The hot topic of office temperature and productivity

It’s a well-known fact that employees are always sneakily adjusting the office thermostat and, try as you may, there’ll always be someone clutching at their hot water bottle whilst a co-worker sits next to the open window complaining that the office feels like a sauna. In fact, the office temperature conundrum has been the subject of an extensive debate, and a recent survey of 2,000 people found that more than 75% of office workers considered the temperature in the their office to be uncomfortable. This hot topic got us thinking about what can be done to ensure maximum comfort for all of your employees.

Does the perfect office temperature actually exist?

There’s no law that stipulates what constitutes as too hot or too cold in the office, it’s just stated that the office should maintain a ‘reasonable’ temperature. However, ‘reasonable’ is a very ambiguous term. Gov.uk advises that temperatures should be a minimum of 16°, unless employees are doing physical work, in which case temperatures should be a minimum of 13°.

At present, there’s no guidance for a maximum temperature limit but studies have shown that if temperatures reach 33°, then productivity can decrease by up to 85%.

Battle of the sexes

Businessman in office with computer and fan cooling off When planning your office fit out, you should take into account that men and women work better in different temperatures. Women tend to feel the cold more than men due to their lower metabolic rate. In fact, a study showed that up to 70% of women needed to bring additional clothing to the office just to keep warm. Furthermore, 50% of women resorted to drinking excessive cups of tea compared to the 28% of men who felt the need to up the tea-drinking ante. In one study,  researchers found that women feel more comfortable at a temperature that’s 2.5°C warmer than what men consider comfortable. 

Comfort & productivity go hand in hand

Regardless of gender, the reality is that cold employees aren’t just uncomfortable, they’re also distracted. When our body temperature drops, we use more energy in an attempt to keep ourselves warm; this exertion of energy means that we have less available to maintain our concentration levels. Therefore, it’s important that you do what you can to make sure your workforce are all comfortable. Some studies suggest that aside from your gender, the industry you work in can have an effect on how hot or cold you want it. Apparently, creative people need warmer offices, but colder temperatures can keep employees focused if their work isn’t that demanding

Finding the balance

iStock_000022467043_Small Not only is productivity higher, but absence is also significantly lower when workers have control over their own individual temperature. A 2010 study found that sick leave decreased by 30% when employees had control of their temperature. However, in the world of the open plan office, how can we let our employees find their own individual ideal working temperature? The solution is to find a suitable temperature that everyone can agree on, but of course this is easier said than done.

Rather than sneaking over to the thermostat and adjusting the temperature, talk to your colleagues about other alternatives. If one of your co-workers has reached the point where they’re trying to type whilst wearing gloves, then you know that it’s unreasonable to put the air-con on. However, if you feel the cold, then consider keeping a jumper or cardigan in the office so you always have that extra layer of clothing available. If you’re often warm, then desk fans are another great alternative, that way you can keep yourself cool without forcing your co-workers to endure the icy office air conditioning.

However, as the office continues to evolve, technology could be the saving grace of your workforce. The newly released Steelcase Brody WorkLounge resembles both a desk and a mini office. It’s started something of a quiet revolution in office design, having been created to limit distractions by creating a shelter that provides privacy, but it also has a heated lumbar option to keep employees warm and comfortable at work.

However you choose to solve potential battles over the air-con, one theme will remain consistent across the board; a happy, comfortable workforce is a productive one!

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