Indoor Air Quality and Productivity: A Small Business Owner’s Guide    

A person presenting as a Black woman or assigned-female-at-birth is on a cell phone at their desk. They are smiling and holding up their hand in an animated conversation. They are surrounded by white furniture. Windows behind them give way to greenery.

For small business owners, the office environment might not always be at the forefront of daily concerns. Maybe it should be. Workplace productivity is affected quite a lot by indoor air quality (IAQ). IAQ can affect employee health, morale, efficiency, and, in the end, a company’s profit margins. 

Indoor air quality refers to how clean the air inside a building is. Ventilation, humidity, temperature, and the presence of pollutants all can have an impact. 

How IAQ Affects Productivity

Health. Poor IAQ can lead to “Sick Building Syndrome”. Employees may suffer from headaches, fatigue, breathing issues and eye irritation. These symptoms can lead to increased absence and reduced performance when employees show up but do not feel well. 

The Ability to Think Clearly. Studies have shown that air quality affects cognitive functions such as focus, memory, and decision-making. High levels of CO2 (what we exhale) and  Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5)  can impair these functions, leading to mistakes and decreased efficiency. In many studies, CO2 is a proxy for ventilation rates. This is because even low levels of CO2 can impact cognitive function. 

Comfort and Morale. A comfortable workplace with clean, fresh air promotes well-being and satisfaction among employees. When employees feel good, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated. 

IAQ Can Help Small Businesses Stay Competitive 

For small businesses, every employee’s work is key. That means the effects of IAQ can be magnified. Small business owners must invest in a healthy workspace. This is an ethical duty and a strategic one, as well. The return on investment can be great in terms of increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs, and a positive company image. For a practical guide on how to improve indoor air quality in the workplace, visit the  FAQ on Managing IAQ on the BuildingLens website. 

Taking Action is New but the Science is Old 

As early as 1997, members of ASHRAE studied indoor air quality and productivity in commercial buildings across the U.S. They estimated, “a one-time upgrade cost of $87.9 billion, an annual operating cost of $4.8 billion, and a total annual benefit of $62.7 billion resulting in a simple payback period of 1.4 years.” Annual benefits in worker productivity and health were found to be $900/worker (1997 dollars/$1710 in 2023 dollars). This study even suggests that if we invest in indoor air quality as a country, the U.S. will be more competitive internationally. 

Indoor air quality isn’t just a matter of comfort. It’s a complex issue that affects the total success of a small business. With so much at stake, isn’t it about time small business owners did something about air quality in the workplace? BuildingLens is a low-cost remote building management service for small businesses and our company can even help with no-cost building upgrades. 

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