Wellbuilt for wellbeing: Controlling relative humidity in the workplace matters for our health

Javad Razjouyan, Hyoki Lee, Brian Gilligan, Casey Lindberg, Hung Nguyen, Kelli Canada, Alex Burton, Amir Sharafkhaneh, Karthik Srinivasan, Faiz Currim, Sudha Ram, Matthias R. Mehl, Nicole Goebel, Melisa Lunden, Seema Bhangar, Judith Heerwagen, Kevin Kampschroer, Esther M. Sternberg, Bijan Najafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


This study offers a new perspective on the role of relative humidity in strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of office workers. A lack of studies of sufficient participant size and diversity relating relative humidity (RH) to measured health outcomes has been a driving factor in relaxing thermal comfort standards for RH and removing a lower limit for dry air. We examined the association between RH and objectively measured stress responses, physical activity (PA), and sleep quality. A diverse group of office workers (n = 134) from four well-functioning federal buildings wore chest-mounted heart rate variability monitors for three consecutive days, while at the same time, RH and temperature (T) were measured in their workplaces. Those who spent the majority of their time at the office in conditions of 30%-60% RH experienced 25% less stress at the office than those who spent the majority of their time in drier conditions. Further, a correlational study of our stress response suggests optimal values for RH may exist within an even narrower range around 45%. Finally, we found an indirect effect of objectively measured poorer sleep quality, mediated by stress responses, for those outside this range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-179
Number of pages13
JournalIndoor Air
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • health
  • office workers
  • relative humidity
  • sleep quality
  • stress responses
  • wearable sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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