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March 2022

COVID-19 – are consumer attitudes towards air changing?

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Air Quality

Our latest blog takes a look at whether consumer attitudes towards air care are changing, and if they are, what businesses should be doing to ensure they stay ahead of changing expectations. 

It's been two years since COVID-19 surged into the global consciousness. During that time, we've had to absorb a great deal. A lot of information. A lot of guidance. For many people, COVID-19 has highlighted the vital role science has in fighting disease.

In July 2020, six months after the pandemic began, 239 scientists signed an open letter appealing to the medical community and governing bodies to recognise the potential risk of airborne transmission.  In August 2020, we wrote a blog outlining Why businesses need air hygiene to protect their workplaces from COVID-19.

Today, it's no secret that COVID-19 can spread when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. That means the virus is likely to spread in poorly ventilated or crowded indoor settings, especially where people spend long periods.

Surfaces can also become contaminated by the virus. Wearing masks and washing hands thoroughly remain two of the best ways to protect ourselves. But what else have we learnt as we attempt to live with the pandemic?

Initial recently examined the global shifts in societal behaviour for hygiene. A total of 20,000 respondents across 20 countries took part in the survey. The resulting report identified that thanks to a greater understanding of COVID-19, people are more aware than ever of airborne transmission. And not only have attitudes shifted but so have expectations.

COVID-19 and changing customer expectations towards air hygiene and air quality

COVID-19 and changing customer expectations

In a previous study by Initial, 91% of people said the appearance of a well-equipped and clean bathroom gave confidence in the quality of food and beverages served. This statistic might still be accurate, but because of COVID-19, the quality of food and drink probably isn’t the first thing customers think about when using bathrooms or public spaces.

The pandemic and increased awareness of how easily cross-contamination can occur – even in seemingly clean spaces – has shifted the focus towards hygiene. Respondents to the survey feel hygiene must come to the forefront of decisions made by people and businesses across the globe.

One of the reasons for this is that 74% of people surveyed are concerned about the hygiene standards of other guests and visitors when visiting a public venue following the pandemic. But what, specifically, are people worried about?

The survey revealed the increasing importance of clean air to consumers. According to results, 72% are more concerned about the spread of germs via the air they breathe indoors in a public venue than before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the focus shifting to airborne transmission over the last year, it's hardly a surprise.

Over two-thirds of respondents (68%) expressed increased concern about the number of pollutants in the indoor air from a public venue, while 71% of people are more concerned now about the impact of poor indoor air quality in a public venue on their health than before the pandemic. 

Public concern on air quality in indoor public venues as a result of covid-19

Creating cleaner air during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

The overarching global belief, held by 45% of us, is that venues have a greater responsibility for ensuring public spaces are free from potential sources of infection. If they fail to take responsibility, results also identified that since the pandemic, nearly half of respondents would leave a venue (47%) or not return (48%) if hygiene measures were not adequate.

An article in Forbes suggests that hygiene, not just cleanliness, is our new definition of safety. These days, a clean environment is expected. It will no longer allow you to stand out from the crowd. If, for example, we’re eating in a restaurant or staying in a hotel, we can see if something isn’t clean. We cannot, however, see whether something has been made hygienically safe.

Air purification methods

Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is an invisible threat, and so what both the consumer and employee need is demonstrable, visible reassurance that the problem is being dealt with. But we cannot just open windows. By doing so, our exposure to toxic air pollution particles could increase. Businesses are, therefore, faced with a dilemma. Guard against air pollution by keeping windows closed, but, in turn, increase the risk from COVID-19 and other common viruses.

Business owners might miss out on much-needed custom unless they can address this problem. Noticeable air filtration units - such as VIRUSKILLER™ - placed in suitable locations for maximum efficacy will not only improve comfort levels, concentration levels and reduce sickness and absenteeism, but they will also provide visual reassurance – one of the important ways to show customers and employees that you’re implementing high standards of air hygiene and that you care about your people.

Delivering business confidence with good air quality

Can your business deliver confidence?

There’s a new benchmark, and concerns over air quality are here to stay. Those businesses that ensure air is part of their hygiene strategies will place themselves in an optimum position for success. Reputations will be enhanced, values reflected, and confidence will be delivered.

Air purification is one of the clean air strategies recommended by the International Well Building Institute in its special report on building resilience and recovery. They recommend limiting sources of indoor pollution and increasing the supply of good quality air. Good air hygiene in spaces where people are together for long periods is an essential component of air safety measures when trying to prevent the transmission of airborne diseases, such as COVID-19. 

The quality of indoor air can affect employees health and productivity

The next step for cleaner air

Indoor air quality should be a big concern to businesses, facilities managers, customers and employees because it can impact everyone's health, comfort, wellbeing and productivity. Preparation is vital because such a concern won't vanish into thin air overnight. Expectations and attitudes towards cleaner air have changed because of the pandemic and are here to stay.

Learn more about the impact that COVID-19 has had on hygiene attitudes and behaviours by downloading the Global Hygiene Rest Report, or explore our range of industry-leading air purifiers and take the first step in building customer trust and reassurance. You can also download our brochure to find out more about the VIRUSKILLER™ range.


Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at blog.initial.co.za, and our Ambius blog - https://www.ambius.co.za/blog. Life outside of Rentokil Initial mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned twelve, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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