Gaurav Burman, VP & APAC President, 75F, India

Gaurav Burman, in his previous position was with Schneider Electric, as their Director – Marketing where he was also a part of the Management Team of Schneider Electric, South Asia. Gaurav has handled diverse portfolios in his career including product management, alliances, channel sales, and enterprise sales. Prior to Marketing, Gaurav spent 20 years of his life in Sales and worked with companies like PCL, IBM, L&T, APC, and Schneider Electric. He was recently recognized as one of the 50 Most Talented CMOs in India in 2013, and one of the 100 Most Talented CMOs in the World by the US-based CMO Council.

 

As offices around the world start to open up after a long break, facility managers everywhere are faced with the challenge of how to keep everyone safe at work. WHO acknowledges that the Covid-19 virus is primarily airborne, and the risk is particularly high in an enclosed space shared by multiple people. There is also the need to maintain ambient conditions most conducive to work, including air, lighting and temperature. In short, businesses now have a clear interest in indoor air quality (IAQ) and how to optimise it for the well-being and mental peace of their employees. The time is ripe, therefore, for an overhaul of inefficient HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) systems and the use of technology to keep spaces properly ventilated.

The case for IAQ investment

According to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the air quality within an office space can have significant impacts on employees’ cognitive function, including response times and ability to focus, and it may also affect their productivity. Higher CO2 levels and higher concentrations of particulate matter in the air were linked to slower response times and lower cognitive accuracy – and the levels for both are the same as those often found in indoor environments. This is only the latest addition to a large body of evidence indicating that air quality and mental productivity are strongly linked. After a prolonged period of working from home, it is likely that employees will struggle to adjust to the discipline of an office environment. Creating optimal conditions for focus, therefore, is crucial.

In addition, of course, is the ever-present need to keep indoor air free of pollutants and germs, of which Covid-19 is just one. Most commercial building spaces have central HVAC systems that control the temperature and quality of air throughout the premises. Typically, the air-conditioning happens through centralised units, the insides of which can be breeding grounds for disease-carrying germs, including the novel Corona virus. Moreover, in a confined air-conditioned space, the droplets released when someone sneezes are much likelier to come into contact with other people, putting them at greater risk of catching the disease. Other contributors to disease transmission include incomplete filtering of the air before it is released and poor general ventilation.

What businesses can do

Businesses thus have a clear obligation to safeguard employee well-being by ensuring that indoor air is both clean and optimally balanced for productivity. There are several ways to accomplish this with the help of the right equipment and a structured IAQ strategy. Depending on the size of the building and the budget on hand, businesses can do the following-

  • Keeping windows open wherever possible to allow fresh air to flow in
  • Providing ventilation flushing throughout the building at least two hours pre-and-post-occupation (including opening the windows and running the exhaust fans)
  • Investing in advanced indoor air cleaning systems like photocatalytic oxidation and ionization
  • Running the HVAC system on minimum outside air when the building is unoccupied
  • Establishing cleaning protocols for high-contact areas of HVAC systems and automating the control of the equipment wherever possible
  • Encouraging employees to use balconies and other outdoor spaces, both to benefit from fresh air and to facilitate social distancing

Conclusion

In the post-Covid world, new safety requirements have brought about a renewed interest in how to keep indoor environments pollution-free. Businesses everywhere are investing in indoor air quality, motivated also by the desire to help their teams function optimally in the right ambient settings. Measures like the ones above, in addition to regular temperature checks, hand sanitisation and disinfection of the premises, will go a long way in keeping office-goers safe in the new normal. Employees can thus come back to the office with their minds at rest and make the most of the productive environment.

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