Leading the way in designing healthier spaces and safer environments to protect people and enhance lives, we are always seeking new opportunities to learn and grow our expertise. Our 2018 study on the significance of the office environment in overall job satisfaction revealed some important statistics and prompted further thought on a key element of the office environment - air quality. Ambius conducted a study of 1,000 office workers in the United States and 500 in Canada to gain valuable insights about the impact of air quality on employee well-being and productivity. The results were quite staggering. Learn more about the survey below.
If you've ever experienced a headache or trouble breathing at work, have you considered it may be because of the air quality in your office?
Ambius conducted a survey1 to reveal that almost half of workers in the US have taken a day off because the quality of the air in their office had made them ill. This is compared to just 8% of workers in Canada. Poor air quality can cause headaches, dizziness, dry throat, congestion and can increase the risk of spreading bacteria and viruses such as the coronavirus.
While these stats show a large disparity between the two North American countries, the inability to concentrate due to air conditions was more universal. Almost three-quarters of workers from both US and Canada reported that bad air quality disrupted their focus.
Employers may not always consider air quality as a direct cause of employee absence, but these stats reveal that by not considering this factor, it's not only costing them business, but their workforce is suffering because of it.
The top three air quality issues reported by workers in the survey were poor air circulation, excessive dust, and the smell of chemicals.
These conditions are entirely preventable and can be altered by reviewing key elements of your building such as maintenance programs; natural lighting and air quality monitors; HVAC systems and portable air cleaners. One improvement that impacts people's perceptions is indoor plants. Plants, especially green walls, have some ability to remove pollutants from the air. They also reduce carbon dioxide in the air, which can positively impact fatigue, concentration and productivity. The benefits of plants on physical health are clear, but their impact on psychological comfort and well-being are often even more powerful. They've also been revered for their impact on mental health, too, as it's been found that being among plants reduces stress - a key advantage for office environments especially.
The lack of indoor plants in offices was actually noted by our respondents as having an impact on their workplace, with nearly a third of workers in both the US and Canada listing it as an issue. This indicates that workers understand the benefits indoor plants can have and they also notice air quality more than their employers might think over 80% of workers in Canada and over 90% in the US admitted to paying attention to the air quality in their office.
With recent concerns around the spread of coronavirus – especially through the air – one step to take is to improve air quality with high performance, free-standing air purifiers. Air filtration is recognized by experts as an essential part of a comprehensive hygiene strategy. The strongest line of defense is a filtered HVAC system and air purifiers for ‘local’ air – filtering what is generated in the environment.
It's important to take due consideration to the clean air delivery rate and to the MERV rating of your filters. Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERVs) measure a filter’s ability to trap airborne particles of a certain size (0.3-10 microns). Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommend high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that remove 99.97% of all airborne particles. The higher the MERV rating the better the filter is at trapping specific types of particles, and HEPA filters are positioned at the top of the scale. Our air purification units utilize HEPA-13 filters, offering medical grade protection and optimal air filtration, keeping office workers safe and healthy.
Survey respondents place the onus of air quality squarely on the showers of employers. Four out of five respondents in both countries agreed that it is important for employers to take the initiative to improve air quality in offices, however, over a third of Canadian and over a quarter of US office workers are unaware if they are doing so.
Improving the air quality should be a priority for employers for two main reasons. Firstly, the sicknesses being contracted are usually as a result of prolonged exposure to elements from poor air quality. Over half (56%) of workers in Canada and almost a third (32%) of workers in the US spend over 8 hours in the office a day.
Secondly, with increasing outdoor air quality concerns due to pollution and climate change, workers are spending more and more time indoors. Two out of three workers in the US have chosen to have their lunch inside due to the air pollution surrounding their office. Creating a pleasant, healthy environment for workers may help to improve worker health when outdoor time becomes increasingly less viable.
No employee should need to actively avoid their workplace because of poor ventilation, stagnant air, exposure to germs, or smells affecting their focus. Office design should produce a space where employees can work comfortably to produce the best possible work. Biophilic spaces are designed to do just that.
Keeping the air clean and healthy in a modern office environment requires many factors working together. Whether grouped with interior planting or large green wall installations, plants are an important part of the mix. By adding portable, HEPA filtration units to help enhance air cleaning strategically placed alongside biophilic design elements, the overall well-being of office workers is impacted for the better.
"With workers spending so much time indoors, it is imperative that businesses are aware of ways to create indoor environments that can positively impact the health and well-being of employees – and that includes air quality," said Kenneth Freeman, head of innovation at Ambius. "Bringing elements of nature into the workplace has positive effects on performance, including increases in productivity, job satisfaction, creativity, and a greater sense of well-being."
Ambius takes a consultative approach to design, install, and service consistently superior experiences. Our experts and service professionals set us apart, delivering leading innovations and the highest levels of consistent service and guidance. They will make sure you have the right plants to thrive in your space no matter the conditions. Green walls and vertical gardens can enliven the air with a distinguished freshness while making a dramatic statement. When paired with high-performance air purification units strategically located for maximum risk removal and optimal performance, your office space will be well equipped to provide employees the clean air they’ve come to expect.
With our Air Hygiene service, your office can reap the rewards of our highly-efficient air purification systems:
Need help improving your indoor air quality? Speak to an Ambius expert today to schedule a free consultation.
Need help creating a better office experience? Contact Ambius online today to schedule a free consultation with a design expert to bring your visions to life.
1 Ambius surveyed 1000 office workers in the US and 500 office workers in Canada
Ambius is a certified specifier, installer, and service provider for multiple green wall systems