You can feel it in the air: creating healthy offices

Indoor climate quality has a huge effect on people’s well-being and productivity: a fact that cannot be ignored, considering that we spend 90% of our time indoors. Harvard University carried out a survey of 1600 employees at different companies, asking them which aspects made them happiest at the office. Indoor air quality, sufficient light, comfortable temperatures, and the option to personalize their work environment were the most frequent responses.

Bringing natural elements indoors

Take another look at those answers and you’ll soon realise they all relate to the same thing: bringing natural elements into the office environment. Healthy outside air, a preference for daylight over artificial light, and pleasant temperatures - meaning no air conditioning, which creates dry air and blasts unhealthy, ice-cold air onto the back of your neck all day long.

Lower absenteeism, higher productivity

According to the survey (the results of which are available here), employers who invest in measures to keep their indoor climate healthy are seeing lower rates of absenteeism: up to four days less per employee per year. Just think about what this means in terms of cost savings for a medium to large business of 100 to 1,000 employees. But that’s not all; employees in a healthy work environment are up to 16% more productive than employees in a poor indoor climate.  In other words, investing in a healthy indoor climate pays significant dividends by creating a win-win situation for both the employer and its employees.

Unhealthy offices: the how and why

Unfortunately, the indoor climate in offices is often a lot unhealthier than people suspect. In summer, indoor temperatures frequently soar to unbearable levels. Office air is often heavily polluted too: carpets are full of fine dust, and after the cleaners have hoovered, all that dust is blown up into the very air we breathe. In addition, indoor air is teeming with volatile organic compounds (VOCs): minuscule particles floating through the air that are harmful to us if breathed in. More specifically, VOCs include glue and paint particles, fine dust emitted by printers, and so on. As a result, employees often complain of headaches, feel drowsy, or experience respiratory problems—all of which lead to lower productivity. This phenomenon even has a name: the ‘sick building syndrome’. According to Lode Godderis, a professor in occupational medicine at KU Leuven, “the air we breathe indoors is dirtier than the air outdoors, even on days with heavy air pollution”.

Measures against poor indoor air quality

As such, it is essential to ensure buildings are properly ventilated. Opening the windows certainly works—but only for a while. What’s really needed is constant ventilation throughout the building. That’s why we recommend that offices are fitted with natural ventilation solutions, such as Renson Invisivent, for example. Invisivent is a window vent that brings a high flow of air into the building. In addition, the louvres are soundproofed, meaning the workplace remains delightfully quiet.

Large windows allow a huge amount of light to enter, which is never a bad thing, of course—but they do allow the sun to play havoc with the indoor temperature. By integrating outdoor blinds into the building and keeping them shut on sunny, warm days, the office will remain pleasantly cool all day long. The other advantage of Renson screens is that while they certainly keep out the sunlight, they do not block the view or daylight.

Renson’s Fixvent offers the perfect solution, combining sun protection and ventilation. This isn’t just beautifully simple in terms of functionality; it’s cheaper, too. If you combine all this with a Renson Healthconnector, you’ll have a smart, demand-driven system that regulates the amount of CO2 in the building.

Holding outdoor meetings

There is, of course, another alternative to locking yourself away in airtight meeting rooms: simply head outdoors! A Renson pergola could just provide the perfect setting for your next meeting. You can close the blades when it’s raining or open them up when the sun is beaming down: either way, you’ll be surrounded by glorious outdoor air. With the appropriate accessories, such as glass panels or extra heating elements, you can turn any outside space into the perfect spot for meetings - even in the spring or autumn. One thing is certain: no one will be experiencing that mid-meeting lull, and everyone is bound to remain fully focused.

By investing in large windows, and in ventilation and sun protection - fairly simple measures, when you think about it - you can turn your indoor space into a healthy working environment. In the long term, everyone will benefit; you’re bound to see a huge return on your investment 
Nick De Landsheer
Author: Nick De Landsheer

Nick De Landsheer is a ventilation specialist with more than 25 years’ experience in the HVAC sector, working for renowned companies such as Renson. Nick played a key role in developing the C+ ventilation system. At the 2019 Batimat construction trade fair in Paris, Nick was honoured to receive the Innovation Award for the Healthbox 3.0, a smart demand-driven ventilation system using SmartConnect technology.

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