Thursday, October 06, 2016

Effect of Air Pollution on Office Workers Performance

For anyone who has tried jogging through smog, the physically sapping impacts of air pollution should come as no surprise. But pollution doesn’t just slow down runners, it hampers workers too. Research by Tom Chang of the University of Southern California and colleagues found that pear packers working indoors were slowed by air pollution even at levels well below current air-quality standards. Might sedentary office workers indoors, also be slowed down by poor air quality?

In a second paper, Mr Chang and his colleagues studied China, where air pollution is a major problem. China releases a daily air-pollution index (API)—also referred to as an air-quality index—which rates air quality based on the health risk it represents. Anything above 100 is bad news. In Shanghai the index periodically hits 150, putting everyone’s health at risk. To establish the correlation between productivity and air pollution, the authors focus on office workers in two call centres in Shanghai and Nantong, where productivity can be measured by counting the number of calls workers handle per day.

What they find isn’t good. On days with higher air pollution, workers spend more time on breaks and complete fewer calls. On average, a 10% increase in the API was associated with a 0.35% decrease in number of calls handled per day. That quickly adds up: workers in the call centres studied are estimated to be 6% more productive on low-pollution days than on days when pollution is high. The likely culprit for office workers is particulate matter, which can easily enter buildings through windows and vents. The smallest of these particles enter the blood stream and the central nervous system, affecting concentration and mental performance.

Read the full article @ The Economist

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