Comparing worker productivity to physical conditions in the workplace environment.

Status: Completed

Funding Sources: CBE Industry Consortium Research Grants

Project Objective

The objective of this research is to understand the relationship between indoor air quality and productivity with a controlled field intervention study. This two-part study was conducted in collaboration with the Indoor Environment Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

Significance to Industry

Over 90% of the total operating cost of commercial office buildings is attributed to the cost of employee salaries. Consequently even small improvements in productivity may result in significant cost savings. Previous studies demonstrated that simulated work performance declines when sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms are present, and showed that simulated office work performance was negatively affected by an indoor pollution source. In this study we studied the effect of ventilation, indoor air quality, and other factors on work performance by analyzing existing data, and by conducting a controlled field intervention.

Research Approach

The study was conducted in a call center operated by an HMO where many work tasks have well-defined productivity metrics in place. The tasks included telephone triage performed by registered nurses, appointment scheduling performed by clerks, and data entry tasks performed by both kinds of employees. The productivity metrics are the times required to handle calls and to perform data-entry tasks. Using statistical methods, we investigated whether or not the ventilation rate was correlated with work performance while controlling for other variables such as temperature.

The first part of this study was an observational analysis of work performance metrics and other variables such as ventilation rate, temperature, and occupancy. Statistical correlations between these variables and work performance metrics were used to evaluate the effect of ventilation rate on performance.

The second part was a double-blind, controlled field intervention. We compared the code-minimum ventilation with one or more higher levels based on the findings from the observational analysis. Indoor air quality metrics were derived from laboratory analysis of air samples, and measurable disturbance variables such as temperature was recorded with portable data-loggers. Performance metrics were derived from the automated call distribution system in the call center. Findings from this project were presented in technical papers and in CBE Summary Reports available for download.

Publications and Reports

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