Indoor Air Quality in the Workplace: How to Improve It


We live in a very polluted world. It’s sad but true. Every single day, our news outlets are filled with garbage-strewn beaches, animals being found with plastic tabs stuck on them, even our feed is polluted with fake news! 

The Problem with Air Pollution

We believe, though, that one of the most dangerous types of pollution is the one that we can’t even keep from entering our body. Air pollution. The smog in our cities is simply horrible!

But do you know what’s worse than outdoor air pollutionOpens in a new tab.? That’s indoor air pollution. That’s what happens when indoor air gets stale and dirty due to poor ventilation. This is especially true in establishments that don’t open their windows often to get fresh air in like offices. What’s worse is that it can cause serious harm to employees’ health.

A Health Risk to You and Your Employees

But what kind of risks are we talking about? Well, the first sign that your office has poor indoor quality is when people start feeling sick whenever they’re at work. This can easily get mistaken for other health issues or stress, but what’s unique about health issues brought about by indoor air pollution is that the symptoms go away the moment they leave the office. 

Here are just some of the most common symptoms:

  • Headache
  •  Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Colds
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Allergies  
  • And more.

What’s worse is that these symptoms can quickly turn into a case of air poisoning and more severe health complications like asthma and other respiratory problems. The World Health OrganizationOpens in a new tab. itself has deemed certain indoor air pollutants as carcinogens, or components that can cause cancer. 

This is the reason why the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (or OSHA) now requires a written compliance program that lays down the details of the employer’s preventive maintenance steps, the procedures that they plan to do in case of air contamination, and more. Speaking of air contamination, what causes poor air quality, anyway?

What Causes Poor Air Quality?

Poor air quality is primarily caused by particles that would otherwise have been blown away if they were released in the open air. The most common of these particles is dust that has been collected for a long timeOpens in a new tab.. However, to be more precise, here are the three major types of air contaminants:

Biological Contaminants

These are the contaminants caused by living microorganisms like fungi, viruses, or bacteria. Pollutants that come from pets and plants like animal hair, dander, and pollen also fall within this category.

Chemical Contaminants

This is another major air pollution contaminant, and they usually come from gases and vapors. Combustion by-products such as the components that burn away with tobacco whenever you smoke fall within this category along with accidental spills of cleaning supplies and strong perfume. Toxic chemicals like lead and mercury that might be present in the air due to their presence in commonly used office supplies and equipment are also counted as chemical contaminants.

Particle Contaminants

Finally, there are small particles present in the air that have been chipped off from solid material like wood shavings, concrete dust, and asbestos—tiny particles that are usually caused by construction projects that can easily be inhaled without proper protective gear. 

Yes, there truly are a lot of pollutants that can mess up your office’s indoor air quality. What’s worse is that they can be impossible to detect since most of them are not entirely obvious. Some pollutants can even be odorless!

In the end, if you suspect that your office is dipping below the required standards of air safety, then there is only one thing to do next: get it checked. 

How to Detect Possible Indoor Air Quality Issues (and Get Rid of Them!)

You can do so by air testing. There are then two ways to go about this:

  •  By calling in the pros. The first and easiest way is to get your air tested by certified professionals. We understand that getting your air tested professionally can be quite expensive, but it is undoubtedly worth the peace of mind and convenience it brings. 
  •  By doing it yourself. For those of you who are thinking if there’s a DIY alternative, then you’ll be pleased to learn that there are home testing kits that you can order online. A home kit will provide you with detailed instructions on how to get proper air samples that you can then send back to a lab for testing. You will probably be required to wait for a few days up to a few weeks before you get your results, though, but the cost is less. 

Once you’ve discovered that your office has poor air qualityOpens in a new tab., however…what now? Well, you get it cleaned. We recommend getting a professional air cleaning company to handle the case to make sure that your air gets decontaminated properly.

Depending on the case, your office might be required to take a few days off during the operation or have a certain area sealed to make sure that there wouldn’t be any cross-contamination between rooms.

After the procedure, your office’s air quality will then be tested again as a safety protocol. To make sure that the procedure was successful and that your air quality is stellar once again. The cleaning team would then give you some tips on how to maintain your great air quality, as well as install various air filtration systems. 

How to Improve Your Workplace Indoor Air Quality

If they didn’t provide you with tips, then allow us. Here are tried-and-tested ways that you can follow to improve the quality of your office’s indoor air:

  •  Improve air ventilation. The first thing that you can do is to allow the stale air out and the fresh air in by opening up your air vents and keeping them unblocked. Just the simple act of opening windows every once in a while can already help a lot. 
  •    Level up your air filtration game. Replace all air filters immediately and regularly from now on. Installing commercial-grade air systems, like air scrubbersOpens in a new tab. or air purifiers, in your office and learning how to use them yourself will save you a lot of money instead of regularly hiring professional air cleaners.
  • Get some indoor plants. Don’t just rely on machines and electronic devices to clean your air. You can get help straight from Mother Nature as well, by getting indoor plants to absorb stale air and produce a fresh one. Plus, just having all that greenery there certainly helps freshen up any space. 
  •   Prohibit smoking within office grounds. This includes areas where windows are open or where air vents might be present. To make sure that their location is all-clear, you should proactively set designated smoking and vaping area yourself. We understand that some employees might not appreciate their employers making walk far just to smoke, but hey, it’s the entire office’s health we’re talking about here—and that includes theirs as well.
  • Getting over body odor. You might not consider body odor as an air pollutant, but it is. It is a type of biological contaminant. And we’re not just talking about the smell of sweat after an intensive workout either. Did you know that strong perfumes can easily decrease the air quality of the office as well? Hence, we recommend issuing an office-wide memo that discourages employees to use strong perfumes or body lotions while they’re in the office. They are welcome to wear whatever scent they want after office hours. As for the post-workout musk, a shower room that’s open for all employees to use anytime can help significantly. You’ll be surprised. 
  •  Deal with weird odors immediately. Finally, you must come up with a plan with your maintenance crew on how to deal with bad odors in the workplaceOpens in a new tab.. A solid way to do that is by simply keeping the office clean all day and dealing with spills immediately. In fact, we recommend you to go the extra mile and schedule regular air testing and cleaning session every few months just to make sure. 

And that’s it! By keeping the tips we have shared with you in mind, we’re sure that you will be able to improve the air quality in your workspace in no time.

Conclusion 

It is easy to think that poor indoor air quality is not an issue that requires immediate attention, especially since it can cost quite a bit. However, it plays a huge role in your employees’ health and happiness. Believe us when we tell you that healthy and happy employees don’t just produce better quality work, but they also get more productive too! 

We have underestimated the significance of air quality before. This is the reason why we are very passionate about this issue and want to write and share our experiences and knowledge with other people as much as possible. Be the employer that puts a priority on health. Consider this as an investment to help your business to move forward. Good luck!

Author’s bio: Megan Jones is an author who works with b-air.comOpens in a new tab.. She mostly writes about camping and healthy living, interior and exterior maintenance, and related topics. Having a huge experience in renovating and remodeling, Megan has gained some valuable knowledge, which she is now actively promoting.

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