Safety and cleanliness have always been table stakes for businesses. Employees and consumers alike expect the places that produce the goods they use and where they live, work, learn, and play to take reasonable precautions to be clean and sanitary. But the coronavirus pandemic has prompted new and heightened concerns around protecting the health of people inside of businesses, whether they be workers or customers.
A changing landscape: indoor air quality in our new normal
When the pandemic first struck, scientists and public health experts knew that aerosol droplets expelled as we breathe, cough, talk, and sneeze were helping to spread the novel coronavirus quickly. Initially, the belief was that heavier droplets falling to surfaces would allow the virus to live on for some time, and therefore, spread easily to others who came into contact with those surfaces.
However, as time went on, the scientific world determined that the primary route of transmission for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was through lighter expelled droplets that stayed aloft in the air for hours, allowing people to breathe them in.
As scientists came to understand the nature of COVID, the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as other leading health authorities, began to recommend strategies for indoor air purification to protect people.
While indoor air quality, or IAQ, has been a discussion among forward-thinking organizations for quite some time, this new revelation about the spread of COVID-19 has put a new focus on it. From our homes to businesses, IAQ is now more than a differentiator. It is a critical component of health and wellness strategies for indoor spaces.
The new consumer cleanliness, health, and safety expectations
After nearly 18 months of new workplace practices, such as masking, working from home, and adjusted employee leave policies, businesses face a new set of challenges as they prepare to ramp back up to a new version of operations in the time of COVID-19. Whether that’s bringing people back to a physical workspace or returning to full occupancy spaces for consumers, there are new cleanliness, health, and safety practices that businesses will need to meet to satisfy consumer expectations.
“Many consumers are still healing from pandemic-induced trauma, and as a result, have a heightened sense of their own health and the health of others,” reported Forbes in a July 2021 article on health and wellness influences on consumer behavior. “Brands need to persistently recognize these changes in order to be viewed positively in the eyes of customers.”
Businesses that aren’t taking measures to show people in their spaces how they are working to protect their health could face negative results: staff defections, loss of consumer trust, and a downturn in business.
As remote work becomes a new benefit in the workplace, employees may be looking to their employers to provide more flexible work options. Those that do return to the workplace are seeking better conditions – and they are willing to look elsewhere if their current workplace isn’t going to provide them.
In fact, a recent survey of 3,000 U.S. working-age adults by Ambius, Rentokil’s sister company, found that 60 percent of respondents would be willing to take a lower-paying job in order to work in an environment with better air quality, hygiene levels, and more hygiene-aware colleagues.
The benefits of clean indoor air
For decades, public health figures have focused on indoor air quality as a method for improving overall health. That’s because, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), people spend up to 90% of their time indoors – where air can be from 2 to 5 times more contaminated than outdoor air.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that companies lose up to $15 billion annually as a result of poor indoor air quality. That loss can stem from employee sick leave or lack of productivity from symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye, nose, and throat irritation, aggravated asthma, watering eyes, or a range of other wellness factors.
Conversely, the benefits of clean indoor air can be significant. Organizations that make investments in indoor air quality can realize a number of benefits:
- Decreased absenteeism
- Increased productivity
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved focus
In fact, one 2017 study from researchers at Harvard University, Syracuse University, and SUNY Upstate Medical estimated that the productivity benefits from improving indoor air quality could be as much as $6,500 per person per year.
Going beyond HVAC to air purification
Many people assume that a building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system addresses indoor air quality concerns. However, that’s not necessarily true. Most HVAC systems are not designed for contaminant control, but rather to regulate temperature and control comfort levels. In fact, HVAC systems can sometimes contribute to the spread of infection by moving contaminated air from one area to another.
For that reason, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the use of portable, free-standing air purifiers as one strategy to help improve indoor air quality. But, not all purifiers are created equal. With an onslaught of air purifiers now available in the marketplace, it can be difficult to determine the best solution for your business.
5 qualities to look for in an air purifier
If you are looking to select an air purifier for your business, there are a few key qualities that you’ll want to have on your checklist.
Medical grade filtration and sanitation technology
Consider devices that offer real-time protection from airborne pathogens and contaminants, such as those that use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to trap particles or UV-C technology to deactivate pathogens. Purifiers with filtration alone only trap pathogens and contaminants. They do not deactivate viruses and or eradicate other germs and bacteria.
Most standard filtration systems provide good filtration with 99.95% capture of particles .03 microns or smaller, but it’s important to note that some virus still makes it through and back into the air. Even high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filtration has this limitation.
High-performance clean air delivery rate (CADR)
One essential performance metric to evaluate in any portable air purifier is the clean air delivery rate, or CADR. As the EPA simply explains it, “This number is intended to help consumers select an air cleaner based on the size of the area it will be placed in. The higher the CADR, the more particles the air cleaner will remove and the larger the area it can serve.” As such, it is important to know the size of the area that your air purifier will be serving. In some instances, it may be necessary to have more than one device to do the job.
Indoor air quality displays
Air purifiers should have displays that allow you, your employees, and customers to see the real-time air quality of a space. Many units use a simple “Green – Yellow – Red” color bar to indicate the quality of the air; others more complex displays may report carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter concentrations in the air.
Sound and noise levels
The last thing any business wants is an air purification system that adds to distraction in the workplace or business. That’s why it’s critical to include sound and noise factors as part of your consideration process.
The level of sound that an air purifier makes may depend on its fan, which can vacillate dependent on the speed at which it operates. If your business needs air turned over frequently, your air purifier may need to run at max speed throughout the day and that can impact the amount of noise it generates. Be sure to include this in your consideration. Sound levels for air purifiers are typically reported in decibels. Look for units that perform at under 50 decibels on average. For comparison, a home refrigerator operates at about 55 decibels.
Expertly serviced solution
Finally, don’t forget to factor in the service of your air purification unit as part of your choice. While buying an air purifier outright may seem like the most cost-effective solution upfront, ask yourself:
- Do I have the staff needed to perform routine maintenance and filter changes?
- Has my staff been trained in the safety measures needed to safely service a unit without spreading pathogens?
- What happens if the unit breaks or needs repair?
Leasing an air purification unit may be a cost-effective alternative to purchasing that eliminates many of these concerns. Air purifiers serviced by trained professionals ensure that routine care and maintenance occur on the right schedule and that harmful pathogens aren’t spread throughout your environment in the process. Leasing air purification units can also eliminate concerns about replacement or repair in most circumstances. What’s more, the costs for a leasing and service option can typically cost less than a cappuccino per day.
Breathe easier with VIRUSKILLER™
Rentokil can help you achieve your clean air goals. In partnership with our sister company, Ambius, we are pleased to introduce VIRUSKILLER™, a revolutionary clean air technology that effectively deactivates 99.9999% of viruses on a single air pass*, monitors air quality, and purifies the air in indoor spaces of all sizes, uses, and traffic levels.
VIRUSKILLER™ provides unrivaled performance against viruses, bacteria, mold, and fungi, taking down airborne pathogens and contaminants through a combination of triple filtration and its patented UV-C Reactor Chamber technology.
By deactivating 99.9999% of viruses on a single air pass*, VIRUSKILLER™ outperforms standard air purification units. This graphic illustrates this concept. If 1 million virus particles enter a standard air purification unit with 99.95% effectiveness, 500 virus particles will still re-enter the air after passing through. In contrast, VIRUSKILLER™ provides maximum protection by deactivating 99.9999% of viruses within the same 1 million particles. This means that only a single virus particle re-enters the air, substantially reducing the likelihood of cross-infection.
Backed by a consultative, full-service solution from Ambius
Ambius offers a full air purification range to meet any of your business needs. Each unit comes backed by the consultative, full-service approach that Ambius is known for, including equipment recommendations, placement, and monthly service checks and routine maintenance, which includes filter and Reactor Chamber replacement when needed.
Get back to business with cleaner air
As we enter this new post-pandemic era, give your workers and customers the reassurance they need to feel safe in your space. Take steps now to address indoor air quality with an air purification system like VIRUSKILLER™. Doing so won’t just help you get back to business faster, it will help your organization be better prepared to weather future health crises.