Air Quality and the Relationship to Productivity

(Originally Published November 22, 2017)

A recent report published by Harvard, SUNY Upstate Medical School, and Syracuse University breathes life into the relationship between building air quality and work performance. In particular, the study highlighted the following results:

  • 26.4% higher cognitive test scores in high-performing, green certified buildings.
  • Increases in ability to focus on tasks
  • Marked increase in managing crisis at work
  • Surprisingly, a building with better air quality and flow meant improved sleep for employees
Symptoms of Inadequate Air Quality


A YouGov survey noted that 70% of employees believed that poor air quality impacted their performance. Since inadequate air quality is sometimes related to poor air circulation or limited sunshine in a working space, there are a multitude of issues that arise for employees and professional teams. Employees from the same study, as noted by BESA, regularly suffered from these symptoms as a direct result of poor air quality in the office:

  • 68% of office workers experience lapses in concentration on a monthly or more frequent basis
  • Over 2/3 (67%) of recipients reported issues of fatigue while at work on a monthly or more frequent basis
  • Over half (54%) of office workers surveyed experienced decreased productivity on a monthly or more frequent basis
  • Over a third (41%) of people experienced watery or irritated eyes when in the office on a monthly or more frequent basis

Beyond these initial symptoms, the long term damage and degradation to health are considerable. Companies should consider how they can carefully mitigate air quality issues by understanding the causes of these issues.

Main Causes of Air Quality Issues in the Office

Air quality is comprised of ventilation, which means adequate air flow, filtration of pollutants, and proper air temperature. Air quality can be adversely affected if any of these factors are off balance, leading to the symptoms reported above. Here are the factors that contribute to the air quality within an office.

Sources and Distribution of Air

  • Poorly managed HVAC system: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems regulate a majority of these factors.  Not having a properly maintained HVAC system will surely cause air quality issues in the long run.
  • Improperly maintained HEPA filters: a high-efficiency particulate absorber helps keeps dust from the outside of the office away from the air supply. An old filter may reduce effectiveness, thereby allowing more dust or particles to enter the office.
  • Traffic pollution: sometimes due to the incoming commuter traffic air quality can be impacted particularly if your office is near a large and traffic heavy street
  • Smog and other factors: government agencies may sometimes issue air quality warnings requesting residents to refrain from outdoor activity until the warning has passed (source)

Indoor Office Air Contaminants

  • Office mould affects air quality: mould in the office due to humidity causes distracting foul odours and health issues from breathing in bacteria.
  • Carpet as a source of allergens: even well-vacuumed carpets often trap dust, bacteria, insects, dirt, and plant dander.
  • Dusty office fixtures: over time office furniture and fixtures collect dust and this can also reduce the air quality, especially if fixtures are bumped and moved. The dust is dispersed and air quality is impacted if not continually managed
  • Organic material left in trash bins: when organic material such as food is being broken down it releases hydrogen sulfide and methanogens -  gases which can be distracting and take time to vent.

These causes of poor office air quality are quite common and unfortunately are affecting team members in Kitchener and all over Ontario. This issue is especially dire during summer months or when the A/C fails to function properly. Office managers and business owners should look at the following strategies for maintaining adequate air quality.

Strategies for Managing Air Quality

  • Have a technician regular maintain HVAC components like air ventilation systems, furnaces, dehumidifiers, and air conditioning units.
  • Employ an office cleaning service or janitorial service to ensure that carpet and floor air contaminants are regularly removed while fortifying employee perceptions of a clean and comfortable office environment
  • Create a composting program so that organic waste can be properly disposed of in a timely manner, preventing odours while also diverting waste from landfills
  • Adopt a green approach as the air outside is what the office team will draw from.

Office Air Quality is Determined by Outdoor Air Quality


Without a big-picture view, there is only so much that can be done to manage the office's air quality. That's why at Kitchener Clean our team employs a comprehensive approach to maintaining office cleanliness, looking beyond indoor qualities. This is because air quality is defined by the quality of air both inside and outside the office. This indicates that short cuts to cleaning an office are ultimately a short-term solution, failing to take into account the ecosystem in which an office is situated. Kitchener Clean is passionate about cleaning for the environment and has a non-toxic cleaning approach.

"An office full of people almost guarantees that somebody will not be happy with the cleaning service!  But since we've started using Kitchener Clean at our office, there has not been one complaint!  Friendly, efficient and thorough, I would highly recommend this company!"

- Holly

Office managers need to cater to multiple staff needs and requirements.  Offices that are Kitchener Clean immediately make an impression on the office staff. The above testimonial conveys how working with a quality service provider can make a huge difference for the entire staff.

Kitchener Clean: The Difference Maker in Air Quality


At Kitchener Clean, we are dedicated to helping create safe and healthy work environments. Air quality issues can wreak havoc in your workplace. It might mean less focused employees or reduced sleep quality, meaning long term negative impacts to the team's health and productivity.

Hiring an experienced cleaning company who knows to clean all the usually forgotten nooks and crannies and how to avoid mould and dust build up will help keep your office space clean and your workers healthy. We believe that everyone should be entitled to breathe clean, chemical-free air at work. That's why we are dedicated to providing non-toxic and environmentally friendly cleaning solutions that are safer than traditional cleaning methods.