COVID has accelerated significant changes and made returning to work a moving target for employers and employees.
Employees now expect more of their employers regarding health and safety at work. More than 3 in 5 pre-COVID office workers said they would seek another job if their employer did not implement sufficient infection prevention protocols at the office. Furthermore, 91 percent of employees now hold employers responsible for ensuring their safety from infectious illnesses in the workplace.
Employee and employer expectations regarding time in the office also differ. Most executives expect employees to be on site one to four days per week. However, employees want to work from home an average of 2.5 days per week.
Despite these disparate expectations, in-person work has clear benefits. Researchers examined inputs from Microsoft employees and found that the 2020 shift to remote work caused more siloed, static collaboration networks, impeding knowledge transfer and reducing output quality. Another survey found that 39 percent of employees struggled to maintain relationships with colleagues during remote work.
Yet even with these realities, concerns about safety overshadow the transition back to in-person, collaborative work: 45 percent of employees who have returned to the office have expressed significant concern about their safety due to COVID-19.
When asked about safety interventions, 62 percent of respondents said improved air filtration could decrease the stress of returning to work. This desired intervention shows employers who reimagine their workplaces to prioritize human health will gain competitive advantages, including employee peace of mind; fewer sick days; improved productivity; and increased employee engagement.
One research team found that for each two-fold increase in ventilation rate, performance improved by 1.7 percent. Dr. Joseph Allen of Harvard University recently highlighted the importance of ventilation, observing, “I don’t think business people realize the power of buildings to not only keep people safe from disease, but to lead to better performance.”
Dr. Allen and his team found that higher concentrations of particulate matter and CO2 in indoor air were associated with slower response times and fewer correct responses per minute for 8 out of 10 test metrics. Dr. Allen’s team estimates that higher ventilation can amount to $6,500-$7,500 per person per year and boost productivity by 3 percent.
In his book, “Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity,” Dr. Allen estimates healthy-building investments can improve a company’s bottom line by nearly 12 percent. If companies invest in improving not just indoor air quality (IAQ) but also overall indoor environmental quality (IEQ), the combined potential annual economic benefit could be approximately $20 billion.
Investing in healthy buildings also increases buildings’ values. MIT’s Real Estate Innovation Lab says healthy buildings “transact between 4.4 and 7 percent more per square foot than their nearest non-certified neighboring peers.” Healthy buildings’ inherent value and the better outcomes they enable demonstrate that investing in healthy buildings yields significant ROI.
Peace of mind
As employers align return-to-work plans, they need layered strategies that include personal, administrative, and environmental controls. Personal controls like PPE, and administrative controls like physical distancing, vaccination, and testing policies are insufficient on their own; they are subject to human error and difficult to enforce. By contrast, environmental controls create safer indoor environments through air and surface disinfection without requiring human compliance.
Employers seeking a successful return to work must develop long-term strategies focused on healthy indoor environments. These strategies will give employees the confidence to return to their office spaces — whenever and however that may occur.
R-Zero’s continuous, autonomous disinfection ecosystem enables safer indoor environments by uniting UV disinfection and occupancy sensor technology. With R-Zero’s customizable solutions, employers can transform their workplaces into clinically clean shared spaces.
When employers provide healthy workspaces, employees can enjoy peace of mind, fewer sick days, and increased productivity. Dr. Joseph Allen has noted, “Any building can be a healthy building” if employers are willing to make the investments now to enable future returns. Surely your most valuable assets — your employees — are worth that investment.
Learn how R-Zero’s continuous, autonomous disinfection ecosystem can elevate your return-to-work strategy at www.rzero.com.