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Indoor air pollution, employee productivity, and leadership: The latest Workspace Efficiency Summit discusses critical business challenges

Brand Connect Initiative

New Delhi: Workspace Efficiency Summit was organised here on July 25 as a collaborative effort of ETRealty.com, its presenting partner Candor TechSpace and clean air partner Honeywell. The Summit brought together government officials, industry leaders and healthcare experts who deliberated on the topic: "Is Air Pollution Hampering Business Productivity and Outcome?"The summit began with an introduction to the subject by Shantanu Chakraborty, Senior VP, Brookfield Properties, who said that developers of urban built environments must address the issue of indoor air pollution and its impact on employees and people in general, especially in Delhi-NCR. He also called for urgent attention to the endemic problem that indoor air pollution had become in the modern workspace by highlighting the massive impact that it had on employee productivity and general well-being.

This followed by a panel discussion on the effects of indoor air pollution on productivity and general well-being of employees. The panel comprised Brigadier Harpreet Singh Kaura, Executive Director - National Administration, KPMG India; Kashish Daya Kapoor, AVP & Head - Human Resources, NEC Technologies India; Piyush Arora, Director - Strategy & Marketing, Honeywell India; Sanjeev Sethi, Senior Director - Employee Workplace Solutions, Adobe; and Shantanu Chakraborty, Senior VP, Brookfield Properties.

On the issue of air pollution in the workplace being a looming, but largely ignored, issue, Kashish Daya Kapoor said, “Organisations have begun to acknowledge that there's a problem. But there's a need to measure the efforts to deal with the problem and keep working on it.”

Shantanu Chakraborty said, “Indoor air pollution is a rapidly-growing health concern among Indian corporates, especially in top metropolitan areas. It is an issue, which will take years of commitment and efforts to curb and address. Thankfully, there is growing awareness about the hazards of low indoor air quality within the business landscape. We as responsible corporates are implementing concrete measures at Candor TechSpace in association with industry leaders like Honeywell to improve the indoor air quality at our campuses; we are striving to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for professionals. We need more industry stakeholders to follow the lead and combine their efforts to combat this critical issue which impacts business productivity and employee well-being.”

Brigadier Kaura added to it, “Even though mitigating measures might be costly, we should look at costs from a long-term perspective and the benefits of acting now. Also, there should be some regulatory mechanism to oversee and enforce air quality standards.”

Piyush Arora felt that “Between our knowledge of the problem and our actions, lies acceptance. We haven't fully accepted the problem.” He referred to studies conducted in India and China, which show that productivity goes down with a rise in pollution. If everyone accepts the problem, viable solutions can be found, he added.

Finally, Sanjeev Sethi said, “There's no denying the criticality of the issue, but the solutions we seek can't be found in the West because such a problem doesn't exist there. Indoor air pollution of this magnitude is a uniquely Indian problem and so, the solutions too have to be worked out by us.”

On the impact of a polluted workplace environment, Kashish Daya Kapoor said that poor indoor air quality might have a negative effect on analytical and decision-making roles. However, even generally, poor air quality will make employees sluggish because they already exposed to poor outdoor air quality while commuting to the office. Therefore, the negative effect of pollution compounded and apart from performance issues, there could be inter-personnel conflict arising out of the health problems caused by poor air quality.

When asked how leadership could make a change, Piyush Arora said, “If poor indoor air quality affects employee productivity levels, it does the same to the leadership. Being in such a responsible position, we should be the ones at the forefront of identifying the issue and taking immediate measures to curb it. Doing so is crucial to ensuring that employees, which are an organization’s biggest assets, can work in a more conducive environment without compromising their health.”

The panel discussion was followed by a Q&A session, where participants asked the panellists several pertinent questions.

Our special guest Dr Rashmi Singh (IAS), Secretary at New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), spoke about the various initiatives taken by the government to mitigate indoor and outdoor pollution. She was of the opinion that the ETRealty Workplace Efficiency Summit dealt with a contemporary issue that was of great relevance to everyone. At the same time, she assured everyone that the government took the matter very seriously and then listed the steps taken at various levels to reduce pollution to acceptable levels, and even below, in Delhi.

The final session of the summit saw an informative discussion between Dr Lancelot Pinto, Consultant Respirologist, P D Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre and Sudheer Pal Singh, Editor of ET EnergyWorld. Dr Pinto explained in an easily accessible manner what indoor air pollution is. He pointed out the polluting factors unique to India such as the use of biomass fuels, incense sticks and mosquito repellent coils that have significant effects on the respiratory health in the long-term.

Within the workspace, Dr Pinto spoke of common problems that he dealt with related to asthmatic attacks and sinusitis that caused by poor air conditioning as well as too cold and unclean indoor air environment. He said that in many cases, people suffer from chronic respiratory problems that alleviated by either moving to a new city or switching jobs. Perhaps, the most important aspect that Dr Pinto pointed out was that unhealthy work environments could compromise the immune systems of even the healthiest of people.

Poor indoor air quality has become one of the major concerns in today’s corporate landscape, which eventually affects the bottom line of businesses in the long term. Taking corrective measures to reduce indoor air pollution, therefore, seems to be the need of the hour and initiatives like these, where 100 corporates from IT/ITES sector came together to sensitize corporates towards improving the employee wellbeing and productivity.

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