We know that air pollution is bad for our health, causing heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer. But how about the more day-to-day impacts of air pollution including productivity, tiredness, and alertness? A recent Harvard study shows that poor indoor air quality is affecting employees more than once thought, and HEPA filters in the office can help reduce these effects.
According to the latest research by Harvard, office air quality has significant impacts on employees’ cognitive function. It also affects productivity, ability to focus, and response time.
Study: Air Pollution’s Affect on Productivity
The Harvard study involved more than 300 office employees from six countries China, India, Mexico, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Study participants were 18 to 65 years old and worked at least three days a week for one year. During the study, each employee’s workstation was equipped with a sensor to monitor different parameters such as PM2.5, CO2, temperature, and relative humidity. The researchers also used an app to test participants using cognitive tests and surveys.
The employees participated in the tests at prescheduled times or when the PM2.5 and CO2 levels fell below or exceeded certain threshold levels. The researchers asked employees to identify the color of displayed words to evaluate cognitive speed and inhibitory control. Also, basic arithmetic questions were asked to assess cognitive speed and working memory.
Results: Air Pollution Significantly Reduced Productivity
The study found that an increase in PM2.5 and CO2 levels reduced the response times of the employees. Participants also solved fewer questions correctly within the time allotted.
This study demonstrates the role of PM2.5 levels associated with the acute reductions in cognitive function. The study also confirmed the correlation between ventilation and cognitive functionality.
The Power of HEPA Filters in the Office
Air pollution makes people sick and take more sick days. Research also suggests that, even if we’re not getting physically sick, air pollution still affects our brains. For example, air pollution raises blood pressure, and elevated blood pressure causes decreased cognitive performance. Air pollution also affects mood, which can decrease productivity. HEPA filters are proven tools to remove the most dangerous PM2.5 air pollution from the air in offices and improve worker productivity and health.
What Can Organizations Do?
One reason many organizations haven’t done anything to fight air pollution in their buildings is the sheer cost. Installing filters into central air systems can be expensive and require approval from building management. Meanwhile, the stand-alone purifier market is full of expensive machines.
However, machines like the Blast that are powerful enough to clean large offices yet far less expensive are changing the game. For example, BBC India commissioned an analysis for its office space and found that using Blasts to clean its air would cost less than half of a central air system.
A growing body of research suggests that air pollution affects our productivity, even at our indoor desk jobs. This productivity loss is taking a toll on the global economy, but new purifiers are making it much more affordable to clean the air.