Hybrid employees in the UK are worried about how healthy their work environments are, with 53% saying they’re concerned that poor air quality and ventilation will affect their general health.
This figure rises to 70% among London-based hybrid workers.
The survey of 2,000 UK hybrid workers by OnePoll, on behalf of smart building technology firm Infogrid, finds that hybrid workers are facing a catch-22 moment with balancing worries over the cost of working from home with concerns about their own wellbeing in the office.
To reduce personal energy use and bills at home, nearly a quarter (23%) plan to increase the frequency they go into work this winter to save money as they combat the cost-of-living crisis. But, at the same time, they have concerns about the health and safety of these environments.
With cases of flu and other respiratory illnesses on the rise in the UK as winter approaches, one in five (21%) hybrid workers are fearful about catching Covid-19 and other bugs owing to poor air quality in their workplace, with this figure rising to 24% of those aged 18 to 34.
Ross Sheil, SVP, Infogrid, said: “As some hybrid employees head to the office to take the heat off of personal energy bills, our research indicates there is an emerging concern about the impact of poor air quality on their health. In the midst of the cold and flu season, and with concerns about Covid lingering, improving indoor air quality should be top of mind for employers. It can help to reduce viral transmissions at work by up to 80%, and give employees confidence about the safety of their work environment. With many concerned about reducing energy bills at home, it’s imperative they can feel reassured they are not risking their health by choosing to come into the office.”
The spread of germs isn’t the only issue arising from poor ventilation; poor air quality in work environments, which includes those with high levels of CO2, can negatively impact employees’ cognitive functions. And yet, the research reveals that over a third (39%) of respondents weren’t aware of the effects of air quality on their concentration or productivity levels.
Meanwhile, around a fifth (18%) of respondents say they find it difficult to concentrate in their workplaces because of poor air quality, rising to 23% in those aged 18 to 34, highlighting that some workers are already well aware of the risks associated with bad indoor ventilation.
The research suggests that many employees feel their concerns are not being heard by employers who may be failing to realise the importance of air quality. Over a third (35%) of the hybrid workforce believe that while their company is taking steps to improve air quality, they aren’t doing enough – rising again among the younger generation to 48%.
In fact, 17% of hybrid employees don’t think employers have carefully considered air quality when designing the workplace – suggesting that safe and healthy ventilation is not being taken seriously enough. One in four (25%) believe that clean air in the workplace should be implemented as a company policy.
Sheil added: “There is still a significant focus on encouraging workers back into offices, however, businesses need to take changing employee concerns into consideration in their efforts. Employers must balance the financial impact of the energy crisis, with employees’ worries about the health risks associated with being in close proximity with co-workers in poorly ventilated indoor spaces as we head into winter. This should act as an immediate catalyst for businesses to improve indoor air quality and implement smart cleaning programmes to put workers’ minds at ease. Our research shows that employees need to see that their wellbeing is a priority for employers not just during winter months, but all year round, and there is no doubt that monitoring and optimising air quality is a prerequisite for creating a healthy, safe and productive working environment.”