In the modern business world, people are spending more time indoors than outdoors. Outside, meanwhile, the pollution in China is a serious problem. The country’s bad air remains at the forefront of public health concerns and is a focal point of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) which reaffirms the government’s deep commitment to its “war on pollution.”
Nowadays, pollution in China is killing an average of 1.6 million people annually, according to the findings of a scientific study released earlier this year by Berkeley Earth. While the number of deaths linked to the air that we breathe indoors is difficult to quantify, we know that spending time indoors, in spaces where the air is not properly managed, also exposes us to harmful levels of outdoor pollution – and the ubiquitous PM2.5 pollutant particle in China, which enters our lungs and has sobering health implications.
However, there is a silver lining in all of this for China: growing awareness on the subject of indoor air quality is providing the office market with forward-thinking opportunities to address the issue head-on and improve the air that we breathe at work. Adding to the high toll on individual lives, China’s pollution is further putting strain on economic growth and development with rising healthcare costs and slower output as poor air quality at offices drags on employee productivity and hurts company stability and performance in the market.
As pollution continues to strongly influence China’s plans for the future, indoor air quality is a critical issue that deserves greater attention, especially given that high public awareness on the subject is dramatically changing people’s expectations on health in the country. In just a short amount of time, the general public has gone from complete ignorance to world-leading levels of knowledge on air quality indexes, and this is especially true for major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The average Beijing resident, for example, is well-versed on PM2.5, unlike in other world capitals in developed countries where pollution is not of huge public concern.
Considering that environmental reforms in China will require years and likely decades to have any real impact on the market, proactive leadership on indoor air quality will be crucial to the creation of office spaces that are able to serve as locations which employees will want to be in and choose over others. This market-leading position will become all the more valuable for firms ahead as retention issues pose major staffing challenges for employers in China moving forward.
In partnership with PureLiving China, JLL is releasing a white paper on how sound investments in indoor air quality today can ensure the relevance of an office space for tomorrow and beyond, giving employers that extra edge needed in China to attract and retain top talent in the increasingly competitive marketplace – where companies are only as strong as their best people. Stay tuned for more coming soon.
Based in Beijing, Linda Yu is an Assistant Manager with JLL Research in China.