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Relationships between mental health and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in the workplace at home



Last Updated: 10-2020


Pre-corona the economy flourished but the number of employees suffering from mental health issues was rising. This set the stage for the underlying thesis about understanding the relationship between so-called workplace mental health and indoor environment quality (IEQ, e.g. air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, noise). While physical and social health in relation to the workplace is studied quite regularly, mental health in the context of the (physical) workplace is highly underexposed. Literature review towards health in the work environment underlines the limited amount of unambiguous research outcomes. Therefore, the main research question is: “To what extent do the IEQ parameters: air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, and noise in both subjective and sensory objective measurement, relate to workplace mental health while working from home?”

To assess interactive effects, four main IEQ parameters are included in this study (i.e. illuminance, sound pressure level, temperature, and air-quality). The workplace mental health concepts distinguished are stress, fatigue, sleep quality, concentration, productivity, engagement, mental wellbeing, emotional exhaustion, depression, mood, and workplace satisfaction. To operationalize these concepts existing scales have been used. The network of variables is analyzed simultaneously in a path model. The analysis is based on a sample of 321 momentary experiences by 36 consultants during home-based telework during two measuring periods of five working days each in April 2020, in the Netherlands. Moreover, objective IEQ conditions were continuously monitored by sensors placed on participants’ home desks.

The path model outcomes demonstrate higher engagement when working in a well-illuminated workplace. An average sound pressure level above 58dB resulted in increased tense arousal (i.e. being tense or feeling nervous). Diminished home-based workplace suitability is reported when dissatisfied with the noise level and experiencing fatigue. Being distracted negatively affects self-reported mental wellbeing and the level of engagement. Being satisfied with the noise level increases concentration, self-reported wellbeing, engagement, and diminishes tense arousal. Although the goodness of fit indices showed a good fit with the data, the greatest limitation of this study is the limited sample. Nonetheless, future research could further review the interconnection of workplace mental health and IEQ by validating the current research and compare to office environments.

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