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Every Breath You Take

Written by Hannah Wallis
20th May 2020

During the last couple of months, we have seen many beautiful photographs circulate the internet, some of which you may have even taken yourself or witnessed first-hand. Photos of rivers and seas shining crystal clear when usually they are dark and murky; snapshots of wildlife exploring areas it is not normally seen and CO2 emissions are down in major towns and cities.

For the first time in 30 years, people in the northern Indian state of Punjab have reportedly been able to see the Himalayan mountain range. From more than 100 miles away, the mountains are visible due to the reduction in air pollution caused by the country's lockdown restrictions.

What can employers do to, not only help fight the spread of Covid-19, but also improve the air quality in offices and building space? Bearing in mind that better air quality and better physical health will in turn have a positive impact on the mental health and overall wellbeing of staff.

The World Health Organisation has now confirmed that Covid-19 survives under certain indoor air conditions for up to 3 hours. Therefore, there is a serious need for organisations to understand the impact that air quality, and in particular humidification levels, can have on the spread of not only this virus, but also others like influenza.

Any businesses reoccupying the workplace are likely to be already aware of the fact that regular cleaning and disinfection, in addition to general social distancing measures, decreases the chance of transmitting viruses. Keeping good personal hygiene and the use of face coverings are also advisable. However, these controls do not prevent the airborne transmission of viruses.

We all know that viruses can be spread through physical contact with an infected person, but Covid-19 can also travel in droplets released from a sneeze, cough or even breathing. It has been suggested that these droplets can easily travel through the air, particularly the dry indoor air inside buildings and into an HVAC system. Data and research has demonstrated that if indoor humidity is managed at 40-60%, we humans can better defend our bodies from viruses in general. In addition, humidifying the environment improves our own immune system.

It is during times like these when we must keep ourselves, our families and our employees safe. This may well start with social distancing, washing hands regularly, cleaning regular touch points etc., but keeping physically healthy will support mental health as well.

I am not a scientist and I am not claiming that air purifiers will eradicate the coronavirus, simply that improving the air quality of the workplace will help in maintaining general wellbeing, which can only be a positive to try and stay safe from COVID-19.

Of course, the most effective methods to keep yourself safe remain:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as much as possible
  • Only leave the house if you must, in-keeping with Government guidelines
  • Respect social distancing measures

Stay safe, stay well.

"An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage".

Jack Welch

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