In space, the “Goldilocks zone” is the area around a sun where the temperature is habitable to life. In the office, differing temperature preferences can feel as far apart as the sun and moon. Today we’re helping you bridge the gap by finding the ideal office temperature to satisfy all your employees. Don’t be deaf to your employees’ complaints, because a comfortable employee is a productive employee.
Here are some strategies you can use to make your office not too cold, not too hot, but just right.
Why bother finding an ideal office temperature?
It’s worth taking temperature comments seriously, because temperature adjustment is one of the easiest ways to get more productive employees. 25% of people admit that their productivity declines in the summer, and that’s not only because of daydreams about vacation.
The bottom line is that the more uncomfortable people are, the easier it is for them to become distracted. A Cornell study found that typing errors decreased 44% and output increased 150% when the temperature was raised from 68° to 77°. That’s a lot of time and money down the drain just for not having an ideal office temperature! Some signs of lowered productivity you may be encountering are:
- Employees take long lunches outside
- People going on smoke breaks and coffee runs
- Employees coming late and leaving early
Not finding an ideal office temperature can cause hostility between workers. Employees who seek their own solutions to temperature control can unknowingly create hazards. Here are some DIY solutions you want to avoid:
- Rearranging furniture. The new layout may not be optimal for the ventilation in the room.
- Blocked vents, which make your AC work harder and use more electricity. It can even trip the circuit breaker if left unchecked.
- Portable heaters, which can be a fire hazard, and cause strain on the AC.
Conditions affecting the ideal office temperature
“Ideal office temperature” can be a frustratingly vague term, since there’s really no ideal office temperature that works for everyone. Some experts suggest a Goldilocks zone at 71° to 73° depending on a variety of conditions; while the Cornell study showed that a temperature between 72° and 79° is optimal for worker productivity and comfort.
Even OSHA has no regulations on the matter, but recommends clean, well-circulated air with 20 to 60 percent humidity.
It’s important to keep in mind that temperature isn’t everything. A number of factors affect how people feel temperature, including air quality, season and body type.
Humidity: Ever had to peel yourself off a leather car seat in summer? That’s because humidity makes surfaces sticky and uncomfortable. No one enjoys working while glued to their chair. That makes work quality and output decrease. It won’t matter if you’re at the ideal office temperature if humidity is making the air stuffy and even spreading mold and illness. It’s surprisingly common for air conditioners to be too large for the space they’re in, which means they don’t run for long enough to remove moisture from the air.
Gender: Men and women experience temperature differently. That’s why one person’s ideal office temperature is another person’s sauna. Explanations for this include genes and BMI, which plays a part in how the body regulates temperature.
Occupancy. Right now, offices are considerably less occupied than they were in 2019. If your HVAC system has not been adjusted according to your current level of occupancy, it’s likely that comfort conditions are less than ideal.
Season: Obviously the temperature changes with the seasons, but how people adapt to the seasons matters as well. If you keep your building the same temperature, say 68°F, year round. You may notice you still get complaints of being too cold in the summer, even though 68° was fine in the winter.
What’s going on? People adapt and find different temperatures comfortable in different seasons. This effect also happens geographically. In a Cornell study of Orlando, FL they found the ideal office temperature to be 77°. But national averages are closer to 70° to 74°, suggesting that the Floridians are used to higher temperatures.
Causes of thermostat wars
If you manage an office, you’re likely no stranger to vicious thermostat battles.
When temperatures fluctuate wildly from one part of the office to another, people get frustrated that they never get to work in an ideal office temperature. Negotiate peace between hot and cold parties by examining the cause behind the problem.
Unstable temperatures following an office renovation could be a design issue. HVAC systems that don’t get upgraded with the rest of the office are likely to be a poor fit for the new space. Layout changes affect airflow throughout the room. The change might require more cooling zones.
Especially if you’ve neglected regular preventive maintenance, the culprit could also be worn out parts. Grime in the ductwork, filters, or coil is likely to make your AC work harder than it needs to leading to declining performance.
If an AC keeps running and never gets near the ideal office temperature, it could be a symptom of frozen coils, leaking refrigerant, air leaks, or blocked ducts.
Solutions to thermostat wars
The ideal office temperature solution is one that works for everyone and reduces employee squabbling. It would be great if negotiations solved all these issues, but here are some more solutions in case those tips don’t do the trick.
- You can rearrange a workday, placing the most strenuous tasks in the cooler parts of the office and during cooler times of the day.
- A uniform with options for layers or a looser summer dress code can also help.
- Blinds block the sun to help regulate the office temperature. They keep the office cool, but it can also keep a room from getting too cold.
- If the thermostat is in direct sun, it will get an inaccurate temperature reading and instruct the AC to chill you much more than necessary. Window films accomplish the same thing, and provide added UV protection without compromising the view.
- If an automated building management system currently controls your commercial AC, make sure it’s kept up to date as conditions or office layout changes. Fixing a poorly configured automation system can solve cold spots.
- Also, help your AC keep the ideal office temperature by using cooler, lower heat-producing light bulbs and fixtures, including LEDs.
Regular AC maintenance will help you stay at the ideal office temperature once you’ve found it. Maintenance plans include tasks like checking for blocked vents, changing filters and inspecting coils. This will also help you catch problems like holes in the ducts and broken fans before they lead to a complete breakdown.
To learn more about AC maintenance, ready this related article: Air Conditioning Maintenance Doesn’t Cost. It Pays.
No one wants their office to be associated with descriptions like “oppressive” and “stuffy.” Fresher, better quality air is a big part of employee comfort and it can make a significant contribution to your bottom line.
Grab our informative guide for everything you need to know about stopping the thermostat wars and finding the ideal office temperature for you: Improving an Imperfect World: Mitigating Office Temperature Extremes.