The air you breathe at work can have a big impact on your productivity and performance. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology found that commercial airline pilots were significantly better at performing advanced manoeuvres in a flight simulator when CO2 levels on the flight deck were 700 parts per million (ppm) and 1500 ppm than when they were 2,500 ppm.
This finding suggests that CO2 levels directly affect pilots' cognitive function and decision-making skills, and that even relatively low levels of CO2 can have a negative impact.
So, if you want to be 2.5-times less productive at work - simply don't do anything about your CO2!
What is CO2?
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is a naturally occurring gas that is a byproduct of respiration and combustion. It is also a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
How does CO2 affect indoor air quality?
CO2 levels can build up indoors, especially in enclosed spaces like airplanes, cars, and offices. This is because CO2 is not easily expelled from these spaces, and it can quickly reach levels that are harmful to human health and productivity.
What are the effects of CO2 on productivity and work performance?
High CO2 levels can have a number of negative effects on productivity and work performance, including:
Reduced cognitive function: CO2 can impair your ability to think clearly and make decisions. This can make it difficult to focus on your work, learn new things, and solve problems.
Increased fatigue: CO2 can make you feel tired and sluggish. This can make it difficult to stay focused and motivated throughout the day.
Increased errors: High CO2 levels can increase your risk of making mistakes. This can lead to accidents, injuries, and lost productivity.
Reduced morale: CO2 levels can make you feel uncomfortable and stressed. This can lead to decreased morale and productivity.
In this study, the airline pilots performed up to 2.5-times better especially for complex tasks when in optimal CO2 conditions (<700 ppm CO2) compared to high CO2 conditions (2,500 ppm CO2).
What can you do to manage CO2 levels in your workplace?
There are a number of things you can do to reduce CO2 levels in your workplace, including:
Measure: measure your CO2 levels and other indoor air quality and productivity measures. Resmonics can help you with that – check out www.resmonics.ai/quorum and talk to us!
Increase ventilation: Open windows and doors to let fresh air in. You can also install fans or air purifiers to help circulate the air.
Reduce the number of people in the room: The more people in a room, the more CO2 is produced. If possible, try to reduce the number of people in the room at any given time.
Use plants: Plants help to remove CO2 from the air. Consider adding some plants to your workspace to help improve air quality.
Get regular fresh air breaks: Get up and move around every 20-30 minutes to get some fresh air. This will help to reduce your exposure to CO2 and improve your productivity.
The findings of this study (and many others) suggest that CO2 levels can have a significant impact on your productivity and work performance. Even moderately raised levels of CO2 can impair your cognitive function, decision-making skills, and morale.
If you are concerned about the CO2 levels in your workplace, talk to your employer about ways to improve air quality. By taking steps to measure and reduce CO2 levels, you can improve your productivity and well-being. Get in touch with us!
Allen et al., Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. 29, 457-468 (2019).
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