One reason for the lack of an accurate cause or ‘cure’ for SBS is that the majority of investigations into SBS only look at part of the problem. If the problem were purely physical, a solution would have been found to eradicate the problem, so it is logical to reason that SBS is not purely a physical problem. Therefore, is there an element of psychology, such as job satisfaction, lack of local control and work-related stress attributed to the problem of SBS, and is the problem therefore far more complex than originally postulated?
For an accurate diagnosis of work-related illnesses, the investigation must include a thorough industrial hygiene examination that documents levels of pollutants in the air; building characteristics; the working environment; job demands and work-related stress; social support; perceived environmental control; and management issues.
Other important factors include the attitudes and belief systems of the individuals concerned, certain personality and behaviour patterns, and the presence of current stress or pre-existing psychological distress. The workers' perceptions of the competence and credibility of managers and professionals, and the influence and involvement of the media, pressure groups and the legal system, will all have an impact (Spurgeon, 1997).
One major need, of individual workers, is the need for control of their personal working environment. The need for control is closely associated with the need to be independent of the controls and restrictions of others, and to be able to manage one's own actions. When this freedom of control is lost, people react by reasserting their freedom, and display symptoms of SBS — ‘psychological reactance’.
Continued loss of control is likely to result in ‘learned helplessness’ that is, continual expression of SBS symptoms. The effects of ‘learned helplessness’ are not easily changed, but with persistent positive reinforcement the association can be changed to a positive behaviour or reaction.
Building occupants generally accept that they have no control over their working environments. Working environments are usually set at appropriate levels (temperature, lighting, desk height, etc) before the users' arrivals into the building. If the occupant suffering from SBS- related symptoms does make some attempt to question the working environment and this request is ignored, it is likely that the symptoms will become exaggerated — resulting in increased levels of absenteeism, which in turn results in reduction of the organisations productivity level.
Dr Wyon (cited Rostron, 1997) identified that the use of individual environmental control systems can increase productivity by up to seven per cent, and therefore also reduce absenteeism. Building occupants will feel in control of their working environment, and therefore become less susceptible to displaying SBS symptoms.
Over the past eight to ten years, there has been a change in the current business environment. Where organisational changes create uncertainty, resistance to change is likely to be evident. Seemingly, this resistance is not so much a resistance to change, but a resistance to the personal loss that is believed to accompany the change. This resistance will probably manifest itself, in some cases, as psychological reactance.
There is a significant lack of indoor air quality research in low energy homes. This study compared the indoor air quality of eight newly built case study homes constructed to similar levels of air-tightness and insulation; with two different ventilation strategies (four homes with Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems/Code level 4 and four homes naturally ventilated/Code level 3). Indoor air quality measurements were conducted over a 24 h period in the living room and main bedroom of each home during the summer and winter seasons. Simultaneous outside measurements and an occupant diary were also employed during the measurement period. Occupant interviews were conducted to gain information on perceived indoor air quality, occupant behaviour and building related illnesses. Knowledge of the MVHR system including ventilation related behaviour was also studied. Results suggest indoor air quality problems in both the mechanically ventilated and naturally ventilated homes, with significant issues identified regarding occupant use in the social homes.