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How successful would your company be without your star talent? If you're a forward-thinking entrepreneur, you should be looking every day for ways to demonstrate your commitment to the people who make you shine. After all, going that extra distance can really pay off in employee retention.
And, obviously, putting in some effort here is important: More than 40 percent of employers, globally, struggle with a talent shortage, according to Manpower Group. Adding to the problem is the fact that millennials, now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, change jobs as easily as clothes: A Gallup survey confirmed that 60 percent of those polled said they'd be open to a move.
So, what are the most meaningful benefits that will keep your top performers close to you — across the generations?
Well, fresh, breathable air, for one thing. One of the most important offerings a company can consider is good indoor air quality, which is achieved by technology that continually “scrubs” the air of common allergens and dust.
Right now is a particularliy appropriate time to think about indoor air quality. As we move into the spring and summer seasons when pollen infiltrates even indoor areas and worsens the lives of allergy sufferers, there are simple measures companies can take to help their teams feel and perform better.
A caveat here is that such measures aren't just “nice to have”; the costs of not implementing them are surprisingly high. Consider:
U.S. companies lose more than $250 million per year due to missed work and decreased productivity from allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
The World Health Organization states that as much as 11 percent of asthma worldwide is caused by gases, dust or fumes in the workplace — not the great outdoors.
Companies, then, should be getting the message that it's time to take action and help employees breathe better. And here they have help: Efforts by major government and nonprofit organizations, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) , are opening everyone's eyes to why our indoor air should be a healthcare priority.
These groups are not only addressing measures for removing dust and pollen; they're also paying attention to indoor contaminants like formaldehyde and VOCs that are implicated in heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
Some businesses are hearing these messages loud and clear. There are examples in the news every day of major companies that are making indoor air quality a priority. For example, 4 Times Square in New York (formerly the Condé Nast building, and soon to be the global headquarters for Nasdaq) implemented an effective system to sustain high indoor air quality (IAQ) while minimizing energy expense.
Additionally, the Park Place Buildings in Irvine, Calif., a 1.8 million square-foot mixed-use development, proactively tests and monitors IAQ and provides a green office environment.
Of course, retrofitting your building may not be an option, financially. But there are other, simpler moves that your startup or small business can make to give your employees the air quality they deserve. Here are the steps to take:
Start with a look at your HVAC system.
This is your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Ask your building or facilities manager how often the HVAC filters are being changed. These filters remove dust, pollen and other allergens. Even air purifiers can remove only so much dust if their filters sit, unattended to and black with dirt, month after month.
If you are the de facto facility or building manager, other ways you can ensure your filters are working optimally are:
Measure your filters precisely: A filter that is too small will let damaging particles into the air stream, while one that is too large will impede airflow.
Look for highly rated filters, but don’t go overboard: A standard performance rating system is MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value), which is based on a filter’s thickness. Resist the temptation to go for the highest number without some advance research; such a move could burn out your system.
Step up the frequency of your filter inspections: Even if you’re changing your filters every few months, you may find excess dust blocking your airflow. Be particularly careful during peak heating and cooling seasons, when you want to maximize the performance of your HVAC equipment.
Think: more depth, fewer changes: Filters with more surface area can absorb more particles, and as a result need to be changed less often. Just ensure that they won’t overtax the system you have.
Look for measures of strength: For instance, filters that have frames on only one side will not be as durable as those with a second frame.
HVAC equipment changes fast, and the result is that “standard” filter sizes change quickly, too. You may need to have your filters custom-manufactured. So, you don’t want to come up short due to long production or delivery times.
Research on the web will enable you to find suppliers who carry more “obscure” frames, or can custom-manufacture and deliver them within a few days without a commensurate price increase.
There are other technologies you or your building manager can use to build on your use of filters. Tapping into the cloud and/or the internet of things, these solutions monitor contaminants (such as carbon dioxide and VOCs) in the air and “scrub” them out. There exists a broad range of innovations for entrepreneurs to investigate, from ionization technology to energy recovery ventilation products. These solutions can help buildings save energy, as well.
Your employees' health is precious. These individuals are giving you their time, their best thinking and perhaps even their passion. Make sure that when they're at work, you are doing everything possible in return to ensure their good health — starting with every breath they take.