Office air quality may affect workers' cognitive function

Office air quality may affect workers' cognitive function

Office air quality may affect workers' cognitive function. New research explains that the air quality within an office can impact employees' cognition and productivity. It can have a significant effect on their response times and ability to focus.

The latest research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health involved more than 300 office workers in cities across China, India, Mexico, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All the participants, aged between 18 and 65, worked at least three days a week in an office building.

The researchers outfitted an environmental sensor in each participant's workspace. The sensor monitored in real-time concentrations of PM2.5 and CO2, as well as temperature and relative humidity. The study participants were told to participate in cognitive tests and surveys.

There were two tests: the first test was conducted to evaluate the participants’ cognitive speed and inhibitory control, while the second test was used to assess cognitive speed and working memory.

Overall, the study found that poor indoor air quality affects health and productivity significantly.

The study will be published online in Environmental Research Letters on September 9, 2021.

"Our study adds to the emerging evidence that air pollution has an impact on our brain. The findings show that increases in PM2.5 levels were associated with acute reductions in cognitive function. It's the first time we've seen these short-term effects among younger adults," said Jose Guillermo Cedeño Laurent, a research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health and lead author of the study.