What JFK knew about today’s workplaces


In 1963, iconic US President John F Kennedy made an incredible speech. A part of this has been immortalised; when he stated: “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air.” At the time, JFK was speaking about peace – about remembering that we are all interlinked, and share the same basic needs – to breathe, have light, have our fundamental demands as Humans met.

However, in today’s often-cramped working environments, what was seen as positive in 1963 is not necessarily so celebrated now. Often, colleagues in cramped or poorly-ventilated working environments are finding their output compromised, because one of the very basic needs of all society – to breathe clean air – is being hampered through less-than-ideal physical conditions.

When breathing the same air is not a positive
Humans are naturally sociable creatures, and have evolved our socially-constructed environments to meet the needs of 21st century requirements in terms of working together, communicating effectively and collaborating in teams.

However, elements of our evolution have stayed with us. The need to have a certain degree of ‘personal space’; a fundamentally animal-like demand to operate unhampered, with our breathing space uncompromised. We also have an inherent (and evolutionary-sensible) dislike of forcibly sharing the same, recycled air with our colleagues and peers. This is far more than a disinclination to be aware of the odour of others. It’s a positive survival mechanism designed to protect us from air-born disease, and preserve the air around us for our own use.

These days, we’re unlikely to contract Bubonic Plague through working in close proximity to Dave from Accounts. However, the underlying evolutionary prompts which have ensured our survival still has a niggling negative impact when we are near others, our air is threatened or recycled, or we don’t have enough fresh air to focus.

When breathing the same air costs your business
A recent Guardian newspaper article on workplace productivity confirms that poor air quality at work is not just frustrating. It is actually costly – “Empirical research lends weight to the case for comfort. Poor indoor air quality is attributed to an average productivity loss of 10%, according to a 2008 literature review”.

With that in mind, it’s worth checking whether your team’s environment may be compromising output in addition to causing potential squabbles over having to share too much professional and personal space, in close proximity. The good news is that just a few simple and cost-effective enhancements to your inside space can reap significant returns, through improving morale, health, wellbeing and productivity.

At Whitesales, we provide a full service empowering our clients to develop and enhance their natural ventilation, opening airways and using natural air-flow dynamics to remove smoke when a fire occurs. This has a hidden benefit in terms of return on investment – a happier, healthier workforce with basic evolutionary needs for survival met in full. Get in touch – we love talking about it!



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