Friday 6 August 2021 1:00 am

The Office: Clean air becoming a key part of the return

Edward Ballsdon is Managing Director of Rensair

If London is to get back on its economic feet after the COVID-19 pandemic, it needs workers to come back to the office. 

Many people are saying that the future of work will be different, with employees requesting more of a balance between office and home working. Maybe so, but some employers will insist on a certain degree of physical presence. Future growth and prosperity rely on it. As Apple CEO Tim Cook said recently, there are some things video conferencing cannot replicate.

But there is evidence of employee concern, not only from Apple’s workforce. Some worry about health and safety, while others have got used to working remotely, prefer it and even feel more productive. Employers can reasonably argue the benefits of being in the office and make a strong case for the innovation and creativity that arise from people being in the same room. But it’s not always easy to allay fears relating to health.

Read more: Rishi Sunak: For young people, working from home is no substitute for office

Employees may want to know what measures are being taken to keep them safe. They may be aware of the World Health Organisation and HSE’s stance on airborne transmission being the biggest risk of infection, rather than contaminated surfaces. That concern will now be heightened by the news that new variants are believed to be 40% more transmissible. Attitudes are changing and, just as people expect to have clean water from the tap, so too they expect clean air. More than an expectation, it’s a basic employment right.

Currently, although not legally enforced, guidelines are in place from the WHO and the UK SAGE Committee. If there is a gap between existing workplace air quality and the recommended level, the problem is easily rectified by using portable, hospital-grade air purifiers to supplement existing ventilation systems. 

With an abundance of air purification devices on the market, selection can be a bit of a minefield, so the SAGE committee has stepped in again with two clear pieces of advice. First, it recommends two technologies, fibrous filtration (HEPA) and germicidal UV (UVC), to trap and destroy Coronavirus. Secondly, it stresses the importance of independent laboratory testing when specifying a suitable air purifying device.

One company offering expertise in this area is Rensair. Building on technology developed almost two decades ago with Scandinavian hospitals to meet their strict air quality standards, their aim is to help London get back on its feet by making the solution available to all businesses. Rensair, a supplier to NHS hospitals, doctor and dental practices, is an Official Supporter of Central London Alliance and the #londonloveaffair campaign, igniting and inspiring the recovery of London. As such, the company is offering free consultations on indoor air quality.

Taking into account floor plans, existing ventilation systems and occupancy rates, Rensair determines if there is a gap between workplace air quality and that recommended by the WHO and UK SAGE Committee. If air quality is lacking, Rensair will recommend a tailor-made solution based on its portable, hospital-grade air purifier, in keeping with the WHO’s guidance on closing the gap. The company’s no-obligation advice is based on verifiable data, research and experience, which is made freely available to ensure that decisions affecting employee health are well-informed.

The CIPD advises employers to consult with employees about their return to the workplace and to discuss proposed new infection control arrangements.  Good internal communication is essential, demonstrating employers’ commitment to health and safety, providing reassurance, and responding to any questions about risk mitigation. 

Clean air can help boost London’s footfall after lockdown and, in turn, get the capital’s economy back on its feet.

This piece has been published in partnership with the Central London Alliance.

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