’s Code of Practice for managing work environments and facilities specifies a temperature range of 20-26 degrees Celsius as optimal for sedentary work. Depending
on the time of the year, building administrators may want to favour the lower
or higher end of the scale.

SWA recommends that businesses use fans, install air conditioners and
position workers away from heat sources during the hotter months of the year. In
winter, organisations should increase indoor heat, but ensure employee comfort
is maintained.

Multiple studies conducted into the effects of indoor climate on
employee productivity have ensured employers have sufficient information to
help them invest in the right processes and gadgets necessary to maintain
productive atmospheres.

testo is a leading manufacturer of a comprehensive range of handheld
instruments including temperature monitoring systems and indoor air quality
devices.

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