How does air quality affect your productivity? - Elpo
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Elpo / Blue  / Living  / How does air quality affect your productivity?

How does air quality affect your productivity?

You may not think that productivity and productive work are affected by fresh air. Data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that adults spend 87% of their lives indoors (in addition, 6% of the remaining time is in transport). Office staff spend at least 40 hours a week in the office, which reaches 2080 hours per year. Holidays and sick days reduce this to 1980 hours. This is a significant amount of time to spend in a particular indoor environment. Comfort, good well-being, strong health and optimal work capability require a quality environment, including excellent air quality.

The question arises – how to adapt the environment so that it has a good effect on productivity and well-being?

1. Biophilia for your productivity

It is no secret that plants have air-purifying properties that can improve air quality both outdoors and indoors. The American Psychological Association reports that adding plants to the office environment not only increases satisfaction and productivity, but also improves air quality due to the oxygen and moisture they emit. In workplaces where plants are located, the well-being and productivity of employees is improved by 15% and absences due to illness are reduced by 30%.

A Harvard study compared the behavior of 109 people between classic office buildings and so-called “green buildings”. “Green buildings” are those that exceed the ventilation requirements of ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010 and have a low concentration of total volatile organic compounds. A comparison of 10 office buildings in different US cities was undertaken, and it was found that employees in the “green building” office environment had 30% fewer headaches and complaints of respiratory irritation. Employees in “green buildings” performed cognitive skills tasks 27% better. Finally, the quality of their sleep was measured with a specific bracelet, and it was found that it was significantly better for the employees of the “green buildings”. 

In the Green Buildings study, participants themselves assessed that their ability to concentrate had improved. They were more satisfied with the lighting, both daylight and artificial light. They rarely complained of too hot or cold temperatures, too much or too little air movement, too dry or humid air. And no complaints were recorded about the presence of chemicals, tobacco and other odors.


2. Effects of CO2 on cognitive abilities

A study led by Harvard Environmental Health researcher Joseph Allen conducted a better understanding of the potential impact of indoor air and the importance of an environmentally friendly construction strategy.

During the study, the activities of 24 professionals were monitored, who regularly performed work in a simulated office environment. A test was performed at a specific time each day to assess the complexity of decision-making skills. To see how office microclimate factors affect the results of this test, the researchers changed the level of CO2 in the air from 550 ppm to 1,400 ppm (recommended up to 800 ppm) and introduced various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. The test days with lower CO2 and VOC levels mimicked the conditions of a “green building” and the days with higher CO2 and VOC levels mimicked “ordinary office buildings”. The results showed that employees performed cognitive tasks in a quality environment 61% better than in the standard office environment. In addition, doubling the air exchange provided by ventilation increased cognitive performance by more than 100%.

We can conclude that indoor air quality has a huge impact on employee performance as well as on the potentiality of raising company’s gain.

3. Regulate indoor indicators and get better air quality and increase productivity!

Indoor temperature affects air quality, employee well-being and work performance. According to the 2005 book “Maximum temperatures in buildings to avoid heat discomfort”, when the room temperature exceeds the recommended 25° C, work efficiency decreases by about 2% for each degree above this comfort temperature. On the other hand, at temperatures below 19 ° C, the capacity for physical activity decreases rapidly due to the slowing of blood circulation. Comparing the costs between cooling a building and the costs lost in the salaries of employees who are unable to work efficiently in the heat, it is clear that cooling a building is an economically viable option.

Indoors, it is recommended to find suitable arrangements for various tasks and work functions, office layout, which facilitates free interaction of employees. Thermal comfort directly affects satisfaction with the microclimate of the room and the mood of the occupants. Research in recent years has highlighted that staff’s ability to control microclimate indicators themselves makes a major contribution to improving the well-being of the population. These parameters can be controlled, for example, by opening a window and adjusting the mechanical ventilation and air conditioning settings, controlling the temperature, and thus regulating the air flow.


How to increase productivity by improving these indicators:


  • Freedom to adjust the temperature individually ↑3%
  • Optimal ventilation ↑11%
  • Optimal lighting ↑23%
  • Presence of nature ↑18%



Piers MacNaughton, Usha Satish, Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent, Skye Flanigan, Jose Vallarino, Brent Coull, John D. Spengler, Joseph G. Allen, The impact of working in a green certified building on cognitive function and health, Building and Environment, Volume 114, 2017, Pages 178-186.

Allen, Joseph G., Piers MacNaughton, Usha Satish, Suresh Santanam, Jose Vallarino, and John D. Spengler. 2015. “Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments.” Environmental Health Perspectives 124 (6): 805-812.

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