When your AC doesn’t work, neither do your employees
It’s August, and the summer slump is in full swing. When the office temperature is uncomfortable, the slump gets even worse:
- Workers at their desks but daydreaming instead of working
- People taking long lunches & lots of breaks
- People are waltzing into the office at 10 and skipping out at 4
Just about everyone is distracted. And some even admit it: 25% of office workers admit that their productivity declines in the summer.
When you have office temperature problems because your HVAC system is not working like it should be, lost productivity is certainly hurting your bottom line.
How office temperature problems affect productivity
It’s common sense: people who are uncomfortable will be more easily distracted from their work tasks. But you may be surprised at the size of the impact on your workers’ productivity.
According to a CareerBuilder survey of 4,285 full-time US workers, nearly half felt that their workplaces were either too hot or too cold. That’s quite a lot of distracted people.
Also, a 2004 Cornell University study conducted at an insurance firm on Orlando, FL found that workers who feel too chilly make more mistakes, and those mistakes can cost employers as much as 10 percent more in labor cost. The study found that errors fell by 44 percent and work output increased by a whopping 150 percent when the office temperature was increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees. (Here’s a related article from the Society of Human Resource Management about how office temperature affects productivity.)
Related factors that hurt productivity even more
And keep in mind that there are other factors that can compound how people perceive the comfort of the office temperature. You may be aware that your workers’ weight, age and gender can have an effect on how they perceive temperature. But there are even more factors that are working against you, especially in the summer months:
SEASON: Depending on the season, we expect a certain temperature range and become used to them. That’s why people can tolerate a colder temperature in winter and a warmer one in summer. So if your office is too cold in the summer, people are more likely to feel uncomfortable and get distracted.
CLOTHING: What people wear also affects their comfort and their productivity. As a result, people can tolerate cooler winter temperatures because they are wearing thick fabrics, layers and sweaters. In the summer, people are wearing looser, lighter fabrics and are more likely to feel cold when the office temperature is chilly.
HUMIDITY: Too much humidity in the air, which is common in the summer, can have a major impact on comfort and productivity. When the air contains lots of moisture, the body can’t evaporate sweat and the air feels heavy on the skin. If your office temperature is a bit warm but also has humidity issues, you may be seeing serious productivity issues.
Office temperature recommendations
Here’s what you need to know when people complain about the office temperature:
Ideal office temperature settings
Not surprisingly, there are varying opinions about what the ideal office temperature should be. But most research seems to put the optimal office temperature between 71 and 73 degrees F.
Your location and the type of activities your workers are doing also affect your optimal office temperature. The Cornell study that found an ideal office temperature of 77 degrees was conducted in Orlando, where workers may be acclimated to higher temperatures.
Don’t ignore office temperature variance problems
A common cause of those office temperature battles is widely fluctuating temperatures from one part of the office to another. People don’t know how to dress and get really grumpy when they have so spend part of the day in an icy cubicle and part of it in a sweltering conference room.
Talk about productivity decline: how much do you get done in a meeting where everyone can’t wait to escape due to the temperature?
Temperature variance is caused by problems with your HVAC system. But it can be simple to correct. If you’ve renovated your office without modifying your ductwork, you might just need some re-routed ducts to get your office temperature back to normal.
You could also have maintenance issues that need to be addressed. The trick is to get to the cause of the problem. Call in a knowledgeable HVAC company to evaluate your system.
To learn more about what temperature variance is costing you and how to deal with the problem, grab our helpful guide.
Tackle high humidity
Too much humidity can have more expensive consequences beyond productivity. Uncontrolled humidity can cause mold and mildew to grow in your air conditioner and your ventilation system. The spores then get circulated throughout the air in your building where they can cause illness.
Again, your HVAC system is the likely culprit. If you have an air conditioning unit that’s too large for your space, which is surprisingly common, it turns on and off frequently without ever running long enough to remove humidity from the air. There could also be other HVAC design issues contributing to the problem, such as the need for additional zones. You need a professional evaluation to determine a plan of action.
Fix your office temperature issues with HVAC preventative maintenance
Many of the causes of office temperature problems can be easily prevented. How? By being vigilant about preventative maintenance of your air conditioning and heating systems.
Investing in a maintenance contract will ensure that your system is working as it should be. And considering how much the uncomfortable office temperature is costing you in productivity losses, maintenance pays for itself many times over.
Here are just a few of the maintenance tasks that keep your office temperature comfortable:
- Replace or clean air filters and check for any other blockages that are preventing air from flowing through the system
- Clean fan blades, adjust speed adjusted if needed, and inspect motors for proper operation
- Check the condition of the ducts and look for leaks
- Clean coils to helps the unit remove heat more effectively
BONUS: Did you know that HVAC preventative maintenance also prevents breakdowns and increases the life span of your equipment? Find out more: Air Conditioning Maintenance Doesn’t Cost. It Pays..