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How Your Indoor Environment Affects Your Productivity

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| 2015 Mar 27 |
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How Your Indoor Environment Affects Your Productivity

We’ve already discussed the effects of indoor environmental conditions like poor air quality on health many times. However, we haven’t yet gone over its other, perhaps less dangerous but equally disruptive, effects on productivity.

The truth is that your performance at work or at school can be affected by environmental factors like temperature, ventilation and air quality. If these standards are not maintained, then we may experience a range of symptoms from mild allergies to headache, fatigue and lack of concentration, a set of symptoms sometimes referred to as Sick Building Syndrome. Whatever you call these reactions, they all typically result in the same thing: less work being done.

Indoor factors that impact productivity

According to extensive research conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a member of national laboratory system of the U.S. Department of Energy, poor indoor environmental conditions lead to decreased productivity as well as the overall discomfort and dissatisfaction of building occupants and visitors.

The following is a brief description of how different environmental conditions influence our productivity at work or at school.

Temperature

Air temperature has been show to affect performance of office tasks. Optimal performance occurs when the air temperature maximizes comfort—for typical U.S. and European offices, this means about 72°F (about 22°C). With each 1°F change in temperature, performance decreased by about 0.4%.

Similarly, the average speed that academic tasks were completed, based on performance monitoring of eight simulated schoolwork tasks, decreased by approximately 1.1% per each 1°F increase in temperature, from 68°F to 77°F. The number of errors in school work was not significantly affected by temperature changes in this temperature range.

Ventilation

The same studies showed that performance of typical office tasks improved as the ventilation rate increased. Likewise, student performance improved by a few per cent as classroom ventilation rates increased up to 20 cfm per student. Increases of ventilation rates up to approximately 15 cfm per student were associated with a higher proportion of students passing standardized reading and math tests.

Ventilate to Prevent Sick Building Syndrome at Work
Ensuring proper ventilation is one of the best ways to improve indoor air quality.

Interestingly enough, better perceived indoor air quality also resulted in improved office productivity, with an approximate 1% increase in task performance for each 10% decrease in the percentage of occupants dissatisfied with indoor air quality.

Indoor air pollutants

When sources of indoor pollutants were removed, the result was a 4% to 16% increase in the performance of certain office tasks, such as the accuracy and speed of typing and call-centre work. Meanwhile, other tasks, such as proof-reading and creative thinking, were not significantly affected.

The Solution

Now the good news. A Danish study found that productivity can be improved by as much as 10% if measures are put in place to ensure a healthy indoor environment. On top of that, the economic benefits resulting from the increase in work performance often surpasses the cost of improving the indoor environmental conditions.

Even more encouraging, the solution seems to be relatively simple and common sense:

  1. 1. Eliminate sources of indoor air pollutants like carpets, cleaners, glues, mold, dust and allergens; and
  2. 2. Ventilate to remove pollutants, odours and moisture from the air. At the very least, open windows and doors regularly to expel stale air and let in fresh, clean air.

Don’t wait to start creating a healthier, more comfortable and more productive indoor environment. Contact Mold Busters to find out about our air quality testing services and ventilation options for office buildings.