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New Study: Working in a Typical Office 9 to 5 Literally Makes You Stupid

The report found a huge difference between the cognitive performance of workers in a "green" Low-VOC office versus a typical office setting.

Want your employees to come up with creative ideas, get more work done, and feel happier? Make sure they work in a the modern, well ventilated office, built with low-emission materials and finished with low- or no-VOC coatings. Working remotely from a healthy home has the same advantages.

THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE of a new study by the National Institute of Environmental Health. The researchers tested subjects in simulated work environments that exposed them to levels of airborne  present in a typical workspace. They alternated workspaces between healthy air settings and typical office settings, and found a significant correlation between levels of C02 and VOCs—and the ability of people to think. They did not test the lasting effects of these conditions.

There was some good news. None of the other airborne compounds (and there were many, such as benzene) present appeared to correlate with cognitive impairment.

The news is not all good for sustainability. One of the causes of this bad air, the researchers note, is that changes in ventilation standards since 1970 or so have had a negative effect on indoor air quality.

Their conclusion: "Using low emitting materials, which is common practice in Green buildings, reduces in-office VOC exposures. Increasing the supply of outdoor air not only lowers exposures to CO2 and VOCs, but also exposure to other indoor contaminants. Green building design that optimizes employee productivity and energy usage will require adopting energy efficient systems and informed operating practices to maximize the benefit to human health."