Office temperature might be the most fiercely debated issue in many work settings. People tend to get fired up about office temperature problems because they spend so many hours at work, under a great deal of pressure to get things done, and being uncomfortable is a major hindrance.
Let’s take a look at the link between office temperature and productivity, some new technology solutions that give employees more control, and some not-so-new solutions that are often neglected in the effort to achieve the perfect office temperature.
Office temperature and productivity
In a global economy that has every business trying to do more with less, increased worker productivity is the KPI that everyone is driving toward. How can you produce more, sell more, and grow your company while cutting the cost of doing business?
Many companies are beginning to look at employee comfort, health and wellbeing in the workplace as an important factor impacting productivity. When it comes to office temperature, it’s common sense: people who are uncomfortable will be more easily distracted from their work tasks. Research shows that more than half of employees are uncomfortable with the temperature in their workspace.
In fact, there’s a famous 2004 Cornell University study that proved that point. Hoping to pinpoint the ideal office temperature for productivity, they studied workers at a Florida insurance firm. Their findings showed that workers who feel too chilly make more mistakes, and those mistakes can add as much as 10 percent to the employer’s labor cost. The study found that errors fell by 44 percent and work output increased by 150 percent when the office temperature was increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees.
Other studies (see this article published by the Society for Human Resource Management) conclude that a typical office temperature between 69 and 72 degrees improves workplace performance.
How apps improve comfort and communication
In their personal life as well as work life, employees are perpetually connected and accustomed to real-time communication. So when they are told to submit a written work order to the facilities department when they have a problem with the office temperature, it’s not surprising that they get frustrated. They know it will be far too long before anyone even sees their request, never mind does something to solve the office temperature problem.
The fact is, office temperature still ranks as the number one workplace complaint. Smart companies are using new technology in the form of apps designed to improve communication and address office temperature issues in the workplace.
Comfy is a product gaining a lot of attention in the past few years. How does it work? Employees simply install an app on their smart phones that allows them to report their comfort level throughout the workday. The Comfy system is integrated with the HVAC system, and the employees’ requests are used to tweak the temperature in appropriate zones by adding a 10-minute blast of warm or cold air.
What’s interesting about this product is that employees within a specific zone can see requests from others in the same area. That feature allows people to voice their concerns while also encouraging communication when requests conflict.
Other products, such as Honeywell’s Vector Occupant and CrowdComfort provide the means for building occupants to report office temperature issues that get immediate attention from facilities staff. Reports from employees’ mobile apps get communicated in real time and pinpoint the exact location of the problem zone, such as a conference room that is filled to capacity and has gotten too warm. Facilities can make quick adjustments immediately and make that meeting more productive. In the past, that problem could only be addressed hours or days later with a manual work order.
Here’s the critical thing about successfully improving office temperature issues with the use of smart technology such as mobile apps: you need to start with an HVAC system that’s properly designed and functioning well.
Attention to HVAC is essential
While it’s true that individual preference factors in to the office thermostat wars, it’s also likely that your HVAC system has problems that need addressing. Especially when you experience temperature fluctuations in different areas of the workplace, it’s time to address the causes of uncomfortable temperatures.
When you put off having your air conditioning system maintained regularly, air filters get clogged, coils get grimy and parts get worn. These are just a few examples that contribute to an uncomfortable office temperature by impeding air flow and the system’s ability to cool effectively. You might be able to solve office temperature problems with a good cleaning and tune up.
Have your renovated or re-arranged your office space without updating your HVAC system? Or, if you are leasing office space, you may still have the same HVAC system that was installed for previous tenants. If so there’s a good chance your office temperature fluctuations are caused by HVAC design issues. You might have a system that’s too large or too small for the current usage conditions. Or, ductwork, supply vents and returns may need to be relocated to better serve the new space layout.
The good news is, simply re-routing your ductwork or other small design changes can make a big difference in your employees’ comfort level.
The bottom line is, the success of your business depends on employee productivity. Don’t let a problem like uncomfortable office temperatures set you back and keep you from reaching your goals.