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CO2 and Employee Productivity

co2 job performance

While many of us work in poor indoor air quality, few would understand the problems and direct negative impact it may have on an individual’s overall well-being. Think about never having to feel drowsy around 3:00 pm and instead you feel a sense of clarity in the mind and surge in overall productivity.

Reduced cognitive decision-making functions have been attributed to high concentrations of CO2 in work spaces and classrooms, and this is just one proven impact to someone's overall health.

CO2 and Employee Productivity Studies

For more than a century, published research studies have demonstrated the health effects of high indoor CO2 concentrations, specifically in productivity. A recent study by a team of Harvard researchers reconfirms these assertions about a correlation between lower productivity and high CO2 levels.

The study measured a 15 percent decline of cognitive ability scores at 950 ppm and 50 percent decline at 1,400 ppm. Joseph Allen, a Harvard School of Public Health professor stated that his team received multiple inquiries from officials at the Navy and NASA following the study as they became concerned about their crews’ environments after hearing of the research findings.

In understanding the findings from the Harvard study, one can view the demonstrated negative impact that high levels of CO2 can have on ones level of concentration.

Do high levels of carbon dioxide impair decision-making performance? According to researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the answer appear to be that it does.

A paper titled "Is CO2 an Indoor Pollutant? Higher Levels of CO2 May Diminish Decision Making Performance" documented the results of research on a group of test-takers subjected to different levels of carbon dioxide in an enclosed chamber. The research found that the increasing CO2 levels alone, without any other variables, had a direct impact on the results of tests designed to quantify decision making performance.

In their conclusion, they write:

"The dramatic direct influence of CO2 on decision making performance was unexpected and the study needs to be replicated. The findings of this study, if replicated, have implications for the standards that specify minimum ventilation rates in buildings, and indicate the need to adhere more consistently to the existing standards."

Read the entire paper here.


Building occupants and facility managers consistently rank poor indoor air quality as a top complaint of building occupants.

See the IFMA Survey on Top 10 Office Complaints.

According to another study conducted by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the cognitive impairment due to poor indoor air quality is clear. 

Research by Lawrence Berkeley Labs (LBL)  found that, “Moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) can significantly impair people’s decision-making performance. The results were unexpected and may have particular implications for schools and other spaces with high occupant density."

The best cognitive scores occurred at 600ppm CO2, and as LBL noted, "In classrooms and office spaces, concentrations frequently exceeded 1,000 ppm and occasionally exceeded 3,000 ppm."

Despite the uncertainty about which concentration of ambient CO2 levels will be at their peak, the overall research on increased carbon dioxide levels in correlation to an individual’s cognitive influence and productivity levels, is a topic that can not be disregarded or ignored.

What managers can do

Would you want to undercut your ability to think at the fullest potential? Clearly, the Navy and NASA are concerned about the operational performance of their crews. Are you any less concerned about your employees or students?

No matter your environment, whether it be office, home, or classroom maintaining and controlling proper indoor air quality cannot be ignored.

Knowing and controlling the PPM (parts per million) of CO2 in your space has become increasingly simpler and more cost effective in the last decade with the creation of smaller and more cost-effective CO2 monitors and data loggers – specifically for Indoor Air Quality.

iaq devices

With some monitors like the Rechargeable CO2 Monitor and Data Logger which allows the user to power, connect, and record CO2, temperature and %RH, the ability to know the gas concentration at a cost effective price.

Do you have more of a modern design and fashion sense? With today’s modernized technology and sleek designs CO2Meter has created a small Carbon Dioxide Desktop Monitor for monitoring IAQ in homes, businesses, offices and classrooms – all while displaying a "hip", rose gold appearance.

For more information on Indoor Air Quality Monitors, view the collection here.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

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