IBM: How CO2 affects well-being and productivity in offices

A typical day in office we all know might look like this: It‘s the end of the quarter in a busy sales office, that means it‘s time for cramming in those last deals and finishing off those projects. What this usually means is that a lot of people are about to sit in a room for a long amount of time.

So what‘s going to happen? The doors are closed, the air conditioning is not going to be able to keep up with the people in the room and the air quality (temperature, humidity, CO2, noise) is going to slowly get worse throughout the day. The most important of these changes is the CO2 level. People will be uncomfortable while all these parameters increase, but a CO2 increase will affect people the most. The meeting room will start out fine, CO2 is usually around 400-600ppm (parts per million) which is a good level for indoor spaces. The problem occurs as the meeting goes on, without opening doors or windows the CO2 will sharply start to increase, the more people the quicker it will rise.

Productivity and well-being go south

Let‘s say people are spending 8 hours in this office with only a lunch break splitting up time spent in the room. After about an hour or two spent in the room the CO2 begins to rise above 1500ppm, at this point it starts to effect people making them drowsy. If the conditions in the room don’t change the CO2 may continue rising up past 2000ppm. This is where things start to get bad, and people might start having headaches and are having problems to concentrate. If we look at case studies on the effects of CO2 it is estimated – that in similar settings as mentioned above – over an eight-hour day CO2 could contribute to up to 25% lost productivity!

Sensor-based solution for more insights

This is where IBM and EnOcean started to work together. We created a sensor-based solution using hardware from EnOcean and IBMs technology to better understand the role different environmental conditions effect people in the workplace. In the showroom in our IBM Innovation Studio Munich, Germany we allow people to gain insights into the places that they work, knowing how the environment around them changes and impacts them throughout the day.

The showroom office has a mix of open plan office space with hot desks and also includes some meetings rooms. This showroom’s focus is mainly on the meetings rooms and how we can help people to feel better when using them for long amounts of time.

IBM showcase: how CO2 affects well-being and productivity in offices

Lost productivity is one thing, the condition of the room causing people to feel more and more uncomfortable in these spaces can lead to a resentment for working in the office. In the worst case this eventually leads to them leaving the company even while enjoying their jobs. Therefore, we have think, that it’s more worthwhile for companies to invest in better working conditions than hiring and training new employees constantly – and pave the way less churn but more well-being and productivity.

Want to know more? View the recorded webinar and we will show you how to maximize the power of IoT with EnOcean and IBM, tackling questions like ‘What does CO2 have to do with productivity?’ or ‘How long should a room really stay at the maximum occupancy?’.


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About The Author

Joe has worked at IBM for 7 years, he started as a technical sales specialist, focusing around manufacturing and facilities management, 2 years ago he moved to the innovation studios team in Munich where he presents and talks around industry 4.0, AI, Facilities management and sustainability.