TARKETT says its longstanding commitment towards improving indoor air quality is more important than ever. The pandemic has certainly opened our eyes to the importance of constantly washing our hands, sterilising everything in sight and realising just how far germs can travel through the air, causing us to wince at the thought of a time where we huddled on public transport without masks. However, as we contemplate heading back to the office in the near future, businesses need to translate these learnings into workplace design and move indoor air quality to the top of the agenda.
Employee expectations: Returning to the workplace
From 30 March 2020 to 16 January 2021, Tarkett partnered with workplace consultants WKspace to gather information for two surveys exploring the future of the workplace, each featuring 2,800 office workers (400 from the UK).
The top concern across all respondents was indoor air quality. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that Harvard University researchers found that even small increases in long-term exposure to air pollution, particulate matter (PM) or fine dust, can heighten the risk of Covid-19 fatalities.
(Indoor air is recorded as being two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, a very worrying statistic as on average people spend 90% of their time indoors. The requirement to prioritise cleaner indoor air has never been so urgent, which has recently been acknowledged by the government’s indoor air quality proposal for new offices and commercial spaces. Following these new rules, offices would need to use systems that provide 50% higher rates of fresh air than the existing minimum standards).
With 47% of people from the UK in the Tarkett and WKspace survey highlighting that their mental wellbeing suffered most over the pandemic, followed by 45% recording motivation levels and 29% revealing that the lack of work life balance took a toll, it is fair to conclude from these results that people will likely be looking forward to getting back to the normality of the office – even if it’s just for a few days a week.
Says Tarkett: ‘Since lockdown began there has been talk of biophilia in regards to air purification, but people may not be aware that there are also workplace products that can help to sustain cleaner air. For example Tarkett’s Desso AirMaster has been proven to be eight times more effective at capturing and retaining fine dust than smooth flooring solutions, and four times better than any other carpet.’
The company continues: ‘This result is achieved through very fine dust being captured in the fine yarns of the Desso AirFilters, with coarser fine dust captured in the thicker yarns of the Desso DustCollectors. The unique, patented structure of Desso AirMaster prevents the dust from becoming airborne again. The fine dust and particles can be fully removed by vacuuming. The AirMaster collection, which can be fully recycled at Tarkett’s own recycling centre, achieved cradle to cradle certification and the GUI Gold Plus label for air quality.
‘AirMaster is the first product in the world to have been awarded the highest possible accreditation by Gesellschaft für Umwelt- und Innenraumanalytik (GUI), Germany’s leading independent air quality testing organisation.’
Mikael Persson, segment marketing manager, Workplace (UK&I) says: ‘Our current circumstances have accelerated the movement towards health-promoting workplaces; however, Tarkett has been pioneering the development of flooring solutions that contribute to better indoor air quality for decades. Behind our commitment to great design is a belief that interior spaces should support, inspire, and connect the people who use them, which we demonstrate through our Human-Conscious Design approach.
‘Our products exceed the strictest industry standards for air quality by so much, we have had to set our own standards. Standards that we can prove with science, not just words. It means you can breathe clearer air, knowing you made a conscious choice for your flooring. It has never been so urgent to ensure workspaces enhance employee wellbeing and health and provide them a safe space to thrive.’
Companies thrive through productivity and employees thrive in safe, healthy and rewarding workplaces. Most respondents from Tarkett and WKspace’s surveys noted they’re most productive in the office. As well as this, after months of lockdown forcing people to work from home, office workers are longing for social connections.
This likely explains why open-plan offices were the most popular in all the markets with survey respondents globally – 49% overall. Using a range of flooring products can help to define areas and traffic flow in open-plan spaces. Tarkett offers flooring with a plethora of colours and textures to create clear yet flexible zones that encourage social distancing, while providing individuals with a sense of security and comfort as they return to a shared workplace.
By using health promoting solutions that also encourage social distancing, it’s safe to say returning to the workplace won’t be so daunting.