June 9, 2022

This blog was created in collaboration with Indoor Science.

How Can Companies and Employees Take Advantage of the Benefits of Working in an Office? – Start with a Strategy to Ensure Healthy Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

A recent New York Times article revealed average Manhattan office rent prices have dropped from an early 2020 high of $82/sf to $74/sf. Corporate giants such as United Airlines, Salesforce, and Target, to name a few, have already exited large office spaces.

While the trend toward remote work is not slowing down, many companies and leaders are skeptical of the benefits. A March 2022 study by Microsoft found about 50% of leaders say their company already requires or is planning on to require employees to return to in-person work full-time next year. Some leaders have been more direct in their stance against remote work. In a leaked email in early June, Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated, “Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla.”

What will bring employees back to the office? Data shows clean air plays a role

Joe Allen, Director of Harvard’s Healthy Buildings program, stated in regards to the post-pandemic office, “The cool new amenity won’t be a foosball table, it’ll be something we should have had all along – clean air.” Others seem to agree, according to a 2022 survey by Honeywell, 62% of employees questioned were ready to leave their job if a healthier indoor environment was not prioritized by employers.

Even before the pandemic, data linked cognitive improvements to healthy indoor air quality. A 2015 study by the Harvard School of public health demonstrated a 101% improvement in cognitive function of individuals working in enhanced green building conditions vs. traditional buildings. Further proving the ROI of healthy building investments, a 2021 MIT study concluded Healthy building certifications garnered renewal premiums of 4-7% over non-certified peers.

Many companies and employees have forgotten about the benefits of office work

Better Collaboration: A shared workspace helps eliminate misunderstanding and lack of context cues that virtual settings provide. Inc.com CEO, Kyle Taylor, often talks about the serendipity of when people from different teams strike up a conversation that yields a new idea or innovation.

Enhanced Culture: A 2020 study of 1000 office workers, 700 of which moved to a fully remote model, found the leading factor workers missed about the office (45% of respondents) was social connections.  A well-structured culture gives employees a sense of unity and belonging which is notably harder to achieve in a remote setting. A recent Forbes article outlined the importance of face-to-face interaction, “When employees barely know their colleagues and rarely interact, there’s no possible way for a strong culture to grow”.

Reduced Cyber Risk: In a study conducted by O2 Business, over 40% of respondents said they had unreliable internet access in their households. Even more alarming is a study by Forrester Consulting, which surveyed over 1,300 cyber security leaders and revealed that 74% of organizations attribute recent business-impacting cyber-attacks to vulnerabilities in technology put in place during the pandemic. In another report, half of all organizations surveyed experienced cyber security incidents associated with remote working during the 2020 lockdown period.

Improved Mental Health: The concept of “Remote” work is accidentally ironic as it can lead to feelings of remoteness and isolation. The American Psychiatric Association conducted a study, which found that “nearly two-thirds of people working from home feel isolated or lonely at least sometimes and 17% do all the time”.

The pandemic has drove considerable change in the way building owners, managers and tenants think about indoor air quality

“You can’t improve what you don’t measure” describes the indoor environmental quality testing services of Indoor Science. “The pandemic has been eye-opening in its push towards proactive testing services. We have seen a rise in clients wanting to evaluate the baseline health of their buildings. Many owners and operators are overwhelmed by where to even begin their journey. The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge and any additional funding will help and drive meaningful change.” Mike Lopresti, Chief Business Officer, Indoor Science.

“The pandemic has forced facility managers and commercial building owners to completely rethink their HVAC strategies. We help our clients effectively manage the complexities of their indoor air quality. As office occupancy rates continue to rise, employees are paying much more attention to the air they breathe indoors. We have seen an increase in demand for corrective IAQ solutions such as filtration and ventilation improvements as well as remediation and disinfection.” Dino Mangione, CEO, Donnelly Mechanical.

To help building owners improve indoor air quality, the EPA developed a set of guiding principles, with new legislation offering up to $50/SF tax credits for air quality assessments and upgrades

As part of “The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge,” launched in March 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends 4 guiding principles and best practices to assist building owners in improving indoor air quality.

  • Create an action plan for clean air in your building(s)
  • Optimize fresh air ventilation
  • Enhance air filtration and cleaning
  • Get your community engaged in your action plan

Announced on May 9, new government legislation called The Airborne Act has taken steps to incentivize IAQ upgrades in buildings. If passed, this legislation would provide non-residential building owners up to:

  • $1/SF tax credit to conduct IAQ assessments
  • $5/SF tax credit to upgrade air filtration
  • $50/SF tax credit to upgrade HVAC systems

About Indoor Science: Since 2004 Indoor Science has maintained a singular focus – subject matter expertise of indoor environments. Their 62 nationwide offices serve clients by proactively or reactively testing for chemical, biological, and particle risk factors then recommending corrective actions or certifying areas as safe.

About Donnelly Mechanical: Donnelly Mechanical is New York City’s premier provider of innovative commercial HVAC service, maintenance and construction. With over 30 years’ experience and 200+ employees, Donnelly serves New York City’s most prominent commercial organizations across a variety of sectors including data centers, healthcare facilities, Class-A office spaces and commercial real estate management firms.

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