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Do you know how clean your office air is?

Did you know that only 26% of office decision makers are currently committed to monitoring IAQ in the workplace? And that over 80% of employees believe that IAQ monitoring should be mandatory?

That’s a pretty sizable difference, and potentially a big problem for organisations who don’t take monitoring seriously. Especially as research from Fellowes suggested that only 29% of office workers believe the air in their office is very clean!

But why is this the case?

When decision makers were asked (in our latest research) what the top three challenges to creating and maintaining a healthy office space were, they answered: Cost, lack of knowledge and understanding, and the current limitations of their building space.

With research showing the tangible benefits of good indoor air and transparency in the quality of our workplaces key factors in bringing employees back to the office, there’s a clamour for organisations to get on top of the issues.

With this in mind we’ve put together some advice which will help you navigate some of the typical challenges we’ve seen within organisations and provide some practical examples of how understanding how clean your office air is can lead to tangible benefits for you and your team.

Do organisations put profit over the health and demands of their employees?

71% of decision makers indicated that cost was one of their top challenges when it came to creating and maintaining a healthy office space.

When you pair this with the fact multiple pieces of research suggest that a clean and healthy workplace is at the top of the priorities list for employees it indicates a disconnect between what decision makers are prioritising and what employees truly demand from their workplace. There could also be an underestimation on the importance employees place on clean air within their workplace.

Whilst this may seem daunting there a lots of different ways in which you can tackle these issues in a sustainable way.

Simplify your IAQ monitoring

At AirRated we always advocate for continuous monitoring of IAQ within a space, it helps you understand how your indoor environment performs over time and in relation to different weather conditions, outdoor pollution events and even operational behaviour within your building.

This can sometimes be a barrier to creating a healthy space, as sourcing and installing sensors throughout the space can be a high capital expenditure (CAPEX). Costs will typically vary depending on the size of your space, especially for good quality sensors that provide reliable and robust data. Sourcing good sensors is always worth it in the long run as the data is far more reliable and the sensors themselves typically last longer and need replacing far less frequently. 

Some organisations also factor in the associated costs of a smart building system when considering IAQ monitoring within their space. There are many benefits to this in terms of bringing all your building data together into one single place and understanding other key bits of building information such as occupancy and energy usage. However, if cost is a challenge for you, proprietary software from commonly used IAQ sensor manufacturers such as Airthings, Awair and Kaiterra is a great place to start.

You will be able to collect data and visualise it as well as get initial indications on the performance of your space at a lower price point.

In the long run we recommend investing in a holistic smart building platform that will give you much more actionable data, especially when you pair IAQ data with occupancy and energy data sets to better understand how they all affect each other in the operation of your building.

Consider help from industry experts

Another way to potentially reduce cost consider undertaking certification or opting for an air quality survey, where you could lease sensors and undertake an IAQ monitoring period to understand how your building “typically” performs. 

This is something that we offer at AirRated: as part of our AirScore certification, we deploy sensors for a three-week period, analyse the data and provide you with a score and benchmark your building against best practices that you can easily and simply communicate to employees.

As a specialist certification body we can certify your space at a much lower cost than other, more holistic certifications, whilst providing you with robust data and insights into the IAQ performance of your workplace.

If you already have your own IAQ sensors deployed, data can also be taken from those devices to be used towards certification too and remove the need to pay for leasing sensors as well.

Consider real estate with existing IAQ monitoring or healthy building certifications

Another solution to consider is finding an alternative property if you’re considering extending your current lease or finding a new workplace to meet your current demands for commercial real estate. It’s worth prioritising commercial spaces with existing building certifications or partnering with a landlord who’s committed to working with you to create and maintain a healthy workplace. This can in some cases be a less CAPEX intensive way to meet the needs of your employees.

Design your space with IAQ in mind

If the current limitations with your office space is a barrier to creating a healthy workspace and you’re looking to either redesign or refurbish a space, it may also be worth considering getting a design certification such as AirRated’s AirScore D&O, which provides an independent verification and assessment of your proposed design specification so you can plan your space with indoor air quality in mind.

The ROI of clean air

It’s all well and good finding more cost effective ways to monitor your IAQ and create a healthier environment, but does it actually lead to any returns?

There’s multiple ways in which clean air manifests itself in terms of return on investment (ROI). 

The first is in keeping and retaining your staff. 69% of employees in AirRated’s recent survey would be less likely to come to the office or even choose to work for an organisation if they weren’t transparent about their indoor air quality.

91% of office workers surveyed by Fellowes agreed that clean air should be a right for all employees, indicating that the issue of air quality could be a increasingly important factor when current and prospective employees are making decisions about their careers and employment.

Issues related to retaining employees could alo be impacting office attendance and utilisation of office space costing you money in inefficient energy usage and empty desk space. To put that into perspective a single desk in London has an annual operational expense of £13,303!

Academic studies also show how clean air leads to productivity gains and how they often far outweigh the additional associated costs of optimising ventilation.

Results from the COGfx Global Buildings study in 2017 showed that occupants’ cognitive function test scores doubled in good indoor air environments. 

The cost of running better ventilation systems to heighten employee performance came in at $14–40 per person per year, while the estimated ROI (in improved productivity in faster response times and increased accuracy), was measured at between $6,500 and $7,500 per person per year. Not only that, senior managers made better decisions when in healthier air environments.

Poor air quality can also lead to health issues for building occupants, thus increasing absenteeism. In the UK the average amount of days lost in 2022 was 5.7 per employee, with a sharp increase post-COVID. CIPD research from 2016 placed the cost of absence per employee per year at over £500, this is likely to have increased since then.

Getting the right advice and support

When we asked employees who were most responsible for ensuring good air quality within their workplace, nearly half of respondents suggested that business decision makers were most responsible, higher than any other stakeholder.

But where do decision makers turn for help?

Typically, decision makers for occupiers either turn to industry specialists (such as AirRated) or to their landlord/property manager. It’s worth discussing your options with your landlord in the first instance as they also have a vested interest in providing you with services to meet your demands, and can often help you offset the costs of deploying sensors, improving ventilation or achieving certification.

On the other hand, seeking advice from industry specialists and experts can also help you make better, more informed decisions, as well as help you understand the business case for your organisation.

Air quality can be a daunting challenge to overcome and with numerous acronyms and different parameters and data to understand, speaking with specialists who can translate the complex into simple, easy to understand information that can be valuable in taking the necessary steps to making your workplace safe, healthy and productive.

The solutions for managing air quality are not always the same for every workplace either. With varying factors going into ensuring good air quality, getting support in understanding how your workplace performs and the factors that impact IAQ will allow you to make effective and efficient decisions that improve the health of your working environment, whether you are designing a new workplace or optimising an existing one.

Looking for support?

If you’re considering what you can do about your indoor air quality, or not sure whether it’s worth putting focus into IAQ, you can book a free ‘no-obligation’ consultation with one of our workplace consultants via the form below.