How Indoor Environmental Quality impacts Health and Productivity at Work

What is Indoor Environmental Quality?

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) determines the quality inside a building or a workspace which encompasses numerous factors such as air quality, thermal conditions, day lighting, noise levels, ergonomics, and their effects on the occupants health, well being and efficiency. Plan of action for addressing IEQ involves protection of human life and health, improve quality of life, and reduce work stress. Better IEQ can also enhance the lives of building, increase the resale value, and hence provide a good environment.

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) determines the quality inside a building or a workspace which encompasses numerous factors such as air quality, thermal conditions, day lighting, noise levels, ergonomics, and their effects on the occupants health, well being and efficiency. Plan of action for addressing IEQ involves protection of human life and health, improve quality of life, and reduce work stress. Better IEQ can also enhance the lives of building, increase the resale value, and hence provide a good environment.

Why is Indoor Environmental Quality Important at Work?

Since we spend most of the day at the workplace, that is 90% of the entire day, it is important to have a healthy environment that is suitable for our health and well being. Whether you are working in small scale industries or in a large organization, indoor closed work environments are highly complex. Therefore, they expose occupants to a variety of contaminants. Other factors such as indoor temperatures, humidity, and levels of ventilation can also affect how a person responds to the indoor environment.  

A few research studies have found that occupant perception of IEQ is inconsistent due to complications of how every individual experiences the environment. The occupants may sometimes face a problem, but identifying the specific cause for it is very difficult.

The objective of IEQ is to provide a comfortable and stimulating work environment to minimize risks due to the environment (building). To create buildings where people feel good, and perform well, teams must select a plan of actions that provide efficiency, and well being of all the occupants. The strategy is to provide a great indoor environment that conserves energy, water and other materials also.

Which Are the Common Sources of Indoor Air Contaminants?

  • People smoking and chewing tobacco in the building premises or at the building entrances.
  • Pollutants that are used in factories, laboratories, and hospitals.
  • Pollutants found on the people’s shoes.
  • Moisture in the building resulted from mold. 
  • Cleaning materials.
  • Soil under the building, results in radon or methane off gassing. 
  • Residents respiration, that increases the level of carbon dioxide and may add on different ferns as well.
  • The materials used in building such as paint, adhesives, coatings, furniture, and sealants may emit volatile organic substances that can cause health problems. 

Factors of IEQ:

1. Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality is the state of the air within a space. A good indoor air quality space has low toxins, odors, and contaminants. When the spaces have good ventilation and protection from pollutants or off gasses within the space has a good indoor quality.

In IAQ terms, pollutants like particulate matter and certain organic compounds that are volatile in nature, are harmful to our health.  These pollutants can cause short or long term damage depending on the toxicity of the pollutant.

It’s important for designers to implement various strategies to reduce the concentration of internal pollutants. In general, these strategies should reduce the number of sources, and increase the number of points to introduce fresh air inside the building by filtration or increasing rate of ventilation.  Install walk off mats at all the building’s entrances, prohibiting tobacco and smoking within the space, providing indoor plants, using non toxic materials or low emitting materials can improve the indoor quality of air.

However, there is no guarantee that a building will have good air quality by circulating good and fresh air to keep the pollutants concentration levels down. So many buildings like houses and schools ventilate naturally. Moreover, lack of fresh air gives a rise in CO2 indoors.

2. Thermal Comfort

‘Thermal Comfort’ is a condition governed by various environmental and human factors – physical, physiological, and human factors as well. The environmental factors involve temperature, air temperature, humidity, air velocity, and relative humidity. The other major human factors are clothing, and metabolic heat. Other physical factors include mental conditions, physical health, availability of food and water.

Professionals designing workplaces should provide at least the optimum level of thermal comfort for the occupants. Thermal comfort depends on personal as well as environmental factors. Predicting an optimal range of thermal comfort is challenging because of the temperature and humidity. Moreover, controlling energy consumption and increasing work efficiency, thermal comfort plays a very important role.

The thermal comfort level is acceptable if 80% of the occupants feel good and comfortable within it.

3. Light and Noise

Light and noise are important for productivity and wellbeing of occupants. Noise levels are one of the key factors affecting employee’s efficiency, productivity and pride in the workplace. Light plays an important role in the comfort and wellbeing of occupants that results in employee engagement and improved productivity. Hence, it is important that occupants have exposure to the right amount of light at the right time.

This can be achieved by designing an optimised space to make sure maximum daylight penetration reaches with the high quality architectural lighting. Ensure noise level is comfortable by adapting specific materials for walls, ceiling, and floors.  Acoustics deal with controlling the quality of sound inside a workspace or building. The acoustic comfort has various effects on health, wellbeing, and productivity of the occupants.

Various factors such as volume of the space, geometry, impact of noise, and airborne noise transmissions affect noise. In general, light and noise levels are to be integrated with commercial IEQ sensors with air quality parameters. The initial testing has shown the results are quite unreliable. But with the advancement in technology, improvements will be shown. However, in the meantime it is recommended to use the results as guide only and should be consulted with specialists for accurate measurements.

4. Occupant Perception

Along With monitoring, the employee’s perception of the IEQ is equally important. They can achieve thus through post occupancy evaluations. For example, building user survey’s that are effective for occupants and managers to communicate issues.

Workplace wellbeing is an aspect of continuous monitoring and should cover all the aspects of IEQ with occupant perception would be of immense importance. Research also shows that women’s IEQ satisfaction was found to be consistently lower than men. Studies were conducted to separate IEQ data between positive and negative reports.

The extroverted people expressed stress when environmental quality is insufficient.

Conclusion

Poor IEQ conditions lead to adverse effects on mind as well as health of the occupants. Some of the symptoms that can rise out of poor IEQ are fatigue, headache, cough, skin rashes, dizziness, red eyes, nausea, sudden allergies and sneezing.  As these symptoms are common, it is sometimes hard to tell whether they have occurred due to the poor IEQ levels.

The best way to prevent pollutants inside the workspace is by improving the IEQ and control at their source. Developing proper ventilation with windows and ducts should be the next plan of action. Ensure that someone is cleaning AC ducts regularly. As you spend most of your time in the workplace, it is very important to have a healthy and productive space filled with positive vibes, sunshine, and pure air.  With a healthy and productive environment, the efficiency and the inputs of the employees will also increase. Ultimately, this resulting in profits for the company.

Author Bio:

Mohit is an Ecommerce consultant at MohitEcommerce. He is very good at Amazon Fba, Paytm kyc, and other ecommerce tasks. He likes to write about Businesses, Marketing, Ecommerce, and Amazon Marketplace.