There are two important lessons that the coronavirus pandemic has taught businesses: first, we really can’t predict the future no matter how much planning we do; and second, our current strategies and practices no longer work in the New Normal. Where people are driven to stay indoors and contagion fears grip countries, many businesses are just striving to stay afloat and adapt as quickly as they can to protocols and guidelines that also change as fast as they are made.  Understandably, business continuity strategies tend to focus more on the short-term objectives of responding and recovering from the crisis. Keeping your competitive edge, however, means looking beyond the present challenges and future-proofing your business today. What has been pushed to the top of that checklist is to ensure a healthy, safe, and comfortable environment with excellent indoor air quality – and with good reasons. With optimal indoor air quality business owners can protect their most valuable assets – their employees and their customers – and stay open. And with even modest improvements to indoor environmental quality, there is significant ROI impact to ensure business sustainability.

Good Indoor Air Quality Improves Occupant Health and Productivity

A landmark double-blind study in 2015 by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and United Technologies Climate, Controls & Security confirmed what most of us may have experienced: better air quality improves our performance. It showed that cognitive performance can increase by up to 61% in environments with healthy indoor air quality compared to those who worked in conventional environments with elevated levels of volatile organic compounds and CO2. The most significant improvements were seen in the areas of workers’ crisis response (up to 131% higher); strategy (up to 288% higher), and information usage (up to 299% higher) – all valuable skills for productivity and ensuring business sustainability. Employee productivity can increase by up to 10% in environments with quality indoor air.

Employee absenteeism can also be minimized by improving indoor air quality. A study by the World Green Building Council revealed that healthy workplaces reported 35% less employee absence from sick leave. Healthy buildings make for happy and healthy occupants who sustain and help businesses grow.  As John Mandyck, Chief Sustainability Officer for United Technologies said, “about 90% of the true operating cost of a building is the salaries and the benefits of the people inside the building. [If] green buildings can improve thinking, can improve productivity, can improve health, [then] buildings become human resource tools. Buildings can become ways that we can find competitive advantages simply by optimizing the indoor environmental quality.”

Good Indoor Air Quality Enhances Your Brand Value

Brand equity or how customers perceive you is a strategic business tool because it helps generate revenues and more importantly creates long-term value. Increasing your brand equity raises your brand value. Businesses can differentiate themselves by showing commitment towards building a healthy and safe environment and pursuing proactive measures to ensure good indoor air quality. With effective IAQ programs in place, you can attain certifications that provide customers and other stakeholders confidence to deal with your business. A WELL certification, for instance, shows that a building prioritizes continuous performance improvements and long-term occupant health. This can be a powerful tool to leverage on for acquiring new occupants, extending leases, reducing tenant churn, or upselling as it presents compelling value propositions to your customers. Improving and maintaining good indoor air quality systems also result in reduced complaints and overall better satisfaction levels from occupants – an important retention tool. Over time, a healthy building increases its own value.

Good Indoor Air Quality Protects Your Bottom line

According to the World Green Building Council, buildings can save as much as 79% on energy costs just by implementing good indoor air quality strategies. Best practices such as monitoring your air quality, good ventilation, and air filtration are modest investments when compared to the long-term economic benefits that you can achieve. A study by Carnegie Mellon estimates possible ROI for good indoor air quality at an average of 120%. When you consider the financial costs of low workforce productivity and poor health, suboptimal energy consumption and maintenance, ensuring good IAQ is one of the best investments that businesses can make. 

While being agile and being quick to innovate and adopt technology may be essential qualities to future-proof your business, something as basic as ensuring a healthy, safe and comfortable environment will go further to build sustainability and resilience in the face of any uncertainties. Understanding your air quality in relation to your employees, your occupants, and your customers is one of the most crucial steps you can take to protect and grow your business.  You may not be able to predict the problems that might occur in the future, but you can certainly take the steps to prepare your business for whatever challenges may arise.