Does indoor air quality (IAQ) still matter in 2022? With the COVID-19 pandemic fading in many countries – and amid supply chain chaos, rising energy prices, and global talent shortages – many enterprises might consider whether to shift their priorities elsewhere. Have workers moved on, and is it time for businesses to do the same?
Data published in recent months paints a more nuanced picture, and suggests that such an approach might be short-sighted. Recent findings tell us that IAQ is still a major concern for the global workforce, and it can still have an outsized effect on employee productivity and health. Companies that want to thrive in the new post-pandemic normal should take heed.
3 Takeaways from Honeywell's 2022 Healthy Buildings Survey
Earlier this year, Honeywell published the results of a survey of 3,000 employees. They were asked a series of questions about their attitudes towards health at the workplace, indoor air quality, and returning to offices. Respondents worked in buildings of 500+ occupants, and hailed from diverse geographical regions including Southeast Asia, Germany, India, the Middle East, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“62% of global workers said they would leave their job if their employer failed to create a healthier indoor environment.”
Healthy Building Survey 2022, Honeywell
The results were interesting, and perhaps surprising given the declining coverage of pandemic-related issues in most media outlets. Some highlights include:
- Employees care about healthy workplaces – to the extent they would consider switching jobs. 62% of global workers said they would leave their job if their employer failed to create a healthier indoor environment; this figure rose to 65% among U.S. workers and 81% among U.S. C-level executives.
- Employees are demanding more transparency when it comes to IAQ. 65% of those who had returned to in-person work told researchers that they found it very or extremely important to be informed of the state of air quality in their buildings. More frequent monitoring corresponded with more regular information being shared with employees, highlighting the importance of a continuous IAQ monitoring policy.
- Employees are aware of the impact of air quality on their health. 89% of the occupants surveyed reported that the quality of the air they breathe in buildings directly impacts their health and well-being; 98% believe that better air quality results in at least one health benefit. Nearly three-quarters could (correctly) state that indoor air might be less healthy to breathe than outdoor air.
Additional Studies Reveal Similar Attitudes Towards IAQ
These results are in line with previous findings - such as that 82% of millennials would feel safer returning to offices with access to real-time information on IAQ; or that 67% of employees report they are more productive in workplaces that promote a healthy environment, with air quality and natural light having the largest impacts. They reflect a workforce that is well-informed and aware of the way poor air quality and other environmental factors can negatively impact health and productivity; and conversely, the benefits of healthy buildings.
“67% of employees report they are more productive in workplaces that promote a healthy environment.”
- Workplace Wellness Study, Future Workplace
Charting a Path Forward for IAQ in the Enterprise
What can facility managers and business leaders learn from this data, and how should they act on it? As a company that provides air quality monitoring solutions we're hardly unbiased; but if you trust the veracity of the data, we'd invite you to consider the implications.
Surveys and research are telling a clear story: even if COVID-19 is no longer top of mind, IAQ still is. The heightened awareness and concern for indoor air quality issues is an established part of our new normal. The current generation of workers cares deeply about IAQ – and there is no reason to think the next generation will be any different.
In fact, the trend is likely to continue in a future that will likely be shaped by the impacts of climate change – which could lead to more wildfires, worsening outdoor air conditions, potential energy shortages, and increased focus on health, sustainability, and environmental factors.
Finally, take into account that air quality initiatives take time. Setting up monitors is easy enough and an important first step; but acting on the data might require changes to occupancy patterns, modifications to HVAC systems, or integration with building management systems. Businesses that act now will be much better positioned to tackle IAQ issues compared to enterprises that wait for the next crisis.
The conclusion is, in our opinion, clear: abandoning your air quality initiative at this time is like throwing the parachute out of an airplane when turbulence subsides. Businesses that wish to set up their built environment for success in the near, medium and long term should find ways to continue supporting the health of occupants, including through monitoring and optimizing IAQ in the buildings they operate.
Not Just Future-Proofing: Benefits Start (Almost) From Day 1
It's important to stress: IAQ initiatives aren't just a way to alleviate a theoretical concern employees might have in the future. They can show positive impacts and return on investment even within the first days or weeks.
“97% of U.K. workers said it's important that they stay informed of IAQ in their office building.”
- Healthy Building Survey 2022, Honeywell
As we've seen from the results of the Honeywell survey, transparency is important in its own right – and one of the things employees are most adamant about (97% of U.K. workers said it's important that they stay informed of IAQ in their office building). Measuring air quality in offices, and making it transparently available, will immediately help in alleviating employee concerns and contribute to morale.
But even more importantly - research has shown that improving IAQ carries tangible benefits for businesses, regardless of employee attitudes. This is reflected in significant cost savings generated through increased productivity and reduced absenteeism, which Harvard researchers have estimated at $6500 per employee per year. And in a time of ballooning energy prices, demand-controlled ventilation and smart HVAC systems that respond to changes in IAQ data readings could slash energy bills by 10-21%.
Improving IAQ is Critical. Here’s How We Can Help
Honeywell's Healthy Building Survey is the latest in several studies and surveys, all of which have shown a shift in mindset towards air quality. This is not a temporary fad, and is likely to affect employees and workplaces for years to come. Combined with rising energy costs and the expected impacts of climate change, it's clear that businesses should continue prioritizing indoor air quality if they wish to ensure smooth operations in the near and long term.
Kaiterra provides best-in-class IAQ monitoring devices, advanced software analytics, and unparalleled expertise in customer support to help you achieve your goals. Our IAQ solutions allow you to transform your built environment, leveraging turn-key building integrations to improve occupant wellbeing, increase energy efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions, all at the same time.
If you'd like to hear more about air quality monitoring solutions used by the world's largest and most sophisticated companies (including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft), please get in touch for a free consultation.