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Office Temperature and Productivity in the Workplace

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019


temperature and productivity in the workplace

In today’s uber-competitive business climate, companies need employees to be as productive as possible to achieve their goals. That’s why temperature and office productivity is an issue that’s getting more attention as the need for improved worker output increases.

Like many, you are probably trying to find the barriers to productivity, and you may have come across the findings from IFMA about the top complaints from office workers about issues that impact their ability to get work done. Being too hot or too cold rank as the top 2 problems. If you work in an office (especially if you are in charge of facilities), this is probably not news to you! However, you may be wondering, what exactly is the relationship between temperature and productivity in the workplace? And what is the ideal temperature for an office?

Read on to get the answers and insights about how you can improve the temperature and productivity in your workplace.

What’s the relationship between temperature and productivity in the workplace?

Productivity suffers significantly when workers are too hot or too cold because they are distracted and make more mistakes. Studies find the highest productivity levels with temperatures at 71.6 degrees F. You could be paying 10 percent more in labor expenses when the office temperature is uncomfortable, according to a Cornell University study.

Research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that improving indoor air quality (of which temperature is an important component) can lead to work performance and productivity gains in the range of 6 to 9 percent.

Here’s what you may not realize when it comes to temperature and productivity in the workplace: you may be stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Many companies are adjusting office temperatures to cut energy costs, but the money they lose in productivity far outweighs the utility savings. That’s because, even here in New York City where space is so expensive, labor is still the highest expense for most businesses. Here’s how the savings compare, according to Creating the Productive Workplace:

“A 30 per cent saving in HVAC energy … translates into something of the order of $0.25–$0.35 per square foot. However, the 3 per cent loss in productivity associated with poor environmental quality would correspond to approximately $4.50–$6.00 per square foot, with unmeasured additional impacts of discomfort and poor health.”

The Cornell study mentioned earlier suggested (in 2004) that companies can save $2 per hour per worker by keeping temperatures comfortable. That savings is probably even higher today. How much would that add up to for your company?

What is the optimum temperature for an office?

Although OSHA recommends a temperature range between 68 and 76 degrees F, most studies show the highest productivity levels with temperatures in the low 70s. It’s also important to keep humidity levels between 20 and 60 percent, because humidity can change how people perceive temperature.

Related articles:
What is the ideal office temperature
HVAC Humidity Control: 5 Reasons Your AC Is Ineffective

More ways the temperature wars are costing you

It’s clear that temperature and productivity in the workplace are closely correlated, and how you set your thermostat can have real consequences for your business.

If your workers are uncomfortable, they are probably not taking it sitting down. According to research by IFMA, they are bringing in personal heaters, which can be extremely dangerous. They are blocking AC and heat registers and even tampering with thermostats and controls. These actions not only impede the operation of the HVAC systems, which can make conditions even worse, but they can also cause damage to equipment. Either way, you are paying more and getting less from your HVAC systems.

Learn more: Office Air Conditioning Battles: Take Control Before Workers Do.

And there’s another consequence impacting office temperature and productivity in the workplace: the spread of illness. When temperatures and humidity levels are too high or too low, they can support the growth of bacteria, mold and viruses that are then spread around your workplace by the HVAC system. All those sick days can also hurt your productivity.

Learn more: Could Your HVAC System Be Making You Sick?

How to achieve the right conditions to improve workplace productivity

Achieving the ideal temperature for productivity in the workplace can be tricky; it’s more than raising or lowering the thermostat. Here are some factors to investigate.

Possible repair issues

There are lots of air conditioning issues that can cause temperature variance, including faulty controls, refrigerant leaks, clogged ducts and broken fans. Have your system inspected and evaluated by a trusted HVAC professional.

HVAC design issues

Also, your HVAC design is a factor to check out. Within your office you probably have different areas with varying needs for heating and air conditioning. For example, server rooms and overcrowded meeting spaces may need more cooling. Perimeter offices need more cooling and heating than the interior ones. Is your HVAC capable of handling these varying requirements? What about varying levels of occupancy at different times of day?

In addition, if you’ve done an office renovation without updating the HVAC system, it may no longer be routing conditioned area appropriately for the new layout of the space. The good news is, you may not need a new system; small changes such as rerouting ducts can make a big difference in office temperature and productivity in the workplace.

Don’t neglect maintenance

If your HVAC system hasn’t been maintained in a while, that can cause temperature variance, too. Clogged air filters, holes in ductwork, dirty coils and fans coated in grime can result in poor comfort conditions. That’s why we like to say “HVAC maintenance doesn’t cost, it pays.” The very small investment you make in regular maintenance not only reduces energy and repair bills, but can save you a bundle in lost productivity.

Find out more about office temperature and productivity in the workplace from this helpful guide: Improving an Imperfect World: Mitigating Office Temperature Extremes.

Find out how to win the battle for optimal office temperature