There are many known culprits that can kill productivity in the workplace. Long-dragging meetings, social media use, poor overhead lighting, and the lack of automation are some of the most common ones. However, there is one productivity killer that often goes past our heads, and that is the uncomfortable temperature in the office.
A work environment that is either too hot or too cold can easily make people uncomfortable, and therefore less productive. When humans feel too hot or too cold, they tend to focus on their discomfort and become distracted from their main tasks. Moreover, trying to relieve that discomfort can take away a lot of attention from work, be it looking for something to wrap around one’s shoulders or trying to find a cool spot in the office.
What is the ideal office temperature?
The long-standing thermostat war in the office is evidence itself that people will always have varying definitions of what a “comfortable temperature” is. What may be too hot for some people may be perfectly okay with others, and what may be absolutely freezing to some may not be cold enough for the people working right next to them. The bottom line is: It is almost impossible to please everyone, but finding an ideal temperature that satisfied the majority of the workplace can go a long way.
The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act does not require employers to maintain a specific temperature in their workplace nor has a standard temperature for indoor office temperature. It does, however, recommend that workplace temperatures be kept between 67 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
This range is the most ideal temperature for a typical office and is what usually would please most people. It is the comfortable place between hot and cold, which keeps the majority of employees comfortable enough to focus on their work and stay productive.
It is often impossible to please every single person in the office despite following the recommended temperature range. With that in mind, employers should accommodate people who find their workplace too hot or too cold in order to help them stay productive.
For example, if a cluster of employees working in the same spot complain about being uncomfortably warm in that area, employers should call an air conditioning repair service to ensure that the cooling system is working as it should. Another good strategy is to use multiple thermostats for different parts of the office that have varying cooling or heating needs. For instance, the pantry where a lot of people tend to gather should be a little colder to offset the body heat generated in one small area, and the areas nearest the windows should be kept a little warmer in the winter to fight off the chill.
But even with zoning, there may still be some employees who remain uncomfortable. In this case, the best way to accommodate their needs is for employers to provide (or encouraging them to bring their own) sweaters, desk fans, and other things that can help them adjust the temperature in their immediate area.
How to combat thermostat wars
Some people like to turn up the temperature to their liking, and then the other employees are sweating. Others like the cold so much that they turn down the temperature, which leaves other people bundling up under blankets. If there is a constant fluctuation of temperature in the workplace, people become even more uncomfortable than when the thermostat is set either too high or too low.
In many offices, there is a rule that no one is allowed to touch the thermostat aside from maintenance staff and managers. However, these people have different definitions of what the ideal temperature is just as any other employee does. Therefore, employees may feel like they have no say in their working environment without access to the thermostat.
The best way to keep the peace is by disallowing anyone to adjust the temperature beyond or below the ideal range, which is 67 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Employers can allow people to touch the thermostat but only for certain circumstances, such as when the weather is abnormally hot outside or if a door is accidentally left open in the winter.
The ideal office temperature is an ongoing debate that may never be resolved. Nevertheless, employers can find the ideal temperature range that best fits the needs of the majority of their people. And since the “ideal” range may not be the best for everyone, employers must also make appropriate accommodations to help keep everyone productive, focused, and in their best mood.