Employee wellness programs have long been growing in popularity, having become almost standard for larger corporations. According to Zippia, 83% of companies with 200 or more employees offer wellness programs and benefits such as free gym memberships, rewards, incentives and more.
While they’re a great perk for employees, these wellness programs tend to focus on surface-level benefits and don’t take steps to address deeper, more holistic well-being for employees.
What is workplace well-being?
Workplace well-being extends beyond corporate wellness programs to address all aspects of worklife, ranging from the quality and safety of a work environment to how employees actually feel about the work they do. Companies incorporate well-being into their corporate structure through programs like flexible scheduling, enhanced return-to-work programs and a physical workplace that puts well-being at its center. Well-being used to be a “nice-to-have” for companies, if it was incorporated at all. Now, accelerated by COVID-19’s impact on the global workforce, employers carry a higher level of responsibility for their employees’ well-being.
Air is vital to well-being
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a critical part of workplace well-being that affects the physical health and performance of employees, but is usually not addressed in corporate wellness programs. Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two-to-five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.
According to a recent survey conducted by Fellowes, only 36% of employees describe the indoor air in their current workplace as “very clean.” Surveyed employees were at least somewhat concerned about contracting COVID-19 (73%), allergy symptoms (71%), contracting other viruses (68%), headaches (66%) and fatigue (65%) due to poor IAQ in their buildings.
A greater focus on well-being, like improving air quality in the workplace, can have immense benefits to employees as well as a company’s bottom line. Research has shown that when organizations support the well-being of their people, they can experience lower turnover and burnout, as well as greater employee engagement. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, cleaner indoor air is linked to increased cognition and productivity—plus, the protection against illness and pollutants can help reduce employee absenteeism.
Prioritizing workplace well-being, including investing in IAQ, can significantly increase a corporation’s stock value over time as well. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine that analyzed stock values for a portfolio of companies that received high scores in a corporate health and wellness self-assessment found that they appreciated by 235%, compared with the S&P 500 Index appreciation of 159% over a six-year simulation period. Making these investments in well-being now, such as a proper IAQ and air purification programs, can have immense financial benefits for an organization down the road.
IAQ can also play a role in an organization’s environment, social and governance (ESG) efforts. Better air quality is closely interwoven within the ESG framework, as it can address environmental factors like climate change and pollution as well as improve employee health. Focusing investment on enhancing your organization’s IAQ is an ideal method to improve employee well-being in a way that also aligns with ESG standards.
Teachers want – and need – IAQ programs
All employees that work indoors can benefit from improved IAQ, but teachers in particular are a group significantly impacted by the quality of the air they breathe at work. Teachers work in high-occupancy classrooms that are often hotspots for the spread of illness, and normally do not have opportunities to be outdoors during the day. Unlike a typical office employee who may be able to work from home when they or their coworkers are sick, teachers and their students suffer greatly from absenteeism, which in turn contributes to learning loss.
With a young population under their care, teachers tend to be more concerned about IAQ than other workers. According to a survey of K-12 educators conducted by Fellowes, 98% of educators believe clean air should be a right for all students and employees, compared to 91% of surveyed office employees.
There is nearly universal agreement among teachers that IAQ is an important part of workplace well-being that must be addressed: 97% of teachers surveyed believe that clean air helps them perform their best work and has a direct impact on how students perform in the classroom. Unfortunately, just 37% of respondents agreed that their school is planning to make IAQ improvements in their classroom, even after the pandemic demonstrated how important clean air is to health and learning. In 2022, the CDC found that fewer than one-third of schools were using portable HEPA filtration systems in classrooms, lunchrooms and other high-risk areas.
Just like businesses see positive impacts on their employees and business success when they incorporate workplace well-being, teachers and their students can benefit from IAQ and other well-being efforts in their classrooms. The EPA reports that better IAQ is linked to higher student productivity, improved test scores and lower absenteeism rates. School boards and districts should consider implementing air purification and other IAQ improvements not only to benefit the health and safety of students, but to also provide a better working environment for their staff that puts well-being first.
To learn more about the air purification solutions that can benefit your organization’s well-being, visit https://www.fellowes.com/us/en/air-purifiers/default.aspx