fresh airWant your people to be more productive? Here’s a novel idea, open the window! That’s right. Give them some fresh air! According to Joseph G. Allen, assistant professor and director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the air quality in your office affects your employees’ productivity. He is the principal investigator of the CogFx Study lead author of 9 Foundations of a Healthy Building.

These studies prove what we’ve known for years. There’s a direct relationship between ventilation and a worker’s ability to process information, make strategic decisions, and respond to crises.

Opening Up the Workplace Wasn’t That Easy

At Barefoot, we deliberately increased the amount of fresh air brought in from the outside. And why not? We started in a laundry room with a screen door left open most of the time. Our next office was in an attic, which we immediately put opening windows in. Then we moved to an airport business park and chose an office building with windows that opened for this very purpose. When we finally got around to designing our own offices from scratch, we made a big deal about ventilation.

Sounds so obvious and easy. Well, it’s not! According to Allen,

“In the 1970s, efforts to conserve energy in the U.S. included tightening up buildings and reducing ventilation rates so buildings didn’t have to bring as much fresh air inside. This inadvertently led to a buildup of indoor pollutants and the birth of a phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome,” a set of symptoms such as eye irritation, headaches, coughing, and chest tightness that is still an issue today.

In other words, the windows were permanently sealed! Now you are dependent on whatever amount of fresh air comes in through the ventilation system. The rest is just circulating around.

Allen goes on to say,

“There is a tendency to assume that, as long as commonly used standards for air quality are met, it won’t be an issue. But these standards aren’t very high. One common international standard that governs how much air is brought in from outside, “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Quality,” does not even purport to assure “healthy” air quality.”

Benefits of Fresh Air

Many studies have demonstrated that the amount of ventilation (fresh outdoor air brought inside), is critical to our health. Better ventilation reduces sick building syndrome symptoms, cuts absenteeism, and reduces infectious disease transmission.

Allen’s recent study found that:

“breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making performance among (his) participants. We saw higher test scores across nine cognitive function domains when workers were exposed to increased ventilation rates, lower levels of chemicals, and lower carbon dioxide. The results showed the biggest improvements in areas that tested how workers used information to make strategic decisions and how they plan, stay prepared, and strategize during crises. These are exactly the skills needed to be productive in the knowledge economy.”

In other words, the better the air quality in your office, the better the cognitive performance of your employees. According to Allen:

“Businesses would benefit from recognizing this and taking action to optimize their air quality for employees’ health and productivity.”

How to Improve Ventilation Without Losing Energy Efficiency?

So let’s say you have a typical sealed building and you want to reduce sick days and get the most out of your people? What can you do to improve the ventilation without losing the efficiency of your heating and air-conditioning? We asked an expert who works with some of the largest building portfolios in the country how he helps them achieve their sustainability goals and increase their ventilation at the same time.

Tim Grosse of E Squared Energy Advisors says:

“The advent of IoT/Smart Building technologies affords building owners 24/7 automatic control over internal O2 and CO2 levels via sensors and smart HVAC controls ensuring that a very high standard of indoor air quality is met. With the systems we represent, building owners enjoy a 20%-40% or more energy savings while significantly improving employee productivity.”

In fact, the Harvard University study estimates that businesses will see a $6,500 per employee, per year increase in employee productivity. With the energy savings, these systems pay for themselves quickly and many times back over the lifetime of the equipment.

E Squared Energy Advisors has several systems available that optimize existing roof-top HVAC units. Theses systems save both the time and money for replacements. If you’d like to learn more about how much your building can increase operating income via IoT/Smart Building controls while providing a healthier indoor environment for your employees, contact Tim at  or call 469-888-4111.

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact