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The importance of air quality in the workplace.

Air pollution is a major environmental health risk that affects people worldwide. Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a range of health problems, including respiratory diseases, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution is responsible for millions of premature deaths each year. 

Sources of air pollution can include industrial emissions, transportation, energy production, and natural events such as wildfires and dust storms. The composition of air pollution can also vary, with pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and sulfur dioxide being the most common. 

To mitigate the health risks associated with air pollution, efforts are being made to reduce emissions from sources such as vehicles and power plants, as well as promoting the use of cleaner energy sources. Individuals can also take steps to reduce their exposure to air pollution, such as avoiding outdoor exercise during times of high pollution, using air purifiers, and wearing masks when necessary. However, in additional to external outdoor factors, there is also a risk of poor air quality indoors. Individuals can work to mitigate risks of air quality at home, but what is the impact of poor air quality when they are in the workplace? 

Air quality in the workplace is important for several reasons. Firstly, poor air quality can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of employees. Exposure to indoor air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mould, and dust can cause a range of health problems, including headaches, eye irritation, respiratory problems, and allergic reactions. Long-term exposure to indoor air pollution has also been linked to more serious health issues such as lung cancer and heart disease. 

In addition to the health risks, poor air quality in the workplace can also have a negative impact on productivity and performance. Employees who are exposed to indoor air pollution may experience fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can lead to a decrease in work quality and efficiency. 

For over a decade, the Leesman Index has been asking employees of the importance of air quality to them and how they rate their air quality. The results have been drawn from over 840,000 individual surveys and, in consideration of the question “Thinking about the work that you do, which of the following physical features are important and how satisfied are you with them?”. The net result is that 70.2% of employees believe that air quality is important but the satisfaction level of that air quality was down at 39.6%.  

To ensure good air quality in the workplace, it is important to identify and address potential sources of indoor air pollution. This can include regular maintenance of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, proper ventilation, and the use of air purifiers and filters. Employers can also promote healthy indoor air quality practices such as prohibiting smoking indoors, using low-VOC materials, and encouraging employees to report any indoor air quality concerns. 

A SoftBank Robotics study was constructed to explore this further, involving industry-leading sensors from Infogrid and the use of the autonomous vacuum sweeper, Whiz, from SoftBank Robotics. Infogrid Air Quality Sensors were deployed to three sites and readings taken for two weeks, whilst their cleaning teams continued to service the areas according to their normal cleaning schedules and using their normal cleaning equipment. The sensors were installed in a variety of positions across each floor and the floors were chosen for medium traffic throughout the study. Subsequently, Whiz was deployed for a two-week period and normal vacuum cleaning practices were suspended. 

The Infogrid sensors continued to measure the air quality and the results compared. From the number of sensors deployed and the associated frequency of sampling, over 400,000 data points were taken across the study. The variety of change was wide across the entire sensor deployment but all with a positive reduction and the supermajority being in the 50% reduction range. 

Overall, good indoor air quality is crucial for creating a healthy and productive workplace environment. Solutions like Whiz can help employers create great working environments. To find out more about Whiz or download our air quality whitepaper visit: Whiz

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