CO2 Levels in Offices Are ‘Damaging UK Productivity’

Mixed planting in black planters

Competitiveness and productivity in the workplace are of paramount importance, with more emphasis on this than ever as the outcome of Brexit looms on the horizon. Research shows that the UK is lagging behind in the productivity tables, currently 26.2% lower than Germany and 22.8% lower than France based on GDP per hour worked. Whilst solving the productivity puzzle is an ongoing issue, a recent study into UK indoor office environments has considered environmental factors for the first time.

This headline-grabbing study found that employee performance declines when CO2 levels are high and also creates the impression of a stuffy office environment among many workers. With businesses wanting to boost their productivity, understanding how carbon dioxide impacts your employees’ work life is crucial.

As we look for solutions to this problem, one simple thing to consider is the inclusion of beautiful, lush plants.  These are not just something that is nice to look at – though biophilia tells us we love the sight of living things and crave to be in contact with the natural world – they’re also effective for purifying and oxygenating the air.

The Study

The research commissioned by Emcor, was carried out over a two-year initiative led by academics at Oxford Brookes University and LCMB Building Performance, and supported by Innovate UK, a government agency which aims to boost economic innovation. Several workplaces were tested over a period of two years, with sensors monitoring fluctuating CO2 levels during this time. Employees were sent numeral, proofreading and Stroop tests three times a day to complete. Read the full study here.

The results of the study corroborate the idea that the more carbon dioxide there is in the air, the lower the productivity. Employees worked 60% faster with lower levels of carbon dioxide and their test scores improved by up to 12%.

Sanseviera in red container and ivy plants in an office

The Importance of Oxygen in the Office

Poorly ventilated offices can have an average carbon dioxide level of 1000 ppm (or parts per million). In some meeting rooms, this can go up to 3000 ppm, as many people use them, and they’re often sealed, smaller environments. To put these figures into perspective, keep in mind that our outdoor environment tends to have a COconcentration of 405 ppm.

But how exactly can high levels of carbon dioxide impact your office? An increased intake of CO2 can actually lead to poor decision-making, and thinking processes this means that people’s mental capacity decreases. Reaction times are also slower, so employees may find it challenging to react properly and swiftly to things such as a fire evacuation or even simple, everyday tasks. CO2 tends to increase tiredness as well, meaning your employees will not be at their best and find it harder to cope with workloads and stresses. All of this contributes to a low-productivity environment.

Oxygen is fundamental for the optimal functioning of our bodies. Our cells use both glucose and oxygen, and brain function quickly declines when we don’t take in enough oxygen.  It is commonplace that office windows are sealed, and not able to be opened, this is often for safety and security reasons as much as to prevent impairment of AC efficiency.  And, as air pollution increases, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many offices across the nation suffer from lower percentages of oxygen and higher CO2 in the air.

To compound this problem further, UK office workers only spend an average of fifteen minutes outside in addition to their daily commute, so they are not exposed to much time in ‘fresh’ air, getting much-needed oxygen, on a daily basis.

Best Oxygen-Producing Plants for the Office

How can you get more oxygen into your office?  One simple solution is to add oxygen-producing and air-cleaning plants into the workspace. Plants are ideal for increasing air quality and nurturing the health and well-being of your employees. The following are just a few of the best indoor plants for boosting productivity in your office:

Areca Palm

This beautiful plant stands out for its ability to remove dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air, resulting in a purer office environment. Studies show that if you were to add four shoulder-height Areca palms per person to your office, and assuming the space was completely sealed off from the outside, everyone would still have enough oxygen to survive on during the day.

Areca Palm in Blue Pot

Snake Plant

Also called Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, this plant is highly efficient in transforming CO2 into oxygen at night. It also has the fantastic ability to purify the air by removing substances like benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and trichloroethylene. So, not only would your employees benefit from more oxygen, but the air would also be cleaner.

Peace Lily

Another plant that is perfect for cleaning the air is the Peace Lily. This species flourishes best in the shade, making it ideal for indoor environments, including your office. They’re also low maintenance, needing to be watered only once per week. You should never let the soil dry out and must use only chlorine-free water but, apart from that, this is an incredibly easy plant to take care of – perfect for a busy office. Peace lilies also remove acetone, ammonia, benzene and other harmful substances from the air.

The benefits of having several of these plants in the office are better air quality and beautiful flowers, as the peace lily blooms periodically.

There are many other office plants that will perfectly complement your workspace and elevate your current décor. If you’re looking to grow your productivity, make sure your employees can work in an environment with clean air. Our plants don’t just look great, they will also improve the air quality of your office, boosting your employees’ productivity. Have a look at how our beautiful plants can transform an office space by browsing through our case studies.

Contact us  today to get a free plant design and quotation.

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