air quality impacts productivity and decision making

How dirty air kills your productivity and decision making

Research shows that dirty air kills your productivity and hampers your decision-making. But that’s ok because you’re not working next to a congested highway, flaming incinerator or busy power plant. 

Or are you?

While you might not be working in an area you consider dirty or polluted, that doesn’t mean the air in your office is clean. In fact, far from it. And when research shows the negative air quality impact on productivity, performance, and wellbeing, the air in your office suddenly becomes very important. 

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The air quality in your office

Seemingly everyday objects and activities in your office emit gasses known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

These VOCs float around in the office air and enter the body through your mouth and your skin. In entering your body, they can cause various symptoms, ranging from eye irritation, breathing difficulties and headaches to nausea, fatigue and, in severe cases, organ damage. 

What objects and activities emit VOCs? Well, they can come from cleaning products, air fresheners, cosmetics, pesticides, paint and even office printing. 

How air quality impacts productivity and decision making

Recent research by Harvard University, Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical found VOCs impact how we work, too. 

The study involved 24 managers, architects and designers spending six days in a controlled office space over two weeks. Researchers held everything constant apart from the air quality, which was adjusted to change the level of VOCs and carbon dioxide. 

The results were alarming: negative air quality impact on productivity and other cognitive functions

Breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making performance, productivity and cognitive performance. They estimated that the productivity benefits of doubling ventilation rates were an impressive $6,500 per person per year. 

And that’s not the only study. 

Research from the University of Reading found productivity decreases and stress increases the more dissatisfied workers become about their indoor environment. And this affects overall job satisfaction, which hampers employee retention efforts, too. 


How can you improve office air quality?

If you think this sounds worrying, you’re right. The air quality in your office is not only poor, but it’s impacting productivity, performance, wellbeing and job satisfaction. 

So, how can you improve the air quality impact on performance?

Use fresh air where possible

Natural ventilation increases the air change rate, reducing the number of VOCs. It can also eliminate the need for air fresheners and other VOC-emitting chemicals. Open the windows in the warmer months and let nature do its job. 

Air purifying paint

Air purifying paint absorbs VOCs and CO2 for up to five years. An enhanced active mineral in the paint attracts airborne chemicals and CO2 and then neutralises them. After applying air-purifying paint to your office walls, you can reduce up to 95.1% of indoor pollution within one hour. 

Tip: look for GreenWise Certified paint, which means it’s tested to meet the highest expectations of performance and ingredients. 

Invest in office plants

Office plants don’t just brighten up the place; they also absorb toxins and produce more oxygen. The top easy-to-care-for, air-improving office plants are peace lilies, English Ivy, snake plants, dracaena, and devil’s ivy. Get some pots and start planting!

Replace air filters regularly

Air filters help circulate the air in your office but can become clogged with dust and debris over time. A general rule of thumb is to replace air filters every 6-12 months, but monitor them in case they need replacing sooner. 

Tip: ensure your air vents are open and unblocked too. Boxes, furniture, even handbags can easily obstruct your air vents and prevent air circulation. 

Keep your office clean

Finally, keep your office clear of clutter, dust and rubbish, and clean up any spills immediately. There is a variety of VOC-free, toxic-free, natural cleaning products available that ensure you’re not adding to the problem when trying to solve it. 

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The air quality impact on productivity, performance, and wellbeing is significant, especially in the working environment.
Even the brightest, most modern offices can have poor air quality that affects the work of employees. Luckily, improving your workplace’s air quality is as simple as a lick of paint, the opening of windows, and a little investment in some greenery – turning your office into a productive space for working.