If you work in an office,you can bet that you’ve had at least a few team meetings holed up in a conference room with your boss and colleagues. In some cases you,once you get out,you might wonder if it was much warmer in there than the rest of the office. If so,not only are you right about that,but the process could also be affecting your mental well being.
As it turns out,when you’re stuck in a small room with no ventilation (because it’s air conditioned) with a number 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 at least eight studies in the last few years have analysed the changes occur in the atmosphere in a room packed with people for a long time.
It is well known that air contamination can cause asthma,lung conditions,not to mention cancer in some cases. However,it turns out that poor 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 use less energy,either to keep heat in or to keep them cool (via air conditioners).This is done by installing better insulation,but the process also involves reducing the air flow in / out of the premises,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 move 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 chance you’ll catch it via the air on your office,than if you came across them on public transport.
However,indoor air quality is not monitored as much as outdoors,so scientists can’t say this for sure that this is the case.
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 inhaling more carbon dioxide than you should,your blood vessels dilate,to try and get 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 found that,in order to make sure you have enough air flow to offset the buildup of CO2,a meeting room should have a bare minimum of 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 compromising the temperature on the rest of the floor.
Who knows,maybe this introduction of clean air may even give your staff greater brain power so that they can better interchange ideas to solve the problem you’re having a meeting for in the first place..
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