Tag Archives: Office

People are the “dominant source” of volatile organic compounds in the office

New research at Purdue University measures how much pollution in your office or home is due to you.

Image via Pixabay.

We influence our surroundings just by virtue of being alive — we take oxygen and pump out CO2, our skin sheds, our hairs fall out, our heat dissipates out. Factor in elements like deodorant, and we have a surprisingly significant effect on the areas we spend our time in, such as an office or home. But, to find out just how large this influence is, a team of engineers at Purdue University has been conducting one of the largest studies of its kind in the office spaces of a building rigged with thousands of sensors.

The house of noses

“If we want to provide better air quality for office workers to improve their productivity, it is important to first understand what’s in the air and what factors influence the emissions and removal of pollutants,” said Brandon Boor, an assistant professor of civil engineering with a courtesy appointment in environmental and ecological engineering.

The present study is the largest of its kind to date. The team used an office space rigged with thousands of sensors to identify all types of indoor air contaminants and recommend ways to control them through adjusting a building’s design and operation. The building is called the Living Labs at Purdue’s Ray W. Herrick Laboratories and uses an array of sensors to monitor the flow of indoor and outdoor air through the ventilation system over four open-plan office spaces. The team further added temperature sensors (embedded in each desk chair) to keep track of people’s activities throughout the day.

People and ventilation systems have shown the greatest impact on the chemistry of indoor air in such environments, they explain. This chemistry is dynamic and “changes throughout the day based on outdoor conditions, how the ventilation system operates and occupancy patterns in the office,” Boor said.

In collaboration with researchers at RJ Lee Group, Boor developed an instrument called a proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometer — a mechanical ‘nose’. Using this device, they recorded levels of volatile compounds in human breath, such as isoprene, in real-time.

These compounds linger in the office even after people have left the room. They also see greater build-ups when a larger number of people uses the same room.

“Our preliminary results suggest that people are the dominant source of volatile organic compounds in a modern office environment,” Boor said. “We found levels of many compounds to be 10 to 20 times higher indoors than outdoors. If an office space is not properly ventilated, these volatile compounds may adversely affect worker health and productivity.”

Ozone (considered an outdoor pollutant) breaks down inside office areas as it interacts with indoor compounds and furnished surfaces. The team adds that ozone and compounds called monoterpenes (these are aromatic compounds, such as those released by peeling an orange) break down into particles as small as one-billionth of a meter. At such a tiny size, they could be toxic as they can get into — and clog — pulmonary alveoli, the sacs in the lungs where blood-atmosphere gas exchange takes place.

Chemicals emitted from self-care products such as deodorant, makeup, and hair spray may elevate pollution levels outdoors as they are vented outside by the ventilation system, the team adds.

The team will present its initial findings at the 2019 American Association for Aerosol Research Conference in Portland, Oregon, on Thursday 16th, as the poster “Spatiotemporal Mapping of Ultrafine Particles in Buildings with Low-Cost Sensing Networks”.

Have more sex and leave stress at the office to improve your work life

A new paper from the Oregon State University found that an active and healthy sex life can boost employees’ job satisfaction and productivity, evidencing the need for a good work-life balance, the authors report.

Image credits Michal Jarmoluk.

Getting busy between the sheets could be just the thing to make you enjoy your job more, says Keith Leavitt, associate professor in OSU’s College of Business. He and his team looked at the relationship between the work and sex habits of married employees and found that those who got some love at home unknowingly received a boost in workplace the next day — when they were more likely to immerse themselves in the tasks at hand and drew more enjoyment in their work.

“We make jokes about people having a ‘spring in their step,’ but it turns out this is actually a real thing and we should pay attention to it,” said Leavitt, an expert in organizational behavior and management and first author of the paper.

“Maintaining a healthy relationship that includes a healthy sex life will help employees stay happy and engaged in their work, which benefits the employees and the organizations they work for.”

Starting off on the right foot

Intercourse triggers the release of neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with the brain’s reward pathway, as well as neuropeptide ocytocine, which promotes social bonding and feelings of attachment. It’s a winner combo, which makes sex a natural and pretty fail-proof way of improving your mood. And best of all, the effects of these chemicals can extend well into the next day, the team explains.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers monitored with 159 married employees over a period of two weeks, asking them to complete two short surveys every day. They found that people who had sex reported more positive moods overall the next day — and an improved emotional state in the morning correlated strongly to more self-reported work engagement and job satisfaction throughout the workday.

The effect typically lasted for at least 24 hours, was equally powerful in both men and women, and was significant even after the team corrected for general satisfaction with the relationship and sleep quality — both very powerful ingredients of overall mood.

Image credits Sasin Tipchai.

Leavitt and his team also showed that bringing your work stress to home from work has a negative effect on your romantic endeavors. Employees that failed to disconnect work from their personal life were more likely to sacrifice sex, causing their engagement in work to decline over time. In a society where virtually everyone has a smartphone and after-hours responses to work emails are often expected, these findings underscore the importance of leaving work at the office, Leavitt said.

With this in mind, it may be time to rethink how our work and personal lives fit together, Leavitt says.

“This is a reminder that sex has social, emotional and physiological benefits, and it’s important to make it a priority,” he added. “Making a more intentional effort to maintain a healthy sex life should be considered an issue of human sustainability, and as a result, a potential career advantage.”

“Technology offers a temptation to stay plugged in, but it’s probably better to unplug if you can. And employers should encourage their employees to completely disengage from work after hours.”

Still, I’d give it some time before putting it down on my CV. Let the findings penetrate the job market a bit more, as it were.

“Just make time for it,” he concludes.

Well, it wouldn’t be right to argue with science, would it? Guess we just have to. For productivity’s sake.

The full paper “From the Bedroom to the Office: Workplace Spillover Effects of Sexual Activity at Home” has been published in the Journal of Management.