Office air quality can play a major part in workplace health and wellness. Improved indoor air means fewer sick days and a healthier bottom line.
The average professional works in an office more than forty hours a week. With this much time spent in the same indoor environment, poor air quality can take its toll on the body. Dry indoor air can negatively impact one’s health and wellness, making office workers more susceptible to catching a cold or developing other respiratory conditions.
To perform your best at work, you need to be present in the office, partaking in brainstorming sessions and meeting with customers and clients. Distractions from dry air or irritating airborne pollutants can get in the way of achieving your goals and meeting deadlines. With improved office air quality, the common problems associated with dry air and airborne pollutants are better avoided, which means healthier employees and a healthier bottom line for the company. Follow these tips to improve office air quality and enhance the efficiency and health of your workplace.
Dry Air Problems
Heating and cooling systems blast dry air into offices year-round. Continuous exposure to dry indoor air can have several effects on the health and wellness of office workers. To better understand how dry air can get in the way of your work performance, it is best to understand how your body’s ability to function properly weakens when exposed to dry air.
The human body is composed of 60-80 percent water, which is why you have such an adverse bodily reaction to extremely dry air. To function properly, you need to be in an environment with ample levels of moisture in the air. When this does not happen, discomfort sets in, and you become more susceptible to sickness. Respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and nosebleeds are common side effects of severely dry air.
When air is exceptionally dry, you may notice it first in your nasal passages. Inside the nose, there are tiny mucous membranes that need moisture to work properly. These act as a protective filtration system for your respiratory system, preventing potential harmful irritants from entering the body. When these membranes get dried out, they are unable to filter out bacteria or viruses.
This is why your risk of colds, the flu, and other respiratory illnesses are higher during periods of very low humidity. One study found that viruses survive longer and spread more easily when humidity levels are low.
Dry air also disrupts the moisture balance needed for your eyes to have a healthy surface, resulting in irritated and itchy eyes. This, mixed with severe eye strain and Computer Vision Syndrome, common with those who spend all day staring at a computer screen, makes it extremely difficult to focus and concentrate on work.
Sinus headaches are another consequence of dry air, which can be amplified for those who have a history of developing migraines.
Dry Air Solutions for the Office
While you may not have the ability to completely change or alter the conditions of your office building, there are some simple ways to improve dry office air for improved health and productivity.
Humidify Your Office Space
The best way to overcome dry indoor air is to add moisture to the air. Office buildings are notorious for having exceptionally dry indoor air, which is why many companies invest in quality humidifiers for their office.
When choosing a quality humidifier for the office, know that not all humidifiers are created equal. Traditional humidifiers like vaporizers or ultrasonic units are extremely high maintenance and require daily cleaning to prevent mold growth. These types of forced moisture humidifiers produce hot steam and cool mist, which can also carry bacteria and white dust back into your air. The Environmental Protection Agency has warned against these types of humidifiers as they can be potentially harmful to your health.
This is why the Venta Airwasher is the best humidifier for offices, as it does not produce any form of forced moisture or white dust. By a unique process called cold evaporative humidification, the Airwasher evenly humidifies an indoor environment without ever over-humidifying. Functioning with whisper-quiet operation, the Airwasher is ideal for quiet offices and meeting rooms. You will not notice it running even at the highest speed.
The Airwasher requires less energy than a light bulb to operate and is completely recyclable. If sustainability and efficiency are in your business plan, the Airwasher fits in well. A simple wipe down every two weeks is the only regular maintenance needed, in addition to bi-annual deep cleanings. In every way, the Airwasher was built to correct dry air problems while also letting you focus and concentrate on the work and tasks at hand.
Desk Plants, not Just For Decoration
Adding greenery to your desk is not only a great way to improve your mood, a real plant will help add moisture to the air by way of transpiration. An added bonus, some plants act as natural air purifiers. NASA even put together a list of the best air-purifying plants.
Stay Hydrated with Plenty of Water
When your indoor environment is particularly dry, your body becomes dehydrated faster. Keep a water glass or a reusable water bottle at your desk and refill it all day long. It is generally suggested that adults drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Use your best judgment based on your body type and lifestyle if you need more or less than eight glasses a day.
Workplace air quality can be full of airborne pollutants disrupting focus and concentration. Most office buildings lack adequate ventilation, making these pollutants harder to get rid of.
Laser printers emit a high level of ultra-fine toner particles which can be hazardous to your health, in some instances causing respiratory irritation or cardiovascular issues. Close proximity to a busy printer coupled with lack of ventilation means bad news for your breathing. An Australian study from Queensland University of Technology revealed just how much office equipment, and in particular laser printers, has an effect on indoor air quality:
They [researchers] found that the particle concentration inside the office area was five times higher during working hours when people were using office equipment than it was during off hours. They also discovered that the concentration of particles was higher inside than outside the office during prime working hours. The main source of those minute particles, which are dangerous because they are tiny enough to penetrate the airways and blood, potentially causing or exacerbating respiratory and cardiovascular conditions: laser printers.
Office buildings always seem to be undergoing some kind of construction. While the goal is to improve workplaces, oftentimes these construction projects present significant health problems. Common construction materials including insulation, paint, and adhesives have an effect on your breathing. During renovations and reconstruction, prolonged exposure to substances like the asbestos fibers found in insulation can actually scar lungs. Cost-effective paint options often contain lead and formaldehyde which contribute to an increased risk of asthma and allergies during exposure.
Taking Control of Air Quality
Although you spend roughly forty hours a week in the same place, you typically have very little control over what you can and cannot do to improve the air in your office. Consider what your options are and what is a realistic expectation to take control of your air quality.
Inquire with your Human Resources department about the issue, they may be able to contact the building managers and have HVAC systems inspected and improved. If your office has windows, try opening them to encourage a cross breeze and more airflow.
To truly safeguard your health against these common office irritants, invest in a quality air purifier that can remove these pollutants from the air. And while there are hundreds of different air purifiers on the market, not all have workplace operations in mind.