Running Your Business

Too Hot or Too Cold: The Office Temperature Debate

  • It's common for some employees to be too hot or too cold at work

  • Employers can try to ensure the office is a comfortable temperature by polling employees, speaking with an HVAC professional and trying to place employees strategically in the locations of the office that they prefer

  • The most important thing is to keep employees in the loop and let them know you're listening and trying to come up with temperature solutions

Posted by November 12, 2019

Bundling in scarves and blankets during the summer and sweating in winter may seem backward, but in an office environment, it’s all too common. Nearly half of private sector American workers think their office temperature is either too hot or too cold, and 15% have argued with a co-worker about office temps, according to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey.

What’s more, office temperature is usually adjusted for one type of employee: a 40-year-old man who weighs 154 pounds. This profile was used in the 1960s to calculate the workplace temperature that most offices adopted.

But if you’re bigger, smaller, older, younger or female, then that standard temperature may not be the most comfortable.

How can employers make temperature changes to ensure the majority of employees are happy?

Ending the Office Temperature War

To help employees stay comfortable and productive, there are several approaches you can take.

  • Reach a consensus. You likely already know whether there the office temperature is contentious. Take an informal survey or even just ask for a show of hands at the next company meeting to see who’s hot, who’s cold and who’s just right.

  • Consult an HVAC professional. One too-cold office tried to remedy the situation and raised the thermostat one degree. The office then became too hot. That’s how delicate the technology controlling the temperature can be. Logistics, the building’s construction, the layout of the office and the age and efficiency of the HVAC system all play a role. You may need professional help to achieve a temperature that works for everyone.

  • Move employees when needed. We all know one corner cubicle can be cold while another side of the office is warm because of factors like a vent blowing directly over one area or a big sun-facing window changing the temperature in another. Encourage employees to seek out the spot they prefer if possible. Maybe two employees could switch spaces or a warm team member could move under the A/C vent.

  • Recognize that temperature can affect employee productivity and happiness. The BBC reported that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg keeps his office at a cool 60 degrees Fahrenheit to ward off cyberloafing among employees and to improve their productivity and focus. (The effectiveness of this strategy is debatable.) The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Technical Manual, meanwhile, recommends that office temperatures range from 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit. But that eight-degree variable leaves a lot of leeway. In the end, the temperature most prefer has to do with personal preference and making sure that discomfort isn’t distracting employees from work.

  • Zone the office for cooling and heating. Since different areas of your building may have different temperature requirements, zoning with different thermostats may be one way to control the temperature in each area. Talk to a HVAC pro or the building’s maintenance personnel about adding thermostat zones.

  • Keep the sexes out of it. On average, men are warmer and women are colder due to metabolic rates, body mass and size. In addition, workplace attire may make men feel warmer if they’re wearing suits and ties and women colder if they’re donning short-sleeved dresses during the summer. But making temp fights a war between the sexes is bad for business and further pits employees against each other. Instead, concentrate on reaching a happy compromise no matter each employee’s sex. You could encourage sweaters or shawls and even consider providing cozy desk throws to any employee who wants one. You could also permit desk fans and space heaters in certain circumstances.

Whatever the office temperature in your building, listening to employees’ temp complaints and taking them seriously while trying to resolve the issue goes a long way toward appeasing people on both sides of the thermostat debate, keeping employees happy and focused.

Support and engage your employees with United Concordia Dental’s Employer Toolkit.

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