Global lockdowns have changed our lives in ways we might never have imagined, and a big part of that is how many of us are having to work from home. For those not used to it, this can make concentration and motivation a significant challenge (not to mention the fridge-shaped temptation calling our name from the kitchen).
The importance of good indoor air quality (IAQ) in places of work is well established, with links between concentration and levels of CO2 informing ventilation strategies across UK offices. It is worth bearing in mind that common symptoms of poor IAQ are coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, wheezing, allergic reactions, and reduced cognitive function.
At a time when our homes have become the place where many of us work, here are 3 top tips to ensuring good IAQ in your new working environment:
1) Use natural ventilation
This can be weather and location dependent, but it is one of the most effective ways to ensure air is being circulated throughout your house. In more rural locations and outside of cities, opening a window allows fresh air to come into your home. Even in cities, the reduction in CO2 as a result of the lockdown means it is a great way to get fresh air and improve your working environment.
Many homes have natural ventilation through trickle vents in windows, and finding a room that benefits from fresh air, and is spacious, should be the priority. While this may not always be possible, you should avoid stuffy, cramped, and poorly ventilated rooms, to feel the true benefit of good IAQ while you work from home.
2) Reduce pollutants
Improving IAQ needs to come from both ends, which means avoiding and/or reducing pollutants that are made within the home. The obvious place to start is with open fireplaces and anything else that produces CO2, but there are other, less apparent sources of pollutants that should also be avoided.
Pets are a big example of this – it may seem like a welcome perk to have a furry friend accompanying us during the working day, but for any animals that shed hairs, this can affect the air quality in a home. If you do have a new cuddly colleague, consider regular cleaning and vacuuming to maintain air quality.
In fact, we tend to view cleaning and tidying prior to starting work as a sign of procrastination, but it can actually help to improve IAQ. By removing potentially irritable particles of dust from working areas, and keeping a work space neat and clean, you can minimise the negative effects these may have on your concentration levels.
3) Minimise moisture production
One of the most common side-effects of a poorly ventilated home is condensation and damp. While this is more of a long-term issue, it can be a sign of a lack of air circulation, resulting in a build-up of moisture. This can have damaging effects on the property itself, alongside potential health implications for occupants further down the line. The best way to combat condensation is with mechanical ventilation, with a range of options available to improve the air quality within a house.
However, it can also be helped by reducing moisture-creating activity, such as boiling a kettle, running a bath, or drying clothes indoors. While many of these are unavoidable, you should be aware that working from home probably means you are doing more of these than usual. Understanding what worsens condensation and damp, and taking action such as opening a window, will help to create a better internal atmosphere for your home.
Working from home is one of many challenges that we are facing at the moment. By taking a few simple steps to improve the IAQ in your property, you can give yourself every opportunity to maximise productivity and concentration. Whether this means cleaning your workspace or simply opening a window, looking after your health will give you every chance to continue working effectively.
Alan Macklin, Group Technical Director at Elta Group