Air Quality Make You More Productive: You know that your environment has a massive impact on your productivity and personal stress when working. If you’re working in an environment with loud, distracting music or if you have an uncomfortable chair that leaves your back aching by the end of the day, you have an obvious productivity problem (and some obvious solutions). But some environmental effects on our stress and productivity are subtler and harder to control.
Take, for example, air quality. With the right air purifier and ample circulation, you can improve the cleanliness and subjective quality of the air around you – but how much of an impact could this really have? And what are the best ways to boost air quality when working?
What Is Air Quality?
First, we need to define what “air quality” is. It’s a nebulous term that can easily be misused. Generally speaking, air quality refers to the static presence or absence of specific particles in the air surrounding an individual, as well as the movement and conditions of that air.
There are several factors that contribute to air quality, including:
- Ventilation. Good ventilation and air circulation can keep air moving and prevent the buildup of certain particles in the air.
- Presence of VOCs. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are associated with negative health effects; in sufficiently high quantities, they can sharply decrease your air quality.
- Humidity. Though personal preference comes into play here, an environment that’s too dry or too humid can make it hard to concentrate.
- Temperature. Similarly, the ambient temperature of a room can affect your productivity.
- Pollution and contaminants. Dust, dirt, and debris can pollute the air, making it hard to breathe normally (and sometimes leading to negative health outcomes).
- Infectious diseases. Poorly ventilated, stagnant air can sometimes lead to the spread of infectious diseases.
The Impact of Low Air Quality
It’s intuitive that poor air quality could have an impact on a person’s productivity. And according to scientific research, that effect is demonstrably true. But what exactly is it about poor air quality that causes a drop in productivity?
- Subjective comfort. One of the obvious effects of better indoor air quality is subjective comfort. If there’s a lot of dust in the air or if your space is improperly ventilated, you’ll probably be able to sense it. If the poor conditions persist, you’ll feel highly uncomfortable – which means you won’t be able to do your best work.
- Oxygenation and breathing. With cleaner, more comfortable air, you’ll feel better breathing; that could mean taking deeper breaths and being more conscious of your breathing patterns. With the right exercises, deep, comfortable breathing can relieve your stress and make you more productive.
- Personal health. Studies show that poor indoor air quality is closely associated with physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, eye irritation, and even trouble concentrating. If you have asthma or another respiratory ailment, bad indoor air quality can exacerbate your symptoms and make you feel worse. On top of that, if poor ventilation and stagnant air allow the spread of infectious diseases, it could make you more likely to contract a cold or the flu. Of course, improving indoor air quality cannot guarantee that these effects are prevented.
How to Improve Air Quality
There are a few basic steps you can take to improve the quality of your indoor air:
- Improve ventilation. One of the easiest steps you can take is to improve ventilation and air circulation in a given space. That usually means opening more windows and allowing air to flow in and out of a space.
- Reduce the production of contaminants. You may also be able to reduce the production of certain contaminants. For example, it’s unwise to undergo drywall remodeling in one room while working in the next room over.
- Install an air purifier. With a properly sized air purifier, you can get rid of many of the tiny particles that interfere with your health and productivity. There are many different types of air filters and purifiers that exist. For example, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are often recommended by the U.S. Health Department because of their ability to remove 99.97+ percent of all airborne allergens and pollutants (including particles as small as 0.3 microns). Also pay attention to Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values, or MERVs, of these filters; the higher the MERV, the more capable the filter is of removing small particles. HEPA filters have a MERV of 16, the highest rating.
Better air quality may not be capable of doubling your productivity, but it can make you more comfortable – and can reduce the prevalence of some physical symptoms. A combination of better ventilation, better control over airborne particles, and a good air purifier can give you the best possible indoor air conditions.