Office designers, property owners and building facility managers alike are focused on creating healthy commercial building spaces and workplaces this year. Many businesses are planning for a full office return by the second or third quarter of 2021. And IAQ is taking center stage, with products and solutions designed to boost office safety and ease workers’ worries.
Office Employee Concerns About Returning to Work
Commercial buildings have many factors to consider moving forward. Two of the top priorities to address are:
- Employee concerns
- Risks associated with reopening workplaces too soon
Healthy buildings mean designing better, building better, choosing better materials, regular maintenance AND upgrades for older buildings. Creating good IAQ does not look the same for every space. #IAQ https://t.co/aB2PKxVmgi— IAQ Works (@IaqWorks) January 15, 2021
Office workers are concerned about workplace safety and what their building or employer are doing to protect them. As they prepare for the shift from working from home to in the office, concerns include:
- How is the building actively creating a safer indoor environment?
- What are the safe work protocols that will be enforced–wearing masks, social distancing, increased ventilation, etc.?
- Is it too soon to return to the office?
- Should companies wait for everyone to be vaccinated?
Risks Associated With Reopening Offices Too Soon
Offices that are encouraging staff to return to work face potential lawsuits if a COVID-19 outbreak were to occur on-site. As a result, risk management companies are working with many businesses to help determine the risks of reopening sooner than later.
“There’s a lot of risk to employers in 2021 rushing to bring their people back to the office,” said Bob Conlin, Navex Global’s President and CEO, for a piece in The Wall Street Journal. “Employers need to be aware of what the legal ramifications will be if there are health-related issues related to employees coming back.”
On average, commercial buildings in the U.S. are 32 years old. Older buildings risks include poor ventilation, limited humidity control and HVAC systems that can’t handle better air filtration systems. In contrast, newer buildings are designed to be airtight, significantly reducing the fresh air influx from natural ventilation found in older builds, making mechanical ventilation a required upgrade. Regardless–both old and new buildings are not pandemic-resistant and each space comes with its own unique set of air quality issues.
How IAQ Can Reduce Concerns, Risk and Create Healthy Commercial Buildings
To address employee concerns and appease risk management companies, commercial buildings are relying on trained IAQ experts for help. In short, IAQ professionals can help office managers understand the challenges and potential solutions to improve air quality. Through testing and data, experts can sufficiently determine common pollutant sources and problems, and recommend IAQ upgrades necessary for healthy commercial buildings.
Interested in learning more about indoor air quality issues and programs in your area? Check out EPA’s interactive map to select your region and get contact information for your state’s office: https://t.co/0HgVNjYY8B.— U.S. EPA (@EPA) April 2, 2019
Trained IAQ experts are working with office designers and building managers, who are scrambling to find ways to get workforces back to their desks as safely as possible. Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment at the University of Oregon, said to NPR, “We’ve designed buildings for 100-year floods. Now we have to learn to design for the 100-year flu.”
The future of commercial buildings are indoor spaces with better ventilation, filtration, humidity control and purification systems. For future demand, an HVAC contractor with little air quality experience or a lack of training in IAQ will not be sufficient. Said contractors likely won’t be considered for these profitable opportunities. Interested in IAQ training, resources and support? We can help you start.