The Air in Your Office Affects Your Productivity More Than You Realize

We all know that too much carbon dioxide is a bad thing. It leads to global warming, climate change, weird weather, etc. (It’s why world leaders from all over the globe were in Paris for climate talks over the last couple of weeks.) But, scientists are now worried about a different way CO2 affects us, and it hits much closer to home: too much of it in the office can negatively impact your productivity and job performance.

When is the last time you thought about the quality of the air you breathe at work all day? Have you ever? You probably spend a good deal of time and or money on keeping the rest of the office clean, but the air? Not a second thought. Well, results of a recent study covered in the Washington Post suggests we probably should be paying more attention to our indoor air quality because it has an effect on our productivity.

In the study, scientists from Harvard got a group of people to agree to work in a controlled environment for 6 days. It was designed to mimic a normal office exactly, with everything they needed to perform their jobs. The only difference was the air quality could be manipulated, from great — like that of a certified green building — to poor. They did this by varying the levels of several volatile compounds commonly found in our indoor air: carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, benzaldehyde, and acetaldehyde (note: you can’t ever eliminate these gases completely, the goal of green building design is to keep the levels of these compounds very low).

On two of the six days, the building was set to “green” status, and on the other 4 the gas levels were set to that of a non-green building. During the study, every day at 3pm, the test subjects were given a “management simulation exercise” designed to make them solve a tough problem. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that cognitive function was anywhere from 15% to 50% lower on the non-green days.

This study was designed to reflect indoor office environments in which large numbers of the population work every day. These exposures should be investigated in other indoor environments, such as homes, schools, and airplanes, where [declines] in cognitive function and decision-making could have significant impacts on productivity, learning, and safety.

We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, yet we often ignore indoor environmental quality as an important public health issue.

Want to Breathe Easier?

A clean office is a productive office, and that extends even to the air we breathe. At Office Essentials, we are committed to helping you run the cleanest, most productive office possible, from cleaning products to air purifiers. If you would like more information, please contact Rich Radil, our Facilities & Breakroom Product Manager, he’ll be happy to consult with you.