Breathing Easier At Work: A Deeper Dive into Concerns About Indoor Air Quality
Manish Sharma, vice president and general manager of sustainable buildings, Honeywell Building Technologies
As employees around the world return to in-person work, they expect their employers to provide healthier and safer indoor environments. Yet, a recent poll by Honeywell found that many workers still harbor concerns about the conditions inside their buildings.
Honeywell’s second annual Healthy Buildings Survey, conducted in partnership with Wakefield Research, gauged the attitudes and perceptions of 3,000 office workers in buildings with 500 or more people across six regions: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Germany, India, the Middle East, the United Kingdom and the United States. It found that 72% of surveyed office workers are at least somewhat worried about the indoor air quality (IAQ) at their workplace, and 62% are prepared to leave their job if their employer isn’t taking steps to provide a healthier environment.
While these statistics are eye-opening by themselves, they don’t tell the full story. Beneath the aggregate percentages, the research also uncovered significant differences in attitudes across facility types, geographic regions and demographic groups.
Public buildings elicit more concern. Surveyed office workers in airports are more likely to express major concerns about indoor air than those in other types of facilities. Forty-three percent of surveyed airport workers say they are very or extremely worried about their workplace’s IAQ, compared with 36% of those who work in schools or universities, 35% in hospitals, 31% in hotels and 28% in office buildings. Notably, hotel workers (66%) are the most likely to say they’ll leave their job if they feel their employer isn’t taking the necessary steps to protect their health and well-being.
Geography matters. Surveyed workers in India (55%) and the Middle East (41%) say they are very or extremely worried about their building’s IAQ. By contrast, just 21% in the United Kingdom and 28% in the United States share these levels of concern.
Women worry more. Though the numbers of men and women surveyed are roughly equal, a higher percentage of women are very or extremely concerned about their workplace IAQ than their male counterparts. Nearly two-fifths (38%) of women are very or extremely worried, versus 31% of men, with differences between women and men most pronounced in India and the Middle East. There is an exception: The United States is the only country in which a higher proportion of surveyed men than women are very or extremely concerned about their building’s IAQ (30% versus 26%).
Millennials are most worried about IAQ – and are ready to quit over it. Millennials (39%) are significantly more likely to be very or extremely concerned about IAQ than Gen Zers (26%), Gen Xers (31%) and Baby Boomers (27%). They’re also more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to say they are prepared to quit if their employer isn’t taking necessary steps to protect their health and well-being.
Concern is higher in the C-suite. C-suite executives across regions show significantly more concern about their building’s IAQ than non-C-level workers. Among total respondents, 51% of C-level workers – compared with just 33% of their non-C-suite counterparts – are very or extremely worried.
Understanding these pain points can be useful to employers and building owners as they work to upgrade their ventilation and filtration systems, monitor air quality in their facilities and provide employees with regular and detailed IAQ updates.
Get the full Honeywell report here.