How to improve workplace health with HVAC in mind

Ventilation

Dakota Murphy

A healthy workplace is important to get the best efficiency and productivity from your staff. And, of course, there are many areas where it is important to look at to understand workforce health, but one that is all too often overlooked in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) of your buildings.

air conditioningHVAC plays a vital role in ensuring that the workforce is not only healthy, but also that they are comfortable and able to work at their best at all times. Here we look at ways you can improve health in your workplace simply by focusing on HVAC issues.

The increased need for good ventilation

We are in unusual times – the COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot in the way we think about our workplaces. In fact, it is considered an important part of the fight against COVID-19 to ensure that rooms are well ventilated. Unsurprisingly, a virus most commonly spread through breath droplets is more likely to gain traction in areas with poor ventilation. That is why the government attaches great importance to good ventilation.

This is something that should be considered a priority in the workplace – workers who get COVID-19 and then infect many, causing an office-wide outbreak could be disastrous.

The right temperature

You may find that your work environment is often hotter than you’d like, but conversely, many find the opposite to be true; it’s too cold. A research into employee temperature preferences found that 42% said their building was too hot, while 56% said the building was too cold.

This shows how divided the workforce can be around the right temperature. Of course, you will never be able to make everyone 100% happy, but at least you can work towards a compromise that is as comfortable as possible for everyone.


Read: The role of ventilation in stopping the spread of COVID-19


Only use air conditioning when you need it

It is likely that your office uses the air conditioning too much. It’s increasingly common for businesses to find themselves in the middle of a hot day and choose to reach for the air conditioner remote, crank it to the max, and hope to cool down. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the best way to cool down the office.

It’s a good idea to allow natural cooling through ventilation first. Opening some windows not only lets in cooler air from the outside, but it can also help create an air duct that is always a convenient way to cool down.

Ask the staff for advice

It’s a good idea to really get to grips with what your staff is looking for in heating, air conditioning and ventilation. Your system may make some parts of the building too cold, while others remain unnecessarily hot. It’s a good idea to get information from your team about their HVAC experience.

Your team will inevitably have a much greater collective understanding of the experience of working in your environment. They can provide useful feedback on how to make improvements.


Read: Monitoring Indoor Air Quality and Pollutants in the Workplace


Have your HVAC system overhauled

Sometimes, no matter what processes, policies and procedures you put in place, you won’t be able to get the kind of workplace you’re looking for. This could be due to your entire HVAC system being flawed to begin with. You may need to overhaul your entire HVAC system.

“At best, a misdesigned or specified system can be ineffective and expensive, costs considerably more money to run when the air in the building is not properly controlled,” said Philip Todd, Managing Director at BSE 3D. “At worst, poor design can cause frequent maintenance issues and premature system failure.”

Final Thoughts

HVAC can play a huge role in staff productivity and performance, so it’s wrong to ignore it or not think deeply about how it can be more effective. In the era of COVID-19, it has never been more important to get this right, not only to help staff work to the best of their ability, but also to keep them safe at all times.


Benefits of clean air in indoor working environments

SHP recently hosted a webinar, as part of Connect 2021, on the benefits of clean air in indoor work environments. The session looked at:

  • The role of ventilation in reducing transmission of COVID-19
  • Ventilation vs. Filtration – Differences and When to Use Which One
  • Best practice for companies bringing employees back to the office
  • Non-COVID related air quality issues in industries including manufacturing
  • WHO Recommendations on Particulate Matter Levels

Watch the session here…

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