In observance of International Day of Clean Air Fellowes conducted an annual survey of workers in the U.S. and Canada to understand the state of air quality in the workplace and employee perceptions of the air they breathe at work.
The survey of nearly 1,100 employees that work in an office at least one full day per week revealed that only 29% of respondents (comprising 33% of Americans and 25% of Canadians) believe the air in their workplace is very clean.
These results reflect a worsening outlook on the quality of air in workplaces, with 36% of American workers describing their workplace air as very clean in a 2022 Fellowes survey.
At the same time, employees are aware of the importance of clean air to their health and well-being, with more than 91% acknowledging that clean air should be a right for employees. A similar number of respondents (89%) also stated that clean indoor air helps them perform their best at work, which reflects research led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that links clean indoor air to increased cognition and productivity.
In fact, U.S. and Canadian workers place higher value on a clean indoor workspace—including improved air quality—than on many other perks that employers commonly invest in.
Respondents ranked the following options in order of importance:
- 1. Clean indoor workspace, including clean air
- 2. Health allowances and/or stipends for gym memberships and exercise equipment
- 3. Free coffee/snacks
- 4. Free fitness club/gym membership
- 5. Social gathering areas, including pool tables, foosball, etc.
- 6. Happy hours/social events
What’s more, around one in three respondents (31%) stated that they would consider leaving their job due to concerns over poor indoor air quality.
Employee prioritization of their health at work is high, and they have a strong understanding of the impact that cleaner air can have on their health and performance—especially with COVID-19 and recent wildfires top-of-mind.
At the same time, current perceptions of the state of air quality in their place of work are very low, and worsening year-over-year—making now a pivotal time for employers to invest in air quality management (AQM) to improve employee retention, well-being and productivity.
Invest in AQM to retain employees—and keep them healthy and happy
The increasing public demand for improved IAQ led to the release of the first-ever standard for controlling infectious aerosols and maintaining healthy indoor air quality in June by ASHRAE, an organization dedicated to advancing human well-being through technology in building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and refrigeration. ASHRAE guidelines recommend a combination of clean air delivery rate and filtration levels equivalent to five air changes per hour (eACH) depending upon the space. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also released similar guidance for IAQ and encourages the use of HVAC systems with MERV-13 filtration or better, as well as HEPA air purification systems, to maximize air cleanliness.
Here’s what you can do:
To meet these new guidelines, employers should invest in air purification with HEPA filters, upgraded HVAC systems and improved ventilation to properly protect their workers from airborne viruses, bacteria, pollution, allergens and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Although only 37% of surveyed workers reported that their employer had made indoor air quality (IAQ) improvements in the last year, the employers that did implement changes were noticed by their staff. Among employers that made IAQ improvements, the top change that employees noticed was the addition of air purifiers (59%).
Air purification systems are scientifically proven to improve the air quality in a space, and they have the additional benefit of improving employee perceptions of their workplace’s IAQ by providing visual proof that their workplace is focused on well-being.
Some systems, including Fellowes’ new Array air quality management system, can also provide employees with real-time insights into the quality of their air. Fellowes’ cloud-based Community Dashboard adds another avenue for employees to gain transparency around the health of their workspace through continuous air quality detection, monitoring and trend visualization.
Considering the high priority employees place on air quality, and their opinions on the current state of air quality in their workplace, the time has come for employers to meet the demands for a healthier work environment through improved IAQ. With about one third of the workforce open to leaving their job due to concerns over poor IAQ, a comprehensive AQM system is an investment that employers can’t afford to avoid any longer.
This International Day of Clean Air, Fellowes encourages employers to make the investment into indoor air purification—not only to keep their workforce healthy and productive, but to support staff retention by boosting employee perceptions of their workplace. Learn more about how you can improve your workplace’s IAQ at www.fellowes.com.