Health and wellbeing in the workplace: Surprising ways to keep your indoor air clean

Air pollution is a growing problem we have to deal with daily; it affects our health and is an issue that is out of our control, although only our collective efforts can change the situation.

Indoor air pollution can also affect our health and wellbeing, impacting productivity and leading to fatigue, mood swings and cognitive issues in some cases.

As a building biologist, I help my clients understand the importance of indoor air quality—even in the workplace.

In this post, I’ll reveal some lesser-known ways to improve air quality and enhance wellbeing in your office.

Bee’s wax candles

Scented candles are popular in homes and workplaces. However, even though they can make the air smell nice and fresh, regular paraffin candles can make the air more polluted.

Paraffin candles are known to give off fumes similar to diesel exhaust, emitting harmful chemicals like benzene and toluene and also giving off soot. These compounds are bad for your lungs and skin and may trigger asthma attacks.

Bee’s wax candles (scented or not), on the other hand, are safer to use since they are made from natural ingredients; they also emit negative ions while they burn, which can help remove harmful positively charged compounds from the air.

Studies have shown that bee’s wax candles reduced ailments like headaches by 78%.

Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is a common filtering material used in water filters, but did you know it can purify the air too?

Just like in water, activated charcoal can act as a filter for your indoor air, both removing dangerous air pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and deodorising the air at the same time.

While there are aerosol sprays available to help deodorise your workplace, I wouldn’t recommend using them as they can emit hydrofluorocarbons. 

Activated carbon does not emit any harmful compounds and has a high capacity for storing toxic chemicals while remaining harmless.

Buy used furniture for the office

This may sound like a very odd suggestion for keeping your indoor air clean but unbeknownst to many, beautiful new furniture can emit harmful chemicals like VOCs.

New furniture like sofas, carpets, tables and desks are made of fabrics and other materials that are coated with protective chemicals (these chemicals are what give you the “new furniture” smell) which give off pollutants (VOCs) when they react with sunlight and chemicals in the atmosphere; this is called off-gassing.

Older used furniture, especially those that are a few years old, will have already emitted most or all of the harmful chemicals they contain, making them much safer to use for your workplace.

Avoid stain-resistant products

Fabrics are highly prone to be ruined by stains and there’s not a lot of damage control possible. 

Many office furniture manufacturers try to make their products stain-resistant by coating them with Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are known to cause neurological issues.

The problem with these chemicals is that they do not break down and may be kicked up into the air and breathed in. PFAS can also linger in the indoor air for a very long time.

To avoid these chemicals, you should simply avoid having any stain-resistant items in your workplace or like I mentioned before, you could buy older, used stain-resistant products which have already spent their PFAS.

Health and wellbeing in the workplace should be a priority

Your workplace is like a second home and just like a home, it needs to be a sanctuary for both you and your coworkers.

Workplaces need to be healthy and clean for everyone to stay on top of their game and small steps like improving indoor air quality may drastically improve workplace productivity.

If you are thinking of ways to improve your workplace environment, speak with a building biologist today for a healthy workplace assessment.