The Office Wars: Controlling the Thermostat
You work at the office all day. It’s reasonable for you to want to be comfortable. There’s just one problem with choosing an office temperature: comfort is subjective. After all, 70 degrees may feel ideal to Bob, who’s wearing a suit and tie, but make Jan feel freezing in her knee-length dress. Plus, having only one thermostat for the entire building may leave Bob’s office a few degrees hotter than the side of the building where Jan works.
The fight over the office thermostat stems from scenarios like this. Uncomfortable temperatures create an environment of bitterness and distraction. While it might be impossible to satisfy 100 percent of your employees 100 percent of the time, these tips help you create a more comfortable environment where everyone can be more productive.
Understand that Temperature Affects Productivity
The biggest reason to even discuss office thermostat wars is because temperature irrefutably affects productivity. Some studies show that working in an environment that’s too hot or too cold can decrease productivity by as much as 20 percent. This costs businesses millions of dollars every year.
Many Factors Affect a Person’s “Ideal Temperature”
When someone in your office complains that they’re too hot or too cold, don’t jump to conclusions about their sanity. First, think about the factors that might be causing their discomfort.
First is their gender. Men tend to have a higher ratio of muscle to fat than women, which helps them stay warmer. Second is the season. People are inclined to dress for the weather, not what the temperature will be at the office. When it’s cold outside, people wear sweaters and scarves. When it’s hot, skirts and shorts reign supreme.
This creates some complications in an office setting, as seen in Bob and Jan’s case, since men – who naturally feel warmer – may wear a suit and tie while women – who are prone to feeling colder – may choose a skirt or dress. When you consider these scenarios, it’s really no mystery why the war for the thermostat exists in many offices.
Find a Comfortable Temperature
Solving the battle of the thermostat isn’t as easy as asking all the ladies at the office to keep wool socks and winter parkas at their desks in the summertime. Bundling up may solve the comfort problem, but getting all cozy leads to drowsiness, which obviously isn’t good for productivity either.
At the same time, unless the office is ready to adopt a new dress code for the men, it’s not fair to make them sweat just to keep the women comfortable. The trick is to strike the happiest medium possible.
According to the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, the ideal indoor temperature is 76 degrees in summer and 72 degrees in winter. The trick is to actually make the whole office the same temperature, which leads to the final tip…
Install a Zoning System
Different areas of your office have different heating and cooling needs. The copy room with its heat-generating machines needs more air conditioning than offices on the north side of the building that never receive any direct sun. Temperature disparities between these areas are a major problem, especially in old, drafty buildings.
Zoning involves installing multiple thermostats to control the temperature in specific parts of the building. This counters the effects of varying heat loss and gain, and may even allow you to meet the requests of employees who complain of being uncomfortable.