Home Sweet Home: Ensuring Healthy Indoor Air Quality for Remote Workers

Feb 6, 2024 2:45 PM ET
Campaign: License to Operate
Home Office

As companies continue to navigate a post-COVID environment, hybrid work or fully remote models have become more commonplace. The increased amount of time spent indoors, where the air quality could potentially be worse than outdoors, highlights the need to prioritize indoor air quality (IAQ) and awareness on factors that contribute to poor IAQ.

According to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, poor IAQ affects health and productivity significantly more than previously understood. Factors such as low ventilation or increased dust particles can impact how employees feel and may cause symptoms such as headaches, exhaustion, or respiratory disorders, making it difficult for employees to remain focused. In addition, other climate-related factors are expected to increase and contribute to poor IAQ. For example, wildfires and the smoke emitted contains microscopic particles that can easily seep through closed doors and windows, potentially exacerbating respiratory and cardiac problems.

Through comprehensive IAQ assessments, employers have control over the air quality in-office and their facility environments and can develop long-term solutions to remediate any air quality-related issues. On the other hand, the air quality while working from home is not closely regulated and often overlooked.

IAQ at Home

As part of their duty of care, employers should provide adequate IAQ awareness and offer modifications to protect their employees from illness in at-home environments. The same way certain companies provide a stipend for ergonomic equipment for hybrid and/or fully remote employees, a similar system could be adopted for improving at-home air quality.

There are several factors that influence indoor air quality and can impact productivity while working from home:

  • Ventilation: Poor ventilation systems can trap air pollutants in the home.
  • Chemical Pollutants: The push for energy-efficient construction coupled with the increased use of synthetic materials, personal care, and cleaning products has resulted in higher concentrations of certain harmful pollutants in the air. Other common forms of indoor air pollutants include carbon monoxide, asbestos, and lead.
  • Airborne Particles: Dust, pollen, pet dander, tobacco products, and viral particles can remain suspended in the air, affecting air quality.

Strategies that employees can adopt to improve their indoor air quality include:

  1. Monitor IAQ: Investing in an IAQ monitoring device is an effective way to get a baseline understanding of the quality of air in the home. Monitoring metrics such as CO2 levels, carbon monoxide, radon, lead, etc. will provide insight into what changes need to be made, if any.
  2. Maintain adequate ventilation: Opening doors and windows periodically ensures clean air is circulated throughout the home. In addition, the use of special venting in certain areas of the home (i.e., the exhaust fan in the kitchen and bathroom fans) can be helpful to efficiently move the air outside.
  3. Check and replace common household filters: Household filters for HVAC units and kitchen vents should be cleaned or replaced every few months to prevent fine particulate matter from escaping back into the air. Additionally, ensure the most appropriate filtration type is installed.
  4. Limit the use of candles and air fresheners: Despite the intent of candles and air fresheners, these fragrances emit small particulates, which can raise the level of total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) at home and increase the risk of serious health problems.
  5. Monitor humidity at home: Increased temperature and humidity inside the home could result in the presence of mold and mildew, which over time can cause respiratory issues. The EPA provides information and guidance on how to prevent mold growth, including the use of dehumidifiers and venting appliances.
  6. Isolate sick household members: If a family member or loved one at home is sick, consider isolating them in a separate room or area of the home to prevent the spread of the virus to others.

As IAQ awareness continues to grow and the future of work environments continues to change, it’s essential for businesses to stay informed on best practices and invest in advanced solutions that extend to all potential employee work environments. It’s key to ensuring the health and wellbeing of employees, and it demonstrates an employer’s commitment to employee health and safety.

Do you have questions or need help with your business’ IAQ? We’re here to help!