Despite probably preferring to be outdoors in the sunshine, most of us have to earn a living. And for a large percentage of the working population in the world, that’s likely to be in an office. Where, possibly, the working environment is not as healthy as it could be!
Some companies have embraced the relatively new culture of allowing employees to work from home on certain days of the week or month. And some forward-thinking companies have even thought to set up workspaces in a garden environment because they understand the benefits the outdoors can bring to our wellbeing and productivity levels.
But if your company is not quite there in terms of embracing the flexibility of alternative work environments, it’s still possible to ‘bring the outdoors in’ by using an air purifying system in your office. And today’s technology advancements have made this possible by designing portable units that are both discreet and affordable.
But let’s first explore why it’s important to improve the air quality in the office environment.
Sick Building Syndrome
Aside from the pleasure of working in the comfort and familiar surroundings of your home, there are more serious reasons to consider when coming to work in an office.
For instance – does your company premises suffer from Sick Building Syndrome? It sounds a little far-fetched if you haven’t heard of this term before. But, although some medical bodies, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) don’t accept it as an actual condition, others believe the commonalities are too great to ignore.
For example: Have you or your colleagues ever suffered from unexplained headaches, nausea or even dizziness that appear to be present only when you’re at work? The chances are, these could be the symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). Because when several of a building’s occupants experience similar symptoms when working in that building, there will likely be a common cause, even if the actual cause cannot be found.
In addition to those above, symptoms can include sensitivity to odours, irritation in your eyes, nose, throat and on your skin; also, a lack of concentration and extreme fatigue. Those experiencing such symptoms but then feel relief once exiting the building, are likely to be suffering from SBS.
The syndrome and its subsequent symptoms can be present in either one area of the building or the entire structure: from the air conditioning system to the kitchen, and even the walls and furniture.
In most cases, only mild discomfort is experienced. However, in some cases, the symptoms can be more severe and even exacerbate existing conditions. Generally, though, cases vary and form no real pattern.
Suspected symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome
Specific reported symptoms of SBS vary case-by-case and can include:
- Gas and bloating
- Hoarseness and cough
- Sneezing, congestion or nosebleeds
- Muscle pain, stiffness or aches
- Irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, throat
- Chest pains and shortness of breath
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Problems with concentration, mood swings and memory
Indoor air pollutants commonly found in an office environment
Of course, different types of indoor air pollutants can be found in a variety of environments. And not all can be found in or attributed to every case of SBS. However, the following are most commonly associated with an office environment and thought to affect health in varying degrees:
- Allergens: Pollen, mould spores and even pet dander trigger will cause allergic reactions in some. This can lead to red and itchy eyes, continual sneezing, uncomfortable nasal congestion, and respiratory irritation.
- Viruses and bacteria: If exposed to them for too long, biological pollutants found in the air can cause disease and infection.
- VOCs: Volatile organic compounds are the chemicals exuded from, for example, plastics, carpets, cleaning products, paints and solvents and manufactured furniture.
How can these conditions be improved?
Aside from moving premises (which may not be practical or cost-effective); or working from home every day; there are things you can do to improve the quality of air in the office or your work environment.
One way is to install air purifiers. These can improve the air quality to the extent that it will provide a better sense of wellbeing; by reducing the chemical pollutants and any allergy and asthma triggers such as the number of mould spores and pollutants in the air.
Although not everyone can agree SBS is real, there can be no disputing the fact that the quality of air, when poor, has a direct correlation to a variety of health conditions.
- Inadequate air ventilation can cause health issues and discomfort for the building’s occupants.
- Chemical contaminants (VOCs) are often found in both building materials and substances used by the occupants of the building. When released into the air, adhesives, cleaning products or pesticides are inhaled by the occupants of that building and can cause temporary or even chronic adverse health effects.
- Biological contaminants such as mould, bacteria and viruses can be found in the stagnant water sometimes lurking in air ducts and humidifiers. Even insects and bird droppings can cause a problem. Exposure to biological contaminants can cause aches, cough and chest tightness, fever, chills and allergic reactions.
How can you improve the air quality of your office building?
To help eliminate the presence of these pollutants in buildings, the structures themselves must be monitored. The installation of air filters, clearing the air circulation system of fungal and bacterial contamination and keeping building air intakes away from sources of irritants should be a priority.
And, even if you’re pretty sure your building hasn’t fallen foul of SBS, there are measures you can take to improve the air quality of the building and, in turn, the health and wellbeing of its occupants regardless.
In particular, you should consider improving ventilation and eliminating sources of air pollutants to improve the quality of your indoor air.
Some of the most effective ways are:
- Regular cleaning and replacement of HVAC system filters
- Adequate ventilation when using paints, adhesives and pesticides
- Only use substances that emit air pollutants when the building is empty of people
- Replace any water damaged ceiling tiles and carpet immediately
- Don’t allow smoking near building entrances and aircon units
- Use mobile air purifying units in each area
And an air purifier with a mechanical filter such as a HEPA filter will remove particulate pollutants such as allergens from the air. However, an air purifier using PECO technology goes even further by destroying both VOC molecules and particles in the air.
A perfect solution could be to use an air purification technology like an IonBox to destroy viruses that pass through the device. Advanced technology Hs allowed for more compact and portable devices that are perfect for both work and home offices alike.
If you’d like further advice on whether an IonBox could be effective in your office environment, contact us now.