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The Connection Between Clean Buildings and Productivity
December 17, 2015 - Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »
Indoor air pollutants can be two to five times more dangerous than outdoor pollutants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors.
The most common symptoms reported from poor indoor air quality (IAQ) include headaches, nausea, dizziness, irritability, and eye/nose/throat irritation. These conditions not only negatively impact short and long-term health, but also employee work performance. Fortunately, building and office managers can enact a number of measures to mitigate the negative effects that poor IAQ has on the health of employees … and their respective businesses. Steps to consider include:
• Assess the space — Segment the entire office into separate areas, taking into account the use, flooring and furniture in each space, and categorize each into high, medium and low traffic zones. In addition to daily vacuuming, each zone should have monthly, quarterly and yearly professional deep cleaning, respectively.
• Maintain HVAC — Unfortunately, out of sight may mean out of mind as it relates to HVAC system maintenance. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure filters are checked and changed regularly to reduce allergens and mold recirculated in indoor air.
• Install additional “filters” — Soft items, such as carpet, upholstery and curtains, also act as air filters, as they remove allergens from the air by absorbing and trapping them in the web of their fabric. In fact, carpets can collect up to one pound of dirt per square foot, which is why it’s important to have them professionally cleaned on a regular cycle. Care should be taken to select materials that won't themselves outgas harmful VOCs into the space.
• Eliminate moisture — Mold can have an even more damaging effect on health, and in some cases long-term exposure can be fatal. Eliminating and avoiding moisture in the office space is a key preventative measure. Develop a plan to immediately clean-up spills. Any delay can allow for moisture to seep deep down into carpet and sub-flooring, allowing mold and bacteria to grow. In addition, beware of the negative effects of typical steam cleaning for your business’ carpets and furnishings. Instead, look for a hot water extraction service that utilizes a low-moisture process including one that deep-cleans using the natural power of carbonation. This type of process uses much less water than typical steam cleaning and delivers dry times of one to two hours rather than one to two days.
• Beware of harsh chemicals — Use only safe, green-certified cleaning agents for every level of cleaning in your office. Harsh solutions can leave behind toxic fumes and dirt-attracting residues that undermine the health benefits of having cleaned in the first place.
By taking steps such as those listed above, businesses will experience numerous benefits, including a potential for increase in worker productivity. When workers feel happy and healthy, studies show they’re motivated to show up and perform at work and are significantly more productive, as reported by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations including the International Academy of Design & Health.
In addition to being more productive while at work, healthy employees will use fewer sick and personal days. Not only might workers experience fewer medical illnesses resulting from poor indoor air quality and work conditions, but they will also enjoy healthier work environments.
Workspaces that are sanitary and free of unnecessary noise and clutter can also generate less stress for employees. According to the National Institutes of Health, stress influences mental health and quality of life and increases the likelihood of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Stress and related health consequences are more prevalent in the U.S. today than in the past, and work is attributed as a major cause.
The investment that is put into maintaining a clean and healthy work environment will yield a high return on investment for your employees and your company. In addition to being more productive, being healthier and happier at work can make employees more likely to stay for a longer time at your company, reducing turnover and improving the bottom line.
Dan Tarantin is the president and CEO of Harris Research, Inc., parent company of the Chem-Dry Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning and N-Hance Wood Renewal businesses.