Return to Work: Improving Indoor Air Quality is a Must
Updated: Sep 30, 2021
While many employees are returning to office spaces, COVID-19 is still widespread and precautions should be taken. According to Bloomberg, poor indoor air quality is listed as one of the top five environmental risks to public health, and in many areas the problem is only getting worse. Now, more than ever, it is critical to address indoor air quality to facilitate a safer return to work and ensure your tenants are performing at their best. Here is why:
Indoor Air Quality is a Top Employee Concern
Operating in this new normal and returning to office spaces has made indoor air quality a top concern for many employees. Most all agree that sharing office space is critical for collaboration, community, and culture, but labor shortages make it tough to demand a return to work. Considering how easy it is to spread illnesses in a congested office, about 59% of office workers stated that building cleanliness and air quality are a top priority in the office. Similarly, 85% of employees said that they considered the health of others and air quality in their office building, and some still worry about returning to work due to health and safety concerns. Therefore, companies that want to address employees' concerns to facilitate a safe return to work, will have to implement measures to improve indoor air quality.
Healthy Buildings Are Front Window News
COVID-19 has made building owners realize that prioritizing health in a building isn't just a luxury – it's a must. People are asking, "Are these spaces safe?", "Are they healthy?", "How could I improve them?" and much more. On a recent Chicago Wacker Drive walk, a prominent building standing 1.5 million square feet tall, displayed window graphics promoting filtration, air changes, IAQ monitoring and ventilation rates. This confirms the shift to tenants looking for their buildings to be healthier as they return to work. But who would have guessed that this would be a key differentiation factor for buildings? By prioritizing indoor air quality, workers can enjoy healthier spaces with cleaner air and be free from potentially harmful chemicals and pollutants. And owners who are first movers in this space will gain an advantage in getting tenants, higher rent, and people back into office buildings sooner.
Hybrid and Work from Home is a Tough Competitor
People spend 90% of their time indoors, so the quality of indoor air can impact human health. Most people don’t realize, though, that the air quality inside of a home could be potentially harmful. Aside from the occasional window opening, most homes do not bring in fresh air. This means that people could be at risk for long term health impacts if homes do not mitigate their air quality. Commercial buildings, however, do bring in outside air, at various rates and can be considered to have better air quality than homes. Of course, this is all dependent on individual buildings. For employees, indoor air quality has a significant impact on productivity. Harvard
Business Review notes that workers are 8% more productive if they have access to cleaner air. This equates to a $6,500 increase in productivity per employee. After one and a half years of working from home, employees assume that they can be more productive at home. However, data shows that may not be the case. Air quality could be negatively affecting productivity at home versus the office. By simply prioritizing a building's indoor air quality, buildings can create an environment for employees to thrive and perform at their best.
The Rush to Certify
Buildings are designed to Air Quality ventilation standards, but they rarely operate to them. In the absence of third-party monitoring standards, buildings largely left this important area uncensored. But now, the world has shifted - standards are being presented by companies such as WELL, Reset, WiredScrore/ SmartScore, and LEED. Buildings are just now starting their exploration of what is right for them, but tenants want answers now. Thus, buildings must move quickly to figure out their comprehensive building health plan. When it comes to air quality, standards have emerged around key measurables. Temperature, Humidity, CO2, VOCs and Particulates are five key drivers across most standard-setting and certifying organizations. Commercial-grade sensors and tenant transparency are also emerging as effective strategies. Measuring, responding, and storing data are now both commercially viable and becoming base-level expectations.
Real estate companies also have the added pressure to publish ESG (environmental, social, and governance) reports for investors and tenants. These ESG reports are driving companies to be more transparent. ESG reports now include healthy indoor air quality measures because the standards now include building health measures.
The time to act is now. Cohesion's indoor air quality program mitigates pollutants in office buildings and tenant spaces by optimizing airflows for a healthier building. Want to learn more? Request a demo with our team to see our indoor air quality program in action.