Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, workplace wellness and safety rapidly jumped to the top of everyone’s priority list. We are all looking for ways to protect ourselves, our colleagues, and our employees at the workplace, and many of us are beginning to reassess the importance of workplace wellness programs.
How can we leverage existing workplace wellness programs in today’s global health crisis? How does air quality fit into workplace well-being and safety? We’d like to address these concerns in this article.
If you're exploring ways to enhance your workplace experience through improved indoor air quality, you'll want to read our FREE comprehensive guide on IAQ for healthy workplaces. Learn how IAQ data can be leveraged to elevate workplace performance, alleviate employee concerns, and drive better business outcomes.
What Is Workplace Wellness?
Intuitively, workplace wellness programs aim to improve the health and well-being of employees. These programs often apply to physical and mental health, ensuring that employees have the support they need to work effectively.
Workplace wellness programs generally fall under three categories: health-related programs and policies, health benefits, and environmental supports.
- Health-related programs and policies are written statements or opportunities designed to protect the health of employees, or encourage or discourage health-related behaviors. Some examples of these are fitness programs, paid parental leave, and rewards for health checkups.
- Health benefits relate to insurance, ensuring that employees have the coverage they need for their physical and mental health
- Environmental supports relate to the general working environment, including indoor air quality, ergonomics, heating, lighting, acoustics, and more.
Why Are Workplace Wellness Programs Important?
Workplace wellness programs can be enormously beneficial for employees and employers alike.
On the employee side, workplace wellness programs promote a healthier atmosphere to work in. Some wellness programs, such as flexible insurance options and paid parental leave, can also benefit employee families and create a better work-life balance.
On the employer side, workplace wellness programs have four main benefits relating to productivity, office culture, absenteeism, and health care costs.
- Productivity - There is a robust, research-backed connection between health and productivity, as people can perform at their best mentally and physically with a better health foundation.
- Office culture - Workplace wellness programs have the additional benefit of demonstrating that the employers care about their workers’ well-being, improving workplace culture and encouraging employee retainment.
- Absenteeism - Employees with a better health baseline get sick at lower frequencies, resulting in a reduced absentee rate. Because workplace wellness programs tend to improve employees’ families (better diet, etc.), they can also reduce the days missed by taking care of sick family members.
- Health care costs - Improving employee health will also help reduce the health care costs shared by employers who pay a portion of these costs, particularly in the USA.
Why Improving Indoor Air Quality Is an Essential Workplace Wellness Strategy
Now that we’ve established what workplace wellness programs are and how they benefit both employers and employees, let’s discuss how indoor air quality fits into the picture.
Air quality fits into the environmental support category of employee wellness programs. Air quality is one of the most crucial determinants of health, and indoor air quality is often two to five times worse than outdoor air. A combination of indoor pollutants, including particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other factors, like carbon dioxide (CO2) and airborne microorganisms, have severe impacts on health, lowering cognitive scores, introducing stressors on the body, and promoting sick building syndrome (SBS).
- Employees are far more productive with better indoor air quality. Harvard researchers have even found that indoor air quality improvements can boost productivity by 8%, resulting in a $6,500 increase in productivity per year.
- Implementing air quality improvement efforts demonstrates to your employees that you value their health and safety, shining a positive light on workplace leadership and encouraging employee retainment.
- Improving indoor air quality can help reduce absenteeism. Research on the connection between ventilation rates and absenteeism indicates that absenteeism decreases by 1.6% per person per 2 cfm increase in ventilation, and in a study on daycares, each 1 h⁻¹ increase in air exchange rate resulted in a sick leave decrease by 12%.
- Indoor air pollutants can create or exacerbate a range of health conditions, including lung and heart disease and asthma, all of which can increase the healthcare costs of employees.
Why Air Quality Monitoring Is a Key Component of Workplace Wellness
Since indoor air quality is so essential, how do we improve it? Alongside HVAC optimizations and source control, one of the best ways to boost your indoor air quality is to invest in indoor air quality monitoring.
Air quality monitoring collects crucial IAQ data that you can use to make smart decisions about your air, giving you the power to:
- Track improvements and identify problem areas
- Enhance the efficiency of your HVAC system, reducing energy costs without compromising air quality
- Integrate IAQ data into your building automation system
- Display your IAQ data, demonstrating your commitment to your employees and clients
These benefits are especially relevant during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For example, carbon dioxide readings can be used to estimate occupancy, helping you evaluate safety risks and manage ventilation rates. Particulate matter readings can inform you about the state of your air filters and whether your filters' efficiency rating is sufficient.
Learn more about how indoor air quality data can be used to enhance the workplace experience, alleviate employee concerns, and drive better business outcomes in our FREE eBook, IAQ for Healthy Workplaces: