People understandably want to work in an environment where they feel healthy and safe. Although access to clean water, comfortable lighting, and breathable indoor air quality are some of the key elements of a good workplace environment and are what every employee needs, these factors are often overlooked. Now, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, companies are starting to learn and are giving much greater importance to their workplace’s indoor environmental quality (IEQ).
What is indoor environmental quality?
According to the US Green Building Council or the USGBC, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) involves the conditions inside a built environment. This includes factors such as air quality, lighting, thermal conditions, ergonomics, as well as the effects of these factors on occupant health and quality of life.
So, what lessons have business leaders and their organizations realized about IEQ from the last two years?
Poor air quality can increase COVID risk
Exposure to poor indoor air quality can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a new study published in JAMA Network Open. This adds up to a growing number of studies revealing how air quality plays an important role in the pandemic and the broader health impacts of pollution. The research demonstrated that the exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 in the two days leading up to taking a PCR test was associated with an increased probability of testing positive.
Additionally, employees often work closely with each other inside enclosed and airtight office spaces for a long period of time, which puts them at a greater risk of being infected with the virus. If an unknowingly infected employee talks, coughs, or sneezes, the droplets containing the virus can stay in the indoor air or on surfaces, which can be touched or inhaled by co-workers. Employees who get infected can become carriers of the virus and eventually spread it to the entire business organization.
Indoor environmental quality is more than just aesthetics
A better work environment isn’t just about the color, design and decorations,that will help improve the mental wellness of employees, it’s also about how the entire indoor environment is designed with durability, quality, and safety. Does your office allow privacy? Can you make sure that any chemical or toxic substances are tightly sealed and stored to prevent contamination? Are used food packages, nappies, and other rubbish properly disposed to prevent bad odor from spreading all throughout the workplace?
Continuous air quality monitoring is essential
Pre-COVID, many employees and business leaders only cared about maintaining a comfortable temperature, acoustics, and lighting in the workplace. But as the number of studies exploring the connection between air quality and virus transmission increase, offices are now rushing to improve their IAQ.
Businesses are now starting to adopt IEQ innovations such as indoor air quality monitoring devices. These devices measure the presence and levels of the different factors that affect indoor air – from temperature, humidity, air pressure, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, and more. Having the ability to know what’s exactly in the air can help business leaders and employees customize strategies to improve indoor air quality and prevent negative occurrences associated with indoor air pollution, including virus transmission.