The Climate Strike illustrates growing understanding that burning fossil fuels will hit our lives. Nowhere is this more obvious than the poor air quality in major cities. Despite growing evidence of the health implications, polling commissioned by Hubbub discovered that eight in ten UK employees are in the dark on whether their employer has a policy to protect them at work. More than two thirds of workers believe employers should take more responsibility to reduce their exposure to poor air quality.

Hubbub believes that this is a significant gap in the well-being policies of companies. Together with our business partners in the #AirWeShare campaign we are calling on all employers to check, update – or even develop from scratch – their policy on air pollution to protect the health and wellbeing of their staff. As well as reducing exposure, policies should look at how businesses can reduce their own contribution to air pollution across their operations.

The call for action builds on personal monitoring research undertaken for the #AirWeShare in partnership with Kings College London. This revealed that professional drivers and outdoor workers are among the most exposed professions, but office employees can also be exposed to high levels of pollution, if they’re commuting into busy urban areas and travelling to and from work meetings.

Building air pollution policies into company well-being programmes would not only help enhance the health of employees, but the polling suggests it would help recruitment and retention. When job-hunting, nearly two thirds (64%) of workers would find a potential employer attractive if they had an air pollution policy in place. This level of exposure is concerning as there is a growing body of research indicating that air pollution can affect all organs of the body across the course of a lifetime. Recent revelations include links to reduced cognitive abilities, diabetes and the first direct evidence of pollution particles in mothers' placentas.

Given that the average British worker spends nearly 85,000 hours at work in their lifetime, and more than 14,000 hours getting there and back it is clear that businesses have a significant role to play in addressing this public health crisis.

When asked what their own boss could do to help them reduce their exposure to air pollution, the most popular ideas were: installing air purifiers in the workplace (47%), allowing flexible working or home working (42%) and cash incentives to encourage people to cycle, walk or take public transport to work instead of driving (40%). One in five workers would consider grouping online shopping deliveries with colleagues to avoid lots of polluting vans delivering individual parcels to their office. 

The #AirWeShare campaign provides businesses with an opportunity to take the lead, exploring what they can do individually and collectively to best engage policy makers, clients, employees and the public. Over the coming months, Hubbub will be working closely with partner businesses to introduce well-being activities that address air pollution with their employees and act as a source of inspiration across the UK.  Businesses interested in joining the growing collaboration working to tackle this issue should email [email protected] or visit www.airweshare.co.uk/businesses