We spend up to 90% of our time indoors. And yet indoor air is often an overlooked environmental factor. However, employers would be able to benefit significantly from paying a bit more attention to what their employees are breathing in.
According to a study from the international World Green Building Council organisation, productivity can increase by a full 11% if air quality in the workplace is improved, for example, by reducing carbon dioxide content. British research has shown that simply adding plants to the office environment can increase productivity by up to 15%. Employees become more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work. Conversely, too low a content of carbon dioxide can produce symptoms such as tiredness, headaches and irritation to the eyes.
However, in recent days a report was published that is even more urgent. The report is from the British Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which claims that up to 99,000 people a year in Europe die due to air pollution at home and at work. According to the doctors behind the report, one reason that the figure is increasing is that we are getting better at sealing our buildings, with the result that particles, gases and chemicals, from cleaning products for example, remain in the air and cause damage. Some examples of the life-threatening effects of air pollution are miscarriages and foetal deformities, as well as increased risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer.
The report is a message for authorities in particular to start taking indoor air as seriously as outdoor air. However, in the meantime, it might be worthwhile checking over the ventilation in your workplace. And perhaps introducing a plant or two.