Harvard research: Improved office air quality makes you smarter!

  • Research showed higher air quality increases cognitive function by 61%.
  • In particular, strategic thinking increased by 183%.
  • Better ventilation, lower indoor pollution and lower CO2 led to the results
  • Living plants are proven to improve indoor air quality

By Daniel Atherton


Want to increase your brainpower?

Improving your office’s air quality may be the answer.

In a recent Harvard study, researchers tested the cognitive abilities of 24 people when working in offices with varying levels of indoor air quality.

One was a conventional office, whilst another simulated air quality levels expected within a green office — with lower CO2 and pollutants, and higher oxygen levels.

At the end of each trial the participants were tested using software that measures different types of thinking.

The results are remarkable.

Cognitive function

Improving the air quality led to an average increase of 61% in the participants’ cognitive function — their ability to acquire & process information, make decisions and solve problems.

More than that — specific areas of thinking showed even greater results.

Strategic thinking was increased by 183%, with crisis response and information usage improved by 97% and 172% respectively.

Green office environment

The research — published by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Syracuse University — was designed to explore how green office environments affects employee productivity.

The green building movement is a collection of worldwide organisations (including the UK Green Build Council) that campaign for more sustainability in the construction and operation of buildings.

They also promote methods to improve the health and wellbeing of building occupants, including indoor air quality — which is where this study comes in.

Living plants improve indoor air quality

If you want to improve the air quality in your office environment, maintained office plants are a sustainable and cost-effective way to do it.

You can read more on that here, but the short version is that living plants reduce CO2 and remove commonly-found volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air.

Exactly the pollutants referred to in this research.