7 ways to improve indoor air quality in the office

By Tom Bosna
B Sci (Phys), IWBI WELL Building Advisory Panel

There is an old saying ‘you are what you breathe’, and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to the air we breathe in the office setting.

For many of us who spend one third of our lives at work, and ninety percent of our time indoors, it is essential to understand the fundamentals of air and how much we consume each day.

In an office setting, we are exposed to an array of contaminants, pollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These tiny particles or contaminants enter our bodies through inhalation.

Humans actually breathe and inhale 15,000 litres of air each day and every day. This equates to individuals inhaling four times more air than food and liquid put together! 

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Indoor air quality helps describe how the air inside a building or office facility affects a person’s health, comfort and ability to work. It has been a contentious matter for businesses and employees because indoor air quality can have a significant effect on the wellbeing and productivity of employees. There are however some simple strategies that employers and employees can utilise to enhance the office indoor air quality.

Like a Breath of Fresh Air

One of the most simple strategies that exist when it comes to improving indoor air quality in the office is simply utilising fresh air. If the office has windows, open them up to allow fresh air to permeate the space. Letting fresh air in not only is great for improving the oxygen levels of the space, but also allows an opportunity for stale air to leave the office. This advice is weather dependent of course, and if working in a larger office, not always possible.

Humidity levels 

In small and large offices, maintaining healthy humidity levels can become challenging in the warmer months. Ideally humidity levels are measured in your office and can be maintained between 30 and 50 percent humidity. This helps keep mould and allergens levels under control. Air conditioners and use of dehumidifiers are the tools required to control humidity in your office.

Check your air vents

Depending on the layout of your office, there is always an opportunity to review and audit the location and health of the office air vents. In some instances, air vents that are located in the flooring can unintentionally be blocked by furniture. These blockages can reduce the amount of air flow into the space and directly affect indoor air quality.

Biophilic design

The latest office designs are aesthetically pleasing and healthy for you. Biophilic design is the concept of increasing the connectedness of the built office environment to the natural environment. The inclusion of indoor greenery into office spaces has been proven to enhance our cognitive function, mood and most importantly help improve the indoor air quality. It is no accident that breathing feels easier and we feel happier when closer to greenery. 

Air Quality Testing

Air quality experts have the right tools and ability to measure indoor air quality. Whilst most organisations will have a procedure and routine around these checks, for smaller office groups this is a critical element of improving air quality. An air quality testing professional will be able to check air flow to humidity levels, odors, leaks, standing water, mold and ventilation. Following an assessment a report is generated to plan the areas of improvement. 

Cleaning and maintenance

Offices will be equipped with cleaning products and a professional cleaning service that attends to common areas and higher contaminant areas such as bathrooms. It is important that the cleaning and maintenance of the spaces is thorough and also that there is an protocol for employees to report spills or areas that require deeper cleaning. This enables the office space to remain clean and free of contamination.