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Indoor Air Quality in the Workplace

One of the most essential strategies of a business place is to ensure that employees are safe and satisfied in their work environment. This encourages good rapport with management and has a positive impact on productivity. Protecting employees’ health and wellness should be prioritized and part of that mandate is to ensure that the indoor air at your establishment is of good quality as required by law. Employees may not always speak up out of fear of being labelled “the troublemaker” so they will sit and suffer silently while trying to stay away from work as much as possible.

There are guidelines to know when your employees are suffering from poor indoor air quality. Remember, there are different susceptibility levels, so while some employees will be fine, look out for the 20% who are not okay. According to Burrows (2020), "A building is said to be "sick," when 20 percent or more of the occupants voluntarily complain of discomfort symptoms for periods exceeding two weeks..." (28). Here are a few pointers to follow:

1) Lowered productivity: Employees come into work with a burst of energy and as the day dwindles on they get more distracted and produce much less.

2) Sleepiness: Employees start yawning after a few hours at work and try their best to not lean over their desk.

3) Employees complain of headaches, itching, nausea, sore throat, shortness of breath, etc.

4) Increased absenteeism; high turnover rates. “Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been estimated to cause six additional lost workdays per year for every ten employees.” (Reid, 2015)

5) Altering physical infrastructure: Employees are inclined to open windows, bring in an extra fan, or go as far as asking to be transferred to another area within the office.

6) Frequently needing to step outside to “clear their head.”

Your employees’ health matter. While we may get comfortable with the short-term effects of poor indoor air quality and while employees eventually get used to being ill in the workplace, there are also long-term effects that the employee would have to deal with even after leaving the job. Furthermore, lowered productivity and increased absenteeism has a major impact on profit margins. “The EPA estimates that the costs associated with healthcare expenses and lost productivity due to indoor air quality issues in the workplace could be in the tens of billions of dollars each year. Similarly, OSHA has estimated that worker absences and reduced efficiency resulting from poor air quality cost U.S. companies $15 billion annually. And this doesn’t include the rising cost of lawsuits and legal liability associated with air quality issues that impact worker health.” (Reid, 2015)

Protect your workers. Protect your business.


Burrows, Hazel E. (2020). Managing Indoor Air Quality. 5th Ed. River Publishers: Gistrup, Denmark.

Reid, John (2015). “Clean Air, Productivity and the Bottom Line.” Fabricating Metal Working. Retrieved from:

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