A potential contributor to workplace illnesses is pollution, which can occur indoors as well as outdoors. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are an example of workplace pollution. These carbon compounds are emitted from materials or processes, including carpets, furniture, cleaning products, markers, and printing or photocopying.

Besides looking at the potential impact of VOCs on health, researchers have investigated their impact on workers’ mental capacity on the job. The Syracuse Center for Excellence, which focuses on “green” technologies, gathered data on VOC levels and cognitive ability. The study divided workers into three groups, which worked under different conditions. The control group experienced the average level of VOCs in an office (considered to be an acceptable level). The experimental groups had a 50% increase in ventilation and a 100% increase. Over the course of six days, workers completed cognitive tests under their assigned condition.

According to the data, workers whose environments had 50% more ventilation outscored the control group by 61% The workers with the greatest level of ventilation outscored the control group by 100%. In other words, cleaner indoor air was associated with clearer thinking.


1.How could an organization benefit from its people functioning at peak mental capacity rather than half that level?

2.If you were a manager, what additional information would you want to have before you invested in better ventilation or switched to lower-polluting materials and processes?

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