The correlation between air quality and productivity has already been established. With good air quality accounting for a 10% increase in our cognitive function, a cleaner air source directly contributes to improved performance in staff. This is because good ventilation reduces the presence of pollutants in the air, which allows for increased flow of oxygen to the brain.
With the coronavirus pandemic set to affect our lives for an unforeseen length of time, having good air quality and ventilation in residential and commercial settings is more important than ever. Not preparing buildings adequately for occupants to live and work safely could have drastic consequences for both the economy and people’s health.
However, if we start to take the right proactive measures in terms of air monitoring, we could avoid the possibility of building closures, an increase in poor health, and people leaving certain regions due to poor air quality.
Poor Air Quality has Negative Effects on Health and the Economy
Whilst many companies focus on promoting the benefits of healthy eating and exercise such as bike to work schemes and gym memberships, the state of the building itself in terms of ventilation and air quality is often not taken into account. Offices tend to have stagnant air, which leads to increased sickness and therefore absence from work.
Stagnant air allows bacteria and viruses such as coronavirus to thrive, causing different health complications in the workforce and damaging the overall business performance as a consequence. After all, basic complaints such as headaches and sluggishness can frequently be attributed to poor air quality. Besides business, students in schools can get worse marks due to polluted air – potentially up to a full letter grade. It’s possible that students could not reach their full potential due to factors related to air quality, representing another hindrance to the economy.
Lack of Preparation From Businesses and Brain Drain Could Affect the Economy
With air quality becoming an increasingly pressing problem, it's likely that in the upcoming years, we could even see people move to different regions within their own country or even abroad.
In the last few months, wildfires in California have led many in the region to posit the idea of moving further inland. The mix of being forced indoors due to the coronavirus pandemic, whilst not being able to properly ventilate due to the quality of the air being diminished by the wildfires, has created a perfect storm. In India, poor air quality has driven many people to move from densely populated inland cities, such as Delhi, to coastal regions. Finally, in China, a report from earlier this year suggested that air pollution in the country reduces the capability to recruit “executive talent and high-quality employees,” and that firms which are located in particularly polluted areas have worse performance.
So, in the future, if businesses do not have a handle on monitoring air quality, they could be shut down for not meeting certain protocols – potentially causing an economic disaster on a global scale. There is not enough attention paid to this possibility, and businesses are often relying on old equipment which isn’t fit for purpose rather than looking for solutions in this area.
Preventative Measures Can Be Imposed Quickly and Have A Positive Impact
The current narrative centers around the idea that COVID-19 is not solvable until we get a vaccine, which is not entirely true. According to a recent study in Nature, if indoor ventilation improved in a building, it would have the same effect as vaccinating 50% of that building’s occupants.
There could be a point whereby, once more of this scientific evidence is available, governments would be forced to close buildings until they can ventilate efficiently. However, if businesses are properly prepared by installing technology that monitors temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels, whilst having screen displays to communicate the information to the occupants, then a potential financial crisis could be averted.
This does not require a multi-million dollar infrastructure project, as is commonly believed. It can be done via targeted retrofit on a reasonable budget if new cloud-based IoT building management technologies and analytics are put to use.
Businesses that realize the importance of air quality are on the path toward a happier workforce and better economic performance. With many powerful solutions available and efforts paying off in only a couple of weeks, it's mostly a matter of taking conscious action.