Poor ventilation is a common shortcoming for many workplaces. Ventilation is important in particular during the winter months as poorly ventilated conditions are perfect environments for bacteria to grow and illnesses to spread. While the HSE has no specific guidelines on general ventilation, there are many restrictions on workplace temperatures, CO2 levels and humidity, all of which are in correlation with ventilation.
Inadequate ventilation can have huge effects on an office’s workforce. Not only does a lack of clean air circulation almost triple the likelihood of infections and common colds spreading among employees, but it is also seen to massively reduce productivity. A recent study conducted by Harvard University found that when rooms were not well ventilated, participants test scores were drastically lower among all 9 cognitive function domains. Most notably, strategic decision making and planning were affected, and a teamwork-orientated atmosphere was less present.
In addition to worker fatigue costing a business money, high levels of humidity can cost buildings thousands in damp and mould removal costs. Not only does mould trigger many serious health concerns for people exposed to it daily such as allergic reactions and long-term breathing difficulties, but it is also extremely costly to completely remove once it is present in a building’s infrastructure.
This however can all be avoided with ventilation measures. While these solutions can range from cheap to fairly costly, the long-term savings are worth the investment. Ventilation is monitored using CO2 infrared monitors (pictured below), this device simultaneously assesses a room’s temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 concentration.
The HSE guidelines state that while the average concentration of CO2 outside in open-air is between 250 to 400 parts per million (ppm), indoor spaces are expected to be between 400 and 1000ppm. Any indoor space with higher than 1500ppm is considered by the HSE as poor workplace practice and in need of improvement. Similarly the HSE recommends that all workplaces should be within 40%-70% relative humidity to cut out health concerns that relative humidity threatens. Unlike CO2 and relative humidity levels however, the HSE does not have a recommended maximum temperature for office spaces. It is expected however that workspaces should be heated to at least 16°C, or 13°C if more physical work is required. Despite this however, a 2019 study by Corporate Wellness Magazine, found that when office temperatures are increased to between 20°C and 25°C, workplace errors fell by 44% and work output was increased to 150%.
Ways of controlling office ventilation can range from all natural and completely free methods such as opening windows and doors, to more costly methods such as purchasing air conditioning units and fans. The details of each have been highlighted below.
If you’re looking for advice, suggestions for improvement, or risk assessments for ventilation, please feel free to get in touch – we’re here to help!