To ensure a healthy workspace, an organization must take concrete steps to improve its indoor air quality. The current pandemic has forced us to spend a significant portion of our time indoors. Recent research shows that pollutant quantities indoors can be two to five times more than outside. Pollutants, including airborne particles, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and combustion by-products, can worsen the air quality. This can cause headaches, nausea, respiratory irritation, asthma, reduced productivity levels, etc.
What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Major factors affecting indoor air quality include:
- Poor ventilation
- Improperly maintained HVAC systems
- High or low humidity
- Recent construction or remodeling
- Mold And Mildew Development
7 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Your Workplace
- Use High-Efficiency Air Filters and Track Their Maintenance:
Outdoor air pollution can adversely impact indoor air quality. High-efficiency filters can remove particulate matter and reduce the spread of airborne viruses. These filters installed in your ventilation system must have a minimal Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 to catch airborne viruses, as per the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidelines. Additionally, to ensure peak performance of the air filtration system, regularly service it and keep accurate maintenance records.
Using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fans or filtration systems can also improve air quality. An easy way to increase outdoor air circulation in your workspace is by using fans and opening windows and doors whenever possible.
- Isolate Indoor Air Pollutant Sources:
The typical workplace has several internal sources of air pollution. For example, rooms containing printers and copiers might emit ozone, resulting in respiratory diseases. Bathrooms are the ideal spots for mold and mildew infestations. Mold spores and toxins can cause various types of allergies and asthma. Even closets containing cleaning products might emit toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). To improve indoor air quality, isolate these spaces from the remaining office space and ensure that your ventilation system functions properly.
- Avoid Harsh Cleaning Products:
Following the current COVID-19 protocol requires frequent and extensive cleaning schedules for high-touch surfaces. However, many cleaning agents contain toxic substances that can lower air quality and cause reactions like eye, nose, and skin irritation.
To effectively sanitize your workspace without damaging air quality:
- Use non-toxic, hypoallergenic cleaning products certified by the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA)
- Create a cleaning schedule that ensures minimal exposure of your employees to toxic chemicals
- Use sensors to adjust your cleaning schedule according to your requirements
- Avoid mixing household bleach or disinfectants with other cleaners or disinfectants as doing so can produce toxic vapors
- Limit Your Intake of Second-Hand Smoke:
Each adult releases about 70 known carcinogens while smoking. Even if smoking is prohibited on your premises, your workforce might still be vulnerable to second-hand smoke. To prevent this and to improve the indoor air quality of your workplace, ensure that the employees do not smoke within 25 feet from all entrances, air intakes, and windows. Ensure that they smoke only in designated smoking zones instead of building spaces, like rooftops, balconies, etc.
- Monitor CO2 levels
Particulate matter and VOCs can be produced even during daily activities like cleaning and building operations. This can corrupt indoor air quality. Unlike most other pollutants, carbon dioxide levels can be easily identified and used to estimate other indoor air contaminants. According to recommendations made by WELL Building Standard, your ventilation system must ensure that carbon dioxide levels are less than 800 ppm for all areas spanning over 500 sq ft with an occupant density of more than 25 people per 1,000 sq ft.
- Manage High Touch and High Population Areas
The following measures can help you manage common areas and high touch surfaces:
- Reduce workers in areas with low outdoor ventilation
- To deactivate airborne virus in the floors above common occupied spaces, use ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI)
- Use transparent shields or similar physical barriers to segregate employees and visitors if social distancing is not feasible
- Segregate and mark chairs and standing areas that can be used in common areas and space them properly to ensure social distancing
- Ensure exhausts are functional in all common areas, especially restrooms
- Stagger shifts, meetings, and break times to reduce the number of employees assembling in common areas like break rooms, conference halls, and parking lots
- Build Easy to Clean Workplaces
Commonly used surfaces like floors, tabletops, doorknobs, and light switches can be infested with germs, including bacteria and viruses, dirt, and toxic chemicals for long periods. It is best to design these places to be easy to clean and sanitize. Some methods to do so include:
- Opting for laminate flooring or luxury vinyl tiles instead of wall-to-wall carpeting in offices.
- Effectively sealing the seams between windows and floors and countertops and walls reduce hiding places for germs.
- Replace old and redundant furniture with new ones that can be easily cleaned and sanitized
- Avoid installing any resources that cannot be effortlessly shifted for monthly or quarterly cleaning.
- Have a proper system of marking places that are sanitized or are free to be used by employees, especially if you are using flexible workspaces.
Follow these ways to maintain and improve the indoor air quality of your workplace during COVID-19. If you are looking for an effective office space management system, look no further than QuickFMS. Our cloud-based space management software can be seamlessly integrated with any ERP, HR, or CRM system to allow you greater control over your physical workspaces. Use our space management tool to analyze your workspace on a real-time basis and optimize your floor plans for greater productivity.
Amit Prasad is the founder and managing director of SatNav Technologies and has business interests in a wide range of IT products. SatNav Technologies is an IT products company focusing on cloud based map data products and a pioneer in GPS, FMS & LBS Technologies. The product suite includes SatTracx in-the-field location based solutions and A-mantra in-the-office facilities management solutions. QuickFMS from a-mantra is a cloud based facility management system which enhances organization’s efficiency.