Office temperatures that are too hot or too cold are one of the most common complaints amongst staff in a work environment and contribute to millions of dollars in lost productivity each year.
Here are the top ten facts about office temperature that will help you win the battle for the air conditioning controls:
- The Australian Standard AS 1837 – 1976 Code of practice for application of ergonomics to factory and office work recommends a temperature range of 21-24 degrees Celsius for both offices and factories in summer. The preferred winter temperature is usually about two degrees lower than in summer.
- Temperature affects productivity. Studies in the US show that productivity can drop off by up to 20% if the temperature is so uncomfortable it causes a distraction to the employee. Productivity drops off when the employee feels either too hot or too cold but surprisingly the major contributor to lost productivity is when the temperature is too cold.
- Keeping all employees ‘comfortable’ in an office is almost impossible. The bad news is that everyone is different and what temperature is comfortable for one person is not necessarily the same for the person working next door.
- The human response to temperature is adaptive. In summer we can tolerate a lot more ambient heat than in winter, because our bodies become used to the higher range of temperatures. So the ideal thing is to measure what the outdoor temperature is and set the indoor temperature accordingly.
- Women can feel the cold more than men. Since women tend to be less muscular than men and wear less layers of clothing they tend to run colder. Men tend to dress in sleeved shirts, pants and sweaters that leave only face and necks exposed. That is why so many women turn to the trusted office sweater draped over the chair.
- The best solution to office thermostat wars is to poll the audience. If 99% of people are comfortable then there has to be give and take. Use the exercise to explain how the system works in your building. Maybe bring in an expert to talk to staff at the next OHS Toolbox Talk. Safety Concepts offer a great online course in consultion in the workplace through its training division. The course is able to be completed anytime and anywhere and the cost is much lower than a traditional classroom.
- Older buildings with out of date heating and cooling systems can have uneven results. An office might have two or more distinct climates under the one roof. Some buildings have poorly designed air conditioning systems that deliver too much to one part of the office and not enough to other sections. Check that the thermostat has not been situated directly in the air flow from an air conditioning vent. Also office temperatures can be localised. A desk situated in direct sunlight will be much warmer than a desk situated directly under an air conditioning outlet.
- Some older personal computers can generate as much heat as a small fan force heater raising local temperatures above the room average. This problem can be compounded by the clustering of servers, printers and computers in one particular section of an office.
- Humans have a thermostat centre located at the base of the brain called the hypothalamus where a thyroid gland regulates our body’s metabolism. For example, when it is cold outside, the skin registers the change in temperature and stimulates the hypothalamus and thyroid to increase metabolism and generate body heat. How these personal thermostats sense changes in temperature vary between people. Some people feel the cold more than others and yet can tolerate much higher workplace temperatures than their peers.
- Other causes of office temperature discomfort include your level of fitness, your diet and even your age. Being fit means regular exercise that leads to more dense muscle which in turn regulates body temperature more efficiently. Our metabolism needs healthy nutrients from a proper diet to work efficiently and as people age their normal hormone systems start to function differently making it harder to keep warm or to stay cool. Lastly being too tense or stressed in the office can impact on your circulation and make you feel colder.
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I went looking for a book that explains how to WIN THE TEMPERATURE WAR, but couldn’t find one. So I wrote one myself! Now you can get your own copy of my eBook and be the only one in your office who knows all there is to know about workplace temperatures. It’s full of tips and ideas as well as instructions on how airconditioning and heating systems work. It will explain what you can do and why no-one else will be able to get the same advantage as you.
Don’t suffer any longer!