Office Temperature and Employee Productivity

May 1, 2020

Office Temperature and Employee Productivity

Anyone who has worked in a cubicle, waited for the dentist, or stood in line at the DMV has felt it: the inescapable chill of an office environment. Commercial air conditioning and heating is essential for the workplace, but has it become too powerful? Why are some offices kept balmy and subtropical while other corporate environments feel frigid?

Scientists and business strategists have pondered the question of employee thermal comfort for decades. Back in the 1960s, researchers calculated the “ideal” thermostat settings that many modern workplaces still use today. However, their findings were based on the best temperature range for a 40-year-old, 154-pound man. Average Joe from the 60s might prefer 68 degrees Fahrenheit, but today’s work environment is populated with an assortment of Not-So-Average Janes and Joes alike. Gender, age, body type, and health history can all impact an employee’s indoor temperature preferences.

Office temperature might seem like a non-issue, but studies suggest that thermal comfort significantly impacts employee productivity. A recent study found that, in general, women perform best in an environment between 70-80 degrees. Men tend to work best in temperatures under 70 degrees.

However, this study found that men were less negatively impacted by warmer temperatures than women were hindered by the cold. The conclusion? For maximum productivity, office thermostats should be kept near the low to mid-70s.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fairly loose recommendations for office climate, advising workplaces to keep between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit. In a gender-balanced office, leaning towards 75 degrees might boost employee satisfaction and efficiency.

There is no magic office temperature that will satisfy everyone, but employers can take a few steps to promote comfort for most people in the workplace. By following these easy steps, employers can give workers the freedom to create a comfortable atmosphere without roasting or freezing their fellows:

Create a Flexible Dress Code

As times change, offices around the world are adopting more relaxed dress codes for their employees. Give your workers the freedom to wear short sleeves and lighter materials in the summer, and they might stop trying to use the AC as a blast-chiller. Similarly, allowing boots to replace dress shoes in the winter could keep the team’s toes a bit cozier.

Use Fans and Personal Heaters

Sometimes, altering the dress code just doesn’t cut it. If you can do so safely, allow individuals to use small electric space heaters or personal fans at their desk. This is a great way to give individuals more power over their environment when each room lacks individual heat settings.

Rearrange Your Space

Playing a little musical chairs can go a long way. Try moving chill-prone workers away from the AC vent and closer to a sunny window. If there is one perpetually chilly room in the office, it might make a better break room than a formal workspace.

Consider Upgrading your HVAC System

If your employees consistently report discomfort in the office and no amount of thermostat-twiddling can assuage them, your problems may go beyond preference disputes. Consider requesting a service inspection from your commercial HVAC provider. Your HVAC equipment may need a simple filter or belt change. A service technician could also recommend a complete renovation for outdated equipment. An HVAC upgrade can improve employee comfort, and a more efficient system could significantly reduce your company’s energy bills as well.

As any manager knows, it’s impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. However, the most recent scientific wisdom suggests that a slightly warmer office might boost productivity when no one can agree on a temperature. Hopefully, these simple steps will help bring an end to your office’s thermostat wars.


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