Are employers doing enough to improve office air quality?

Workers feel their employers are responsible for monitoring and improving office air quality – and are willing to take action when they fall short

Indoor air quality (IAQ) has become something of a talking point in recent years. 

Just this month, in fact, Professor Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer, said monitoring IAQ should become standard practice in public spaces, including offices. 

Covid was, and still is, a huge contributing factor to this conversation. For countless workers, the prospect of emerging from lockdown and heading back to the office – to be surrounded by people for the first time in months – was cause for crippling anxiety. 

Poor air quality has been found to have an impact on cognitive functioning

That's without even considering the growing air pollution being seen across the globe, and the effect this may be having on our physical health and cognitive functioning. 

And it's not as if the power of science hasn't provided us with evidence to back up the latter. 

Back in 2021, researchers at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health discovered the air quality within an office could adversely impact response times and the ability to focus.

Employers would been concerned to hear about potential declines in productivity, too. 

Now, a new study has revealed that expectations among employees themselves in regards to air quality are rapidly changing, while many are increasingly worried about their workplace's carbon footprint. 

Honeywell research shines light on air quality concerns

Honeywell, the American conglomerate corporation, has just published the results of its third annual Healthy Buildings Survey.

Conducted by Wakefield Research, the survey harvested the thoughts of 2,500 workers in the buildings of more than 500 companies in Germany, India, the Middle East, the UK and the US. 

Some of the key findings were as follows:

  • More than two in five (43%) workers are very or extremely worried about their office building's IAQ
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of employees have at least some degree of concern over their workplace's IAQ
  • The vast majority (91%) of workers would give up job perks if they knew the cost would be reinvested in reducing their workplace's environmental impact; 26% would sacrifice part of their salary or bonus for this cause
  • More than a third (38%) of those surveyed feel their employer should prioritise better IAQ and a reduction in their building's carbon footprint

Manish Sharma, Vice President and General Manager of Sustainable Building Technologies at Honeywell, said: "These findings show a considerable percentage of workers want a workplace that offers better indoor air quality and has less of an impact on the environment.

"It's interesting to see that surveyed workers are willing to sacrifice work perks if the costs are reinvested to help the building where they work have less of an impact on the environment.

Manish Sharma, Vice President and General Manager of Sustainable Building Technologies at Honeywell. Picture: LinkedIn

"Building owners, operators and organisations should take notice: occupants who are more aware of the impact a building can have on both their wellbeing and the environment will likely expect change.

"The good news is these goals are not mutually exclusive and ready-now solutions exist to help make this a reality."

Employees recognise IAQ impact – and willing to take action

A huge majority surveyed workers (97%) in the relevant countries said they believe good IAQ improves their productivity, including more than two-thirds (68%) who said it contributes a lot. 

Interestingly, groups who felt strongly about this were employees in the Middle East (80%) and C-suite executives across all regions (84%). 

Almost all employees (99%) were able to pick at least one health-related benefit they felt was boosted by good-quality air, including better overall physical health (59%) and improved mental health (56%).

Most respondents (86%) felt employers were responsible for monitoring and improving IAQ in their offices, and it seems they are more than willing to act when standards fall short. 

Ninety-seven per cent of workers said they would take some form of action if their company made no effort to maintain a healthy environment. 

More than half (57%) would speak to those in management or positions of leadership, 34% would ask to work from home and 21% would even look for another job. 

Read the full report: 2023 Building Occupant Survey


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