Freelance Tech Writer for SHP Online and IFSEC Global

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A tech writer specialising in cybersecurity, working with Redscan on this and a number of other GDPR, MDR, and ethical hacking projects.
August 16, 2021

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How to improve workplace health with HVAC in mind

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

air-conditioningHVAC plays a vital role in ensuring not only that staff are healthy, but also that they are comfortable and able to work at their peak 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 find ourselves in unusual times – the COVID-19 pandemic has changed much of the way that we have to think about our places of work. In fact, it has been considered a major part of the battle against COVID-19 to ensure that spaces are well ventilated. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a virus that is spread most commonly through droplets in breath is more likely to be able to gain traction in areas with poor ventilation. This is why the government has put good ventilation as such a high priority. 

This is something that needs to be considered a priority in the workplace – workers coming down with COVID-19 and then infecting many thus creating a full-office outbreak could be disastrous. 

The right temperature

It might be the case that you find that your working environment is often hotter than you would prefer – but conversely, many find that the opposite is true; it’s too cold. A survey into workers’ temperature preferences found that 42% said their building was too warm, while 56% said the building was too cold. 

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

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

Use air con only when you need it

It is likely the case that your office overuses its air conditioning. It has become increasingly common that businesses find themselves in the middle of a hot day and choose to reach for the air con remote, turning it up to the maximum and hoping to cool off. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the best way to go about cooling down the office.

It is a great idea first to simply allow for natural cooling via ventilation. Opening a number of windows not only lets in cooler air from the outside, but it can help to create a channel of air which is always a useful way of cooling down. 

Take advice from staff

It’s a great idea to really get a handle on what your staff are looking for in terms of their heating, air conditioning and ventilation. You might find that your system actually makes some areas of the building much too cold, while others remain unnecessarily hot. It’s a great idea to get information from your team about their experience in terms of HVAC. 

Your team will inevitably have far more understanding collectively over the experience of working in your environment. They will be able to provide useful feedback on making improvements.

Read: Monitoring indoor air quality and pollutants in the workplace

Have your HVAC system overhauled

It is sometimes the case that no matter what processes, policies and procedures you put in place, you can’t get the kind of workplace you are looking for. This might be due to the fact that your whole HVAC system is flawed to begin with. It might be the case that you need to have your entire HVAC system overhauled.

“At best, an incorrectly designed or specified system can be ineffective and expensive, costing significantly more money to run while failing to properly control the air within the building,” says Philip Todd, Managing Director at BSE 3D. “At worst, poor design can cause frequent maintenance problems and premature system failure”. 

Final thoughts

HVAC can play a huge role in staff productivity and performance, so it is wrong to ignore it or not put the due consideration into how it can be more effective. In the age of COVID-19 it has never been more important to get this right, not only to help staff work to the best of their abilities, 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 working environments. The session looked at:

  • The role of ventilation in reducing transmission of COVID-19
  • Ventilation versus filtration – differences and when to use which one
  • Best practice for businesses bringing workers back into offices
  • Non-COVID-related issues with air quality in sectors including manufacturing
  • WHO recommendations on levels of airborne particulates

Watch the session back here…

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Nigel Dupree
Nigel Dupree
5 months ago

Back two or three decades too the days of “Sick Building Syndrome” and the debilitating affects on the occupational health of employees and, ongoing research into the human factors surrounding a basic set of “Given Conditions” in which the human resources are reasonably not being made ill or suffer debilitating repetitive stress injuries / adaptions due to carrying-on regardless, sub-optimally functional, effectively disabled to some degree, euphemistically called Presenteeism, with an average 20% lost productivity until unsustainable, completely unproductive as, they have broken down and now off sick. So, having addressed the thorny subject of ventilation are we going to… Read more »

Elaine Ozel
Elaine Ozel
5 months ago

Apart from using air conditioning, how do you bring fresh air into an office when the building has been designed with non opening windows? Leaving doors open will not suffice in large offices and it breaches fire regulations in a lot of instances.