Why companies should pay attention to workplace air quality

Office building

November 14, 2023 – Organizations should be thinking about how to monitor the air quality in their workspaces in real time, according to healthy buildings expert Joseph Allen.

New, lower-cost sensors can provide up-to-the minute information during crises that could affect air quality, such as wildfires or upticks in infectious diseases like COVID-19, wrote Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Healthy Buildings Program, in a November 9 article in the Harvard Business Review. Sensors can also help identify areas of buildings where air quality may not be dangerous but could still affect worker productivity. Further, sensors can ensure that buildings are energy efficient—for example, by indicating if a building is overventilated.

The sensors, which hang on a wall, like a thermostat, measure a number of air quality indicators, including CO2 (carbon dioxide, a proxy for outdoor air ventilation); PM2.5 (fine particulate matter that can travel deep into the lungs and cause health problems); TVOCs (total volatile organic compounds that are emitted from carpets, paints, deodorants, and cleaning supplies—some of which can cause cancer), and temperature and relative humidity, which can affect both comfort and health.

Wrote Allen, “Organizations must … be proactive: deploying sensors and systems, getting a feel for the data, and developing a response plan to keep the people in their buildings safe, maximize worker productivity, and support climate and sustainability goals.”

Read the Harvard Business Review article: It’s Time for Companies to Monitor Workplace Air Quality

Learn more

Post-pandemic, an increasing focus on indoor air quality (Harvard Chan School news)

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