According to The Lancet – 800,000 people die each year due to poor air quality in the workplace. Therefore, as winter approaches, it becomes more vital to assess and implement the necessary measures for improving air quality within businesses. This is essential in order to mitigate airborne viruses and pollutants from spreading in the workplace. Not only that but indoor air quality also plays a very important role in our health, comfort and productivity. Good ventilation brings in fresh air, reduces air contaminants, eliminates CO2 and controls temperature and humidity.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of ventilation in winter as well as how facilities management plays a role in this.
Why is Winter Indoor Air Quality Worse?
- Sealing in the pollution – when it’s cold, naturally people tend to open their windows and doors less, or not at all. However, this traps dust, mould, dead skin, pollen and other harmful airborne pollutants indoors. Therefore, lack of ventilation in the facilities increases air pollution levels.
- Over-humidifying – cold air can’t hold much water vapour, and the colder the air, the drier it is. However, if you don’t monitor the humidity levels at your business, it can lead to dry skin, nose bleeds, static electricity, mould growth, dust mites and brittle furniture. Therefore, over-humidifying can not only affect a building’s infrastructure but employees’ health too. If outdoor temperatures are between 10 to 20 degrees, indoor humidity shouldn’t surpass 35%. The higher the temperature outdoors, the higher the humidity indoors should be.
- More time spent indoors – humans release a lot of carbon dioxide every day, which increases water vapour, and in the workplace these tiny water droplets float in the air. As water vapour level increases, the temperature of the air also gets warmer, resulting in a spike in humidity. And when humidity increases in an indoor environment, the atmosphere becomes less hygienic and more conducive to bacteria, mould and viruses.
Keeping Up with Maintenance of HVAC Systems
If your team feel uncomfortable in their workplace, they’re more likely to become demotivated and unproductive. Routine maintenance of your HVAC system can help improve productivity by maintaining a comfortable temperature and reducing humidity – particularly in winter.
Most of the health risks linked to poor air quality can be lowered with the correct air conditioning maintenance and repair. Therefore, it’s good measure to implement a planned maintenance programme in order to expel indoor air pollutants and bring in fresh air instead. Congested filters in HVAC systems are futile, as they can inhibit airflow, resulting in contaminants to recirculate and build up indoors. Consequently, it’s vital that all air movement units and devices are well preserved.
At MSL, we can provide a service which ensures that ventilation systems are maintained at all times. Our specialist team will clean your HVAC system’s filters and coils to eliminate bacteria, as well as check the air conditioning unit is functioning properly. They will also plan scheduled checks and maintain your systems for you, making breakdowns less likely, and therefore your business running more smoothly.
Benefits of Good Ventilation and Air Quality
- Increased Comfort
It’s without doubt that no one enjoys working in an uncomfortable environment. Particularly in winter in the UK where it can get very cold, good ventilation is necessary so that staff aren’t feeling the effects of the weather whilst working. We spend much of our lives working inside, therefore indoor air quality and temperature must be at a comfortable level. Focusing on daily duties in the workplace becomes much easier when being able to operate in a comfortable setting where the cold air outside isn’t affecting the indoor air. Therefore, businesses must deliver a basic level of comfort through well-maintained ventilation, in order to increase morale and productivity amongst employees.
- Increased Productivity
Colder weather means indoor air quality becomes even worse, as air pollutants trapped indoors increase. This can make staff feel sluggish, drained and discouraged. Therefore, it becomes harder for employees to focus on workplace duties which in turn causes reduced productivity. A YouGov study commissioned by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) reported that almost 70% of office employees said poor indoor air quality has a negative effect on their productivity. With staff failing to deliver their best performance, this could also begin to affect business profit. Good ventilation will mean enhanced concentration, decision making skills, job satisfaction, stamina, energy and much more. And to support this even further, a Harvard study reported a direct link between improved air quality and improved decision-making.
- Maintain Health and Reduce Absences
Poor indoor air can lead to eye irritation, inflammation and breathing difficulties for some individuals. It can also exacerbate some existing health conditions e.g. asthma. In some cases, poor indoor air quality can also lead to sick building syndrome, where employees experience different symptoms when inside a building but not when they’re away from it. This makes good ventilation all the more important.
Indoor air is typically more contaminated than outdoor air, particularly in winter where viruses are rife and therefore illnesses rise. These can make your employees more vulnerable to eye and nose irritations, colds, flu, dizziness and headaches. As a result, poor indoor air quality can cause your workforce to become sick more often – raising the number of absences they take. This can drastically decrease the productivity of your company.
You can limit the air pollutants created in the workplace by:
- Switching to cleaning products with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
- Regular deep-cleans to eliminate mould and dust.
- Routine cleaning of HVAC unit.
Our expert team can deliver exceptional hygiene services to give your facility a thorough, deep clean, which is necessary in colder weather, where illnesses are more rampant. Our SAFETouch+ package is particularly beneficial, as it utilises the latest fogging technology to offer a first-class sanitising solution. The service has been designed for disinfecting, sterilisation, anti-virus and disease prevention, as well as air purification – a one stop shop for everything you need in winter.
- Manage Humidity
A further benefit of good ventilation is the ability to be able to control humidity. ERVs (energy recovery ventilation) can recapture some of the moisture in humidified air, and in turn this decreases the energy needed to humidify fresh air. Maintaining humidity levels to be between 40% to 60% can reduce mould, dust mites, fungi, bacterial growth and viruses. Consequently, this can also prevent health problems and allergic reactions from developing. And not to mention the fact that controlling humidity levels can also maintain the safety of products, as well as the quality of stored materials and stock.
The air we breathe plays an important role in our daily lives. By implementing the appropriate measures for good ventilation in winter, you can improve comfort and productivity, reduce sick time and maintain employee health, as well as control humidity. Employing a facilities management team means you can keep on top of all of this and more. In winter, not only does FM play a huge role in managing workplace ventilation, but it also keeps facilities running efficiently and cost-effectively.
With winter approaching, if you are interested in finding out more about how our services can contribute to improving ventilation, get in touch with us on 0333 1234450.