A recent survey of people who work in offices across the U.K. is categorical: without tackling air quality, employers may find it harder to find and to keep workers.
Over the past two years, of course, the traditional set-up of office work has changed radically and rapidly. For many Britons who still officially work in an office, their desk is actually in their kitchen, where the dress-code permits pajamas and tracksuit bottoms. And unsurprisingly, being stuck indoors for long stretches of time has made many hungry to just get out – anywhere, everywhere. One, perhaps unexpected, consequence of this has been a greater awareness of and concern for air quality. On daily dog-walks, cycles and hikes across the country, Britons have found themselves disappointed. Nevertheless, as we continue to move out of the pandemic, many want to get back into the office - but they have terms.
Recently, JPES Partners published its report on public attitudes towards air quality and the effects of these attitudes on the property sector. The paper bases its discussion on the results of a survey it conducted on 200 Britons aged between 25 and 55 who currently work in offices. Many of its findings indicate a widespread concern over air quality and a readiness on the part of employees to make decisions about lifestyle and occupation based on this concern. For instance, 80% of respondents said they would feel more positive about returning to the office if air quality was significantly improved, with less than a third in agreement that their employers had made notable efforts in this direction and almost 90% in support of measures to make air quality controls mandatory in the workplace.
JPES Partners’ Head of Property Duncan Lamb commented, stating that: ‘It’s now a factor which is influencing people’s willingness to return to the office environment and needs to be addressed by all businesses – and not just those which are office-based.’
As a result of the study, a number of think-pieces have emerged with ideas about how to address air pollution. One bold idea is the ‘15-minute Neighbourhood’.
The basic theory is that to reduce air pollution and boost quality of life for urbanites and sub-urbanites alike, you’ll need to make walking and cycling the most convenient forms of transport by radically shortening the distance between necessities – whether that’s workplaces, shops, medical services, recreational facilities or what have you – and homes. At the moment, many capital cities are plagued by congestion, as hundreds of thousands commute from the suburbs every day – a not-insignificant hassle and a genuine threat to commuters’ health.
But no matter what, the first step towards addressing the concerns of employees is surely monitoring air quality. Knowing just how much pollution is occurring, from where pollutants are being emitted, where concentrations are highest, which pollutants pose the greatest threat to humans – all of these concerns must be addressed. (For an investigation into one particularly troublesome pollutant, biogenic carbon, take a read of one of our recent articles.) With generalised disaffection towards employment opportunities in the UK making daily headlines, maybe it’s time to start taking employees concerns about air quality seriously.