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June 2021

Increase productivity by cleaning the air in your office

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Workplace Hygiene, Air Quality

Our latest blog takes a look at how installing a VIRUSKILLER™ air purification unit will help you with improving overall workplace productivity. 

With the introduction of open-plan offices in the late 1950s, many work environments were physically transformed to facilitate collaboration and increase the flow of information. However, information isn’t the only thing that flows through offices these days.

How the air flows within an office and why it needs to be purified

The legacy of poor IAQ:

Carpeting and other furnishings - originally designed to absorb noise in open-plan spaces - can emit toxic pollutants (also called volatile organic compounds - VOC's) and harmful concentrations of indoor air pollution can make its way inside through outdated HVAC systems, acting as a carrier for airborne viruses and bacteria. Pollutants such as CO, NO2, and particulate matter (PM) can have long-term negative effects on employee productivity and wellbeing.

We also now have a better understanding of how the Coronavirus can be transmitted through the air in enclosed spaces, and with this understanding has come a renewed appreciation of the importance of improving indoor air quality in the workplace. (We identified air hygiene as a trend to watch out for in 2021 in a previous post - read more about that here.)

Poor IAQ is bad for business

50% of illnesses are caused by polluted air

While COVID-19 may have provided the wake-up call businesses need to focus on improving IAQ, the fact is that the air we breathe has never been good for business. Poorly ventilated office air that is endlessly recycled and clogged with particulates, bacteria, and toxic fumes affects our mood, productivity, and workplace performance, and thus - ultimately - the bottom line.

But adequately treating shared and recirculated air requires specialized technology. The benefit of acquiring VIRUSKILLER™ clean air technology to a business is ultimately the protection of the health and wellbeing of employees and thus the bottom line, as well as crucial peace of mind that it is fulfilling its duty of care to look after the health and wellbeing of all employees.

3 biggest risks to employees and businesses from poor IAQ:

Let's take a more detailed look at the 3 biggest risks to your employees from poor IAQ, and how poor IAQ affects productivity in your business.

1. Airborne transmission of viruses causes illness 

Disease-causing viruses and bacteria - including COVID-19 - can be spread by direct contact with aerosols from infected employees who talk, cough, and sneeze. Read our recent bog on "How far can a sneeze travel" for more on this topic. 

Employees who miss work due to respiratory illness such as influenza generally miss between one to four workdays, accounting for 5–20% of sickness absences in the workplace. Studies show that occupants in open-plan offices with more than six people have 62% more days of absence.

In comparison to employees working in cubicle offices, people who work in shared offices and open-plan workspaces have an 18% and 12% higher risk, respectively, of medically certified sickness absence. And as we know, absenteeism can really hit a business hard on the bottom line. Read more about the real cost of absenteeism in one of most popular blog posts to date: Your office is losing 100s of days a year to absenteeism. 

Are employee sick days costing your business, find out the true cost of absenteeism  and how poor air quality may be affecting it

2. Poor IAQ causes reduced performance and productivity

Exposure to recycled indoor air in air-conditioned buildings - coupled with common outdoor air pollutants that find their way indoors - can lead to poor concentration, headaches, and diminished mental performance. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to a reduction in a person’s ability to perform specific mental tasks requiring concentration, calculation, and memory.

Recycled air and common indoor air pollutants found in offices can reduce an employee’s ability to respond to the day-to-day demands of their work, leading to fatigue, headaches, and diminished mental and physical performance. Carbon monoxide concentrations in the workplace can cause fatigue, reduced brain function, and impaired vision and coordination.  Poor indoor air quality has been shown to reduce office performance by between 6–9%. 

3. Sick building syndrome causes absenteeism

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) describes situations where building occupants experience acute health effects that appear to be linked to time spent indoors without any specific illness or identifiable cause. Symptoms are nonspecific and can include eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, mental fatigue, headaches, nausea, dizziness, and skin irritations 

Indoor sources of VOCs from building materials, carpets, flooring, paints, and wooden-based materials can exacerbate symptoms of SBS. The presence of a cooling system has been found to be associated with SBS symptoms. Office equipment, such as printers, photocopiers, and all-in-one office machines are reported to emit indoor air pollutants including PM, VOCs, and ozone, which are all linked to SBS symptoms.

How VIRUSKILLER™ can improve overall workplace productivity: 

While surface decontamination is relatively simple — simply wipe down furniture and equipment with sanitizer — air decontamination requires specialized technology. VIRUSKILLER™ airflow control ensures the protection of the breathing zone in a room, helping to minimize cross-infection between co-workers and staff. The high-grade filters act as a first line of defence and thereafter the Reactor Chamber efficiently decontaminates the air in real-time.

How the VIRUSKILLER decontaminates the air you breathe

The high-grade HEPA filter and activated carbon filter take care of the particulates and harmful gases and fumes responsible for poor concentration, fatigue, and headaches, while the decontamination power of the Reactor Chamber neutralizes gases and deactivates biological pathogens that carry illness and exacerbate allergies and asthma.

A host of filtration, neutralization, and decontamination technologies are required to provide air that is free from the pollutants that can cause eye irritation, blocked nose, tight chest, and dizziness.
Each VIRUSKILLER™ model is equipped with our triple filtration system — a pre-filter, carbon filter, and high-grade HEPA filter to tackle particulate matter and VOCs, while the patented Reactor Chamber breaks down bioaerosols and organic matter that might otherwise escape filtration.

Returning to the workplace:

Whilst working from home provided countless employees the opportunity to continue working safely during the pandemic, there are advantages to employees returning to the office, even if it is only part-time. And these advantages certainly warrant investing in clean air technology.

Clean air technology can help guard against airborne contaminants that may cause fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and loss of concentration by providing clean, fresh air and helping to reduce instances of cross-infection in the workplace that may ultimately harm a business’s bottom line.

Investing in clean air technology is both a short- and long-term investment for businesses. By creating a safe and welcoming environment for employees who may feel unsure or uncomfortable returning to the office and by demonstrating that their safety is the top priority for the company, businesses will be able to attract employees back to work more quickly.

By reducing absenteeism caused by illness, allergies, and other health issues related to indoor air quality, employers will feel assured that the health of the business is also receiving an added layer of protection.

Conventional air purifiers are designed to address particulate matter that can be mechanically filtered and often include some level of carbon filtration for odour control and gas neutralization. However, most lack a crucial third stage of purification — the deactivation of pathogens. VIRUSKILLER™ is designed to treat particulates, gases, and infectious organics to provide real-time protection against the harmful effects of indoor air pollution in offices and corporate spaces.

Find out more about the transmission of viruses in the air with this infographic, or download our brochure for more information on which VIRUSKILLER™ unit is right for your workplace. If you have any questions please reach out to a member of our team.

Find out what consumers have to say about air quality in a consumer survey from Rentokil-Initial

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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