Maintaining good indoor air quality (IAQ) is important all year round, but it’s more of a challenge in winter. There’s less ventilation and the air is dry. Your employees are sharing more cold and flu germs than they are gifts in the annual Secret Santa exchange.

Thankfully, there are ways to improve your office air quality in winter. Here are six tips to help keep your office healthier and happier all season long.

1. Improve ventilation

One of the leading causes of poor IAQ in winter is a lack of ventilation. Doors and windows are tightly shut and sealed against the cold. While this helps keep indoor temperatures comfortable, it also traps stale and polluted air inside.

  • Bring fresh air into circulation by opening windows on milder days—if even for a short time. It’s amazing the invigorating effect fresh air can have.
  • Run a fan to keep stagnant air moving.

2. Maintain healthy humidity levels

Winter air tends to have low humidity, and your furnace can dry out the air even more. This dry air leads to itchy skin and scratchy throats, and can exacerbate seasonal symptoms like coughing, itchy eyes, and runny nose.

Use a humidity gauge to monitor the level of moisture in your office air. A humidity level around 30% to 50% is ideal. Below that is too dry, while levels above that encourage the growth of mold and dust mites. If your humidity is low in the winter, use a vaporizer or humidifier.

3. Keep your HVAC system clean

With less ventilation in the winter, the last thing you want to do is introduce dirty air through your HVAC system.

  • Clean or replace your air filters as per manufacturer recommendations. Clean filters will not only reduce pollutants, but will help keep your HVAC system running efficiently.
  • Make sure your air vents are open and the air path unblocked by storage boxes, shelving, etc.
  • Inspect the vents and clean away any surface dust or debris.
  • When was the last time you had your air ducts inspected and, if necessary, cleaned? If you notice dust and debris behind the vents, dirt streaks, poor airflow, or if you have IAQ issues you can’t put your finger on, you may need duct cleaning. Contact your building services provider or commercial HVAC technician for assistance.

4. Use air purifiers

Air purifiers help improve IAQ all year long, but are especially useful in winter when there’s less air circulation. They filter out allergens, dust, debris and other pollutants.

There are several types of air purifiers, from HEPA filters to negative ion technology to activated carbon filters. Most cover up to 600 square feet. Check with your building services partner or commercial HVAC company for recommendations to fit your office’s specific needs.

5. Try nature’s air purifiers—live plants

All plants help improve air quality by exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen. But according to NASA’s Clean Air Study, some plants can also remove toxins, like benzene and formaldehyde, from the air. These include the dwarf date palm, bamboo palm, spider plant and Boston fern.

The NASA study suggests having one plant per 100 square feet for efficient air cleaning. Live plants also help perk up the office and employee spirits all year round.

6. Keep the office clean

Regular cleaning reduces the amount of pollutants and improves air quality.

  • Regularly dust, sanitize and vacuum to keep dust under control. Clean or change your vacuum filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Clean up any tracked-in snow, mud and de-icer salt promptly.
  • Banish kitchen clutter and avoid leaving food out. Don’t let full trash bags sit for days—take them out.
  • Use only non-toxic cleaners and avoid those with strong scents. Many people are sensitive to them, and with less ventilation in the winter, it will be harder to air out.

Ongoing IAQ problems? Have your air quality tested.

Are your employees getting sick a lot more than you remember? Do they experience headaches, respiratory problems, fevers and/or coughing while on the job…but the symptoms usually clear up once they get home? You could be dealing with “Sick Building Syndrome.”

If you suspect your office IAQ is poor, and/or you want to know how to improve it, have your air quality tested. Air quality experts can evaluate every aspect of your IAQ, from ventilation to humidity levels to potential mold growth. You’ll have actionable steps to fix any problems and improve IAQ. The return on your investment is healthier, happier and more productive employees.