On some days, your employees are coughing and sneezing. On others, they appear to be sluggish and sleepy, experiencing what many have deemed the "2:30 feeling" since the airing of 5-Hour Energy's advertising campaign.
So what can you do about it?
Although a company curfew and extra caffeinated coffee could be the solution for a few, it may not solve the overarching issue. Why? Because many offices suffer from "sick building symptoms," including bad indoor air quality (IAQ). In fact indoor air quality is likely to be 2-5 times worse than outdoor air quality. Given that most of us spend 90% of our time indoors, improving your building’s indoor air quality can significantly affect employee and customer health, comfort and productivity, sometimes increasing cognitive ability by 101%!
So what can you do to improve the indoor air quality in your building?
1. Do a little spring cleaning
It seems obvious, but dust is a major culprit for poor indoor air quality. It’s a common source for allergens and it tends to build up quickly in offices. Even in buildings that are regularly maintained, you might not be catching the dust gathering in places like computer vents or beneath furniture. Carpets are an often overlooked culprit that can harbor dust and allergens. By using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, you can make sure dust isn’t getting blown back out the exhaust. For hard surfaces, microfiber mops can pick up what vacuuming leaves behind.
2. Check the air filters
When’s the last time your air filters were changed? Unlike home air filters, it’s recommended that office air filters be checked and replaced every 2 months. For industrial facilities, filters should be replaced even more frequently. Dirty air filters recycle dust and VOCs into the air over and over. Changing them is a quick way to help boost your indoor air quality.
Need some help in this category? Check out our WELL Building Standard - Indoor Air Quality Factors blog!
3. Install IAQ sensors
You already have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors (we hope). But what are you doing to protect employees from potentially dangerous indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality is measured by the concentrations of matter like CO2, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air — many of which are carcinogens at high concentrations. Even in low concentrations can cause symptoms like respiratory infections, eye irritation, breathlessness and more. Printers and photocopiers often emit VOCs. Office furniture, carpets or even wallpaper can also be to blame. Further, facility maintenance issues, HVAC malfunctions, and improper cleaning can all contribute to poor indoor air quality.
Indoor air quality sensors can be integrated into a building’s HVAC system to help alert the system to increase ventilation when IAQ levels are unhealthy. Some sensors only measure CO2 levels – others (like our brand new Smart Stat) can measure everything from CO2 to VOCs, temperature, humidity, light, occupancy, and even sound. Phew!
4. Check your sources
When making renovations, facility managers need to make sure they’re selecting low-VOC paints, flooring, and furniture. HVAC systems need to be regularly cleaned and maintained – but you should also be keeping an eye out for culprits like water-stained ceiling tiles, which can become sources of mold and must be quickly replaced. Building maintenance crews should be using environmentally-friendly cleaning products to help lower the use of VOCs.
5. Keep an eye an the humidity
Biological pollutants and contaminants, like mold, are more conducive to grow in conditions with higher temperatures, moisture levels and relative humidity levels. You can lower humidity levels with options like dehumidifiers, or with modern HVAC technology.
If all else fails, your HVAC system might not be up to code. Many systems are not operated or maintained to ensure building ventilation rates are being met. The good news is, even older HVAC systems can be retrofitted to help boost ventilation and optimize the usage of fresh outside air.
Improving indoor air quality can go a long way towards making employees feel comfortable, healthy and productive – so it makes sense to investigate. Start paying attention to your building's IAQ, and start breathing easier.
Interested in how 75F's automated building control solutions can improve your indoor air quality, increase your commercial property value and cut your operating expenses? Download the Smart Buildings Boost Portfolio Value eBook to learn more!