Office air quality hinders staff performance

9 Dec 2021 By Jasmine Urquhart

A study by the University of Harvard has found that office air quality could negatively impact workplace productivity and cognitive function

Researchers at the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health studied 302 office workers in buildings located in six countries. The research was conducted between May 2018 and March 2020 among companies with more than 10 employees, and was part of the global CogFx study.

The companies’ offices were installed with a network of indoor environmental sensors that measured concentrations of the particulate PM2.5 and levels of CO2. Each participant was asked to complete tests and surveys on an app that assessed accuracy and response times. 

Researchers found that higher indoor concentrations of the particulate PM2.5 were associated with slower response times and reduced accuracy in the cognitive tests. Higher levels of CO2 were also linked to decreased performance in all tests and increased response times on the arithmetic test.

Joseph Allen, associate professor at Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, said: “Our research consistently finds that the value proposition of these strategies extends to cognitive function and productivity of workers, making healthy buildings foundational to public health and business strategy moving forward.”

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