Last year, employee illness cost companies an estimated $530 billion and 1.4 billion work days, despite the already high cost of employee healthcare programs. Keeping staff happy and healthy is both ethically and financially important, and taking care of the workplace environment is central to this. With the development of smart tech, companies are increasingly able to combine human feedback with more accurate monitoring to ensure that phenomena such as “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS) occur less frequently and with less impact.
Is “Sick Building Syndrome” making a return?
This somewhat controversial syndrome was identified in the 1970s, when employees complained of a range of symptoms including itchy eyes, scratchy throats and headaches specifically when in the workplace. Recent reports from the UK and other European countries such as Finland suggest it may be returning, with one survey finding that 80% of workers believed poor indoor air quality was the factor behind their negative physical and mental health. Fortunately, advances in smart tech mean that companies can be proactive in monitoring and improving different aspects of workplace air quality.
Research from the Institute of Medicine has confirmed a link between the presence of mold and some of the typical SBS symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and nasal irritation. Since mold is often the result of high humidity, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping humidity levels between 30-50% to avoid mold and resulting SBS symptoms. Installing wireless smart sensors to measure and maintain these levels is now a relatively low-cost, effective preventative measure. Having the workplace inspected regularly for mold is also a highly sensible precaution, saving money in the long run by identifying and removing concerns early.
Get creative with carbon dioxide
If carbon dioxide levels are moderate to high, symptoms can include nausea and dizziness. Again, wireless smart sensors are a good investment to combat the issue of high carbon dioxide levels. However, companies can also get a little more creative with the new tech at their disposal. Some organizations have created smart indoor plant walls, which absorb CO2 and produce oxygen when levels reach a certain level to actively improve the air quality.
Other smart solutions
Some symptoms of SBS, such as headaches and dizziness, may be eased by smart lighting or thermostats, which can be set to keep employees comfortable as they work. It may be possible to create differentiated zones, so that employees can choose to dim harsh lighting if need be or brighten it for a particular task. In the future, wearable tech may also be a valuable source of data for employers to use in their analysis of workplace conditions.
As technology improves, companies have more affordable, effective solutions at their fingertips to reduce the risk of Sick Building Syndrome. Installing wireless smart sensors is now a much more cost effective option, since the sensors are not only more sophisticated but they also last longer, requiring less maintenance. Employers who move with the times should find themselves rewarded in the long term with healthier, more productive and engaged employees.