If you work in an office environment,you can bet that you’ve had at least a few team meetings in a small conference room with your boss and colleagues. In some cases you,once you emerge,you might wonder if it was much hotter in there than the rest of the office. Well,not only are you correct about that,but the process could also be affecting your mental health.
As it turns out,when you’re placed in a small area with no ventilation (because it’s air conditioned) with lots of people,the carbon dioxide and heat tends to build up. At least that is what the New York Times have found. They have carried out over eight studies in the last few years have looked at what changes occur in the air in a room packed with people for a long time.
It is well known that air pollution can cause asthma,lung conditions,not to mention cancer in some instances. However,it turns out that low air quality can also affect your ability to think clearly,or at least as well as you can normally.
The main reason behind all this is the drive to make offices more energy efficient,either to keep heat in or to keep them cool (via air conditioners).This is done by using better insulation,but the process also involves reducing the air flow in / out of the building,as this air flow increases the loss or gain of heat.
But,whilst technology improvements have made it easier to insulate buildings and install air conditioning units,the process has also meant that we are in essence sealing in all the buildup of gases and toxins released by office staff.
You may have noticed one of the effects of this,in that if one person on your office floor has a bad cold,you may well find that more people are catching it than you would expect. This goes for you too of course,in fact there’s a higher likelihood you’ll catch the bug via the air on your office,than if you encountered them on public transport.
However,indoor air quality is not monitored as often as outdoors,so scientists don’t have a lot of information to go on.
What they can confirm however is that a CO2 build-up of over 1,200 parts per million (Pppm) is not good. You see,when you’re absorbing more carbon dioxide than is good for you,your blood vessels increase in size,to try and absorb more oxygen from your blood into your organs. One of the effects of this,some scientists say,is to reduce neural activity between brain regions. Effectively,that reduces your brain power and hence your decision-making process is impaired.
But at the moment,they cannot be sure of the extent of the problem. Dr Joseph Allen carried out a similar study in 2016. He suggests that,in order to make sure you have enough air flow to offset the concentration level of CO2,a meeting room should have at least 6 cubic feet of air flow per minute per person.
Even that may not be sufficient though. Better then would be to provide meeting rooms with CO2 sensors,or perhaps just place the room on an outside wall and give them opening windows and not place them in the centre of the floor.That way meetings can take place with a fresh air flow from an open window,without causing issues for the rest of the floor.
Who knows,maybe this interchange of clean air may even give your employees greater brain power so that they can better swap ideas to handle the situation you’re having a meeting for in the first place..
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