5 Simple Steps to Improving Workplace Air Quality

Have you ever worked in a ‘sick building’? We know, ‘sick building’ sounds a little dramatic, but the fact is some offices have higher rates of (genuine) illness-related absenteeism than others, and air quality has been shown to be the root of the problem.

Don’t believe us? Well, even as far back as 1984, the World Health Organisation reported that almost a third of new or remodelled office buildings around the world can be linked to the phenomenon – also called Sick Building Syndrome.

Why Air Is Important

The problem with air quality is that it is so easily affected by such common things as temperature, humidity and even man-made influences, like air conditioners, ventilation systems and heating.

With poor air, gases like carbon monoxide and radon, and microbial contaminants like mould and bacteria, as well as a host of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are free to do their worst, resulting in low levels of health amongst workers.

Steps To Improve Air Quality

The good news is that there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to vastly improve the quality of air – none of which are expensive or time consuming.

Here are just 5 of them.

  1. Keep Vents Clear
    Ventilating the office properly means that stale air inside the enclosed area can be taken out, complete with the VOCs and other contaminants that are in it. So, with the exception of the ventilation system needing a service, all vents should be kept clear. This basically means not placing any furniture or stacking any boxes in front of them to block the air flow.
  2. Keep Fans Clean
    It’s only normal that some desk or standing fans will be on the go, especially in the summer months, but carefully maintaining them is important. Fans in the office can simply regurgitate dust and dirt, throwing them around the area.Also, condensation on blades is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. So, when the fan is turned on, the bacteria are thrown into the air and are then breathed in by staff.
  3. Use Real Office Plants
    It has been mentioned before, but is always worth mentioning again. Bringing plants into the office can make a huge difference to the quality of the air being breathed. Research carried out in 2009 showed that VOCs were significantly reduced in enclosed spaces (in this case homes) where plants are present – concentration levels were 30 to 100 times greater when there were no plants. It seems the leaves of these plants absorb much of the ‘bad air’, releasing oxygen and freshening up what we breathe in.
  4. Dust the Office Regularly
    Dust is practically impossible to keep out of any work space, but it can be reduced. Research shows that dust is more than just minute fragments of skin and dirt, there are also gaseous particles, like ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate. The two most effective ways of dealing with dust are to have the cleaning contractors dust all surfaces regularly, and bring in plants. Research carried out by Washington State University proves dust levels can fall by 20% with plants around.
  5. Dispose of Rubbish Regularly
    Getting a bad smell from the kitchen bins is really just unpleasant. However, getting a whiff of decomposing food scraps, for example, can leave some people suffering from nausea and headaches.No definitive link has been formed between odour and health conditions, but ensuring that all bins in the office are emptied regularly is certainly a welcome development from everyone’s point of view.

Fresh & Clean

A well ventilated work place is a must in order for us to work properly. Fresh & Clean managed hygiene and washroom rental programs. Just like our Sanitary Bin which is designed to provide maximum comfort for your female employees and customers and our Odour  Control (Air Freshening & Odour Elimination Services) to ensure the washrooms and all areas of your organisation are always smelling fresh.

For any of the above, all you need to do is ask Alsco. If that green office is one of your priorities, then why delay?


  1. ‘Sick Building Syndrome’, Wikipedia Page – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_building_syndrome
  2. ‘An Office Building Occupant’s Guide to Indoor Air Quality’, EPA, USA – http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/occupgd.html
  3. ‘Houseplants as AIr Fresheners’, spectroscopynow.com – http://www.spectroscopynow.com/coi/cda/detail.cda?chId=4&id=22493&type=Feature&page=1
  4. ‘Impact of Interior Plant on Relative Humidity and Dust’, VJ Lohr and CH Pearson-Mims, Washington State University, USA – http://public.wsu.edu/~lohr/hih/air/


Image courtsey: Juhan Sonin

Disclaimer – These articles are provided to supply general health, safety, and green information to people responsible for the same in their organisation. The articles are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs.