My last post neglected to mention the effect of air quality and pollution on employee productivity. A study published in National Bureau of Economic Research back in June suggests that in cities with particularly high levels of air pollution, office workers–despite their being indoors–tend to be less productive. Working in areas plagued by smog and pollution, it seems, can make employees more prone to distraction. Pollution hampers their ability to work efficiently.  

“The likely culprit for office workers,” as cited in research summaries, “is particulate matter, which can easily enter buildings through windows and vents.” Evidence from the study suggests that people inhale the finest of these particles, which then enter our bloodstream and central nervous system, where they have been shown to have a diminishing effect on our cognitive performance and concentration.

In essence, the foreign particulate matter from air pollutants disrupts healthy brain functioning, and their presence can cause inflammation and physiological symptoms of toxicity. The NBER paper also echoes findings from a 1989 EPA Report to Congress which found that better indoor air quality benefits employee productivity. The cost of air pollution may be huge when losses to worker productivity losses and public health are taken into account.

Too often we take the air we breathe for granted. But, you don’t need to live in Beijing in order to improve the air quality of your office. You and your colleagues can improve the cleanliness of the air you breathe at work by implementing these five basic strategies:

  1. Decorate With Plants.

    According to research conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), many common houseplants can function as natural air purifiers. Many plants filter toxins (like formaldehyde) out of the air; Aloe vera, Jade, Snake Plants, and English Ivy–to name just a few–are among

  2. Cleaning agents.

    Only use non-toxic cleaning agents in your office.

  3. Ventilation Improvements.

    Workplaces should invest in ventilation improvements. Replace air filters in your building’s furnaces and air conditioners at the start of the heating or cooling season.

  4. Keep office interior space dry

    rubber plantEmploy simple moisture management measures to keep your workplace environment dry. Be sure to fix any leaks and clean up any spills as quickly as possible. Standing water and moist materials provide a habitat for mold and microbial growth (and can also attract pests).

  5. Use Low-VOC Paints and building materials.

    Dispose of unused paint, solvents, pesticides, and other cleaning chemicals promptly, and tightly close the
    containers of products still in use. Do not store these items near food.