The push for cleaner indoor air in our workplaces has been led by public health researchers, national associations and the White House, which have all recognized the role employers, contractors and consultants can play in designing and improving workplaces for better indoor air quality (IAQ).
In observance of International Day of Clean Air on Sept. 7, Fellowes Brands sought the opinions of another group: employees who share the same air at work and also share many of the same concerns about IAQ’s effects on their health and work performance.
Americans spend 90% of their time indoors on average, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. Indoor concentrations of some pollutants are often two-to-five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations, making cleaner indoor air an important focus for businesses on International Day of Clean Air.
Fellowes Brands’ survey of 1,120 American workers who work on-site and indoors for their employer covered topics ranging from employees’ evaluations of their workplaces’ IAQ, their perceptions of their employers’ action toward improving IAQ, their specific health concerns surrounding IAQ at work and their belief in clean indoor air as a right for all employees.
Finding #1 – Only about 1 in 3 respondents called their workplace air “very clean.”
Just 36% of survey respondents described the quality of the indoor air at their workplace as “very clean,” despite 60% saying their employer is taking the necessary steps to provide clean indoor air in their workplace.
The disconnect between these two data points may indicate a need for additional education among employees to better understand and advocate for the specific IAQ improvement strategies that have been proven to work against viruses, bacteria, pollutants, allergens and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Very clean air is an attainable goal for all workplaces, with the right plan that includes air purification, HVAC improvements and better ventilation.
Finding #2 – The majority of respondents are concerned about the health consequences of poor IAQ.
COVID-19 and its variants remain top of mind for American workers, with 73% of respondents saying they were at least somewhat concerned about contracting the virus as a consequence of poor IAQ at work.
The majority of survey respondents also reported being at least somewhat concerned about the following additional consequences of poor IAQ in the workplace:
- Allergy symptoms: 71%
- Viruses other than COVID-19: 68%
- Headaches: 66%
- Fatigue: 65%
The onset of COVID-19 in 2020 increased public awareness of IAQ, a workplace health and safety issue that cannot be seen but has always been present. The importance of IAQ was elevated further during the last year, as employers that operated fully remote at the onset of the pandemic began to roll out hybrid work models that brought more people together to work in person, breathing the same air.
These results indicate that COVID-19 and its variants remain the top concern, but it’s clear that employees recognize the breadth of health concerns associated with poor IAQ.
Finding #3 – Employees think they’ll be more productive with clean indoor air, and they believe it should be a workplace right.
91% of respondents agree that clean indoor air helps them perform their best at work, while 88% believe clean indoor air should be a right for all employees. Their instincts are right.
Cleaner indoor air is also linked to increased cognition and productivity, according to research led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Most important for employers, these data points represent the partnership employees expect with their employers. Employees expect clean air at work and believe it should be a right, but in return, they expect to deliver the best possible work and results for their employers.
The Solution – Improved IAQ through Air Purification
Air purification is one of the four key components of cleaner indoor air, according to a recent Lancet COVID-19 Commission report, and it is one of the most effective and fastest-to-install defenses against COVID-19 and other viruses that can quickly spread through workplaces.
Fellowes AeraMax Pro air purifiers have helped businesses provide safe and clean indoor environments for more than a decade, using a unique four-stage True HEPA filtration system that efficiently removes airborne contaminants from enclosed spaces.
Indoor air purification with H13 True HEPA filters can remove 99.95% of viruses, bacteria, pollutants, allergens and VOCs that lead to poor IAQ and the associated health risks. Improved IAQ also lowers risk of stroke, lung cancer, respiratory disease and other health concerns.
Fellowes AeraMax Pro units are always working to improve IAQ, deploying an array of patented EnviroSmart™ self-regulating sensors, which automatically monitor a room to provide on demand air purification.
It’s also important to provide transparency that air purifiers are working. Only Fellowes AeraMax Pro air purifiers feature Pureview™, a display that shows real-time updates on air quality and machine performance, providing occupants peace of mind that the air is clean.
The Bottom Line
American workers understand the health risks of poor IAQ and the benefits of working in very clean air, based on these survey results. Employers that invest in improving their IAQ with air purification will reap rewards with a healthier, happier and more productive workforce at a time of great competition for the best talent.