Indoor air quality advice for home workers

Simon Ashman

Simon Ashman
Consultant, Assurity Consulting
11th May 2020

As a consultant who routinely conducts indoor air quality assessments in my customers buildings, I rarely consider the same implications in residential environments. However, as a result of the COVID-19 preventative measures, the majority of the United Kingdom’s workforce is working from home and will be for some time to come. At such a time where the public are indoors most of the time (if not exclusively) it is important to consider your indoor air quality too.

The fundamental difference between indoor air quality in workplace buildings versus the home are the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Typically, buildings are fitted with a variety of air handling units, duct work pathways, fan coil units and/or variable air volume systems to control indoor air quality. Such systems are very rarely found in our homes. Modern homes are also designed for energy efficiency, making their envelope increasingly tight, which can have a knock-on effect on air quality. Despite these differences, the principle remains the same. Improved indoor air quality is an important factor in health, cognitive productivity and personal wellbeing in both environments. So, what can you do to improve indoor air quality while working from home?

  • As carpets harbour dust, particulate matter and other microorganisms, routinely cleaning or vacuuming those in your home can ensure that these levels are kept to a minimum.
  • Open various windows throughout your home to allow for improved continuous airflow. Lacking any artificial forced ventilation systems, increasing the amount of fresh air into your home through windows will prevent stagnant air build-up.
  • Make sure that extractor fans, in kitchens and bathrooms, are kept operational. Gas fired cooking hobs produce gaseous fumes (such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide). Steam created from showers and baths can increase relative humidity levels and so promote mould and damp growth if not correctly extracted. If not adequately removed by extractor fans, the presence of such gasses or mould/damp growth can exacerbate existing respiratory conditions.
  • Where possible, dry laundry outside. If allowed to dry indoors, this could be a contributing factor to damp and mould accumulation. Damp can also release harmful toxins into your home through the deterioration of building materials. Due to temperamental weather, if drying outside is not possible, ensure laundry is dried in a room with an extractor fan (such as the bathroom) if practical.
  • Under Government advice of only leaving the house to shop for essentials or once-a-day for exercise, make sure that you remove your shoes once you return home. Shoes can track-in unwanted particulate matter, allergens and microorganisms that can adversely affect the air quality of your home if worn around the house.

These are just some of the simple measures that can positively, contribute to the indoor air quality in your home as well as your mental/physical wellbeing and productivity while working there.