Spending a whopping 40 hours of our week in an office, air quality can become something we don’t think much about. Nonetheless, the atmosphere where most of us spend the majority of our time has a great bearing on both health and productivity. Poor air quality in such a place could be disastrous for both. “We’re so worried about what we put in our bodies with food, but with air, sometimes we don’t even think about it,” says Jill Doucette, co-author of Greening Your Office: Strategies That Work and owner of Synergy Enterprises, a solution-building organization for companies looking for greener practices. Here are five tips to improve air quality in your office.
1. Add greenery to your scenery.
According to Doucette, English ivy, golden pathos and spider plants are outstanding when it comes to purifying the air. In fact, they actively suck in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) emitted from home items such as printers, carpets, and paintwork. Other fantastic air-cleaning options include aloe plants, bromeliads peace lilies, and dracaena; words of wisdom given by Janet McKenzie – a naturopathic doctor & clinic director at Summit Natural Health Centre located in Etobicoke – Ontario Canada.
2. Ask about the building’s ventilation system.
“In general, if your building has poor ventilation, your air quality is going to be reduced over time,” Doucette says. “Air quality can really impact productivity.” To ensure the safety of its occupants, management or HR should enquire with the building’s landlord regarding the air circulation system and how much time it takes to completely circulate throughout. “Request from your property manager or landlord more information about how the air is supplied and exhausted,” Doucette suggests. “How often are the filters changed? Has there been an indoor air quality assessment done, and what were the results of that?” According to Doucette, it is critical for businesses to understand their HVAC systems in order to avoid inefficient ventilation. If not monitored properly, companies can risk either over or under-ventilating their buildings.
3. Keep electronics in separate rooms.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed by toxins, Doucette suggests avoiding being in an enclosed area with a printer. To further prevent this from occurring, house your printers, copiers and other electronics in their own room that has the door shut to reduce toxicity levels. Additionally, McKenzie recommends wearing gloves (and even a mask!) when changing ink cartridges or handling large amounts of printed paper. Lastly, employees can benefit from using either grounding devices or screen shields to protect themselves from electromagnetic fields emitted by computers and other electronic machines.
4. Buy used furniture and low-VOC products.
Request pre-owned furniture to not only cut costs but also benefit from the VOCs that have already been emitted. Doucette recommends this approach as a win-win situation for both your wallet and the environment! “As a rule of thumb, you’re better off with furniture that comes without the smell of ‘new,’ says Zuzana Cabejšková, founder of ZAZA Bottles. “All chemicals applied to office products are most intense—and therefore toxic— in the first few months or years.” Cabejšková emphasizes that this advice is best used for wooden and other natural components, as older synthetics could potentially be even more hazardous due to the outdated regulations applicable at the time of their production. Moreover, the VOC regulation isn’t only limited to furniture; firms can also execute a zero- or low-VOC policy regarding renovations involving paint, drywall, and flooring according to Doucette.
5. Flush out the toxins.
Even though a few aspects of office air may be out of our control, such as the ventilation system, there are still steps we can take in order to flush out toxins from our bodies. Rehydrating ourselves with plenty of water throughout the day and taking regular outdoor breaks serve us well. Just going outside for a couple of minutes and indulging in some deep breaths will make all the difference. Plus, having an appropriate diet is also essential when it comes to cleansing those undesirable toxins! “Make sure your diet includes plenty of fiber and foods that promote bile secretion by your liver, such as artichokes, celery, daikon, radish, garlic, horseradish, lemon, lime, and watercress,” McKenzie says.
[Related: How to Eat Healthy on a Budget]