What’s The Best Temperature for an Office?
Turning the heat up on productivity
Temperature is probably one of the most complained about factors of comfort in a workplace. When it reaches an uncomfortable level, either too hot or too cold, the effect it can have on productivity is huge.
Especially in office environments where people may have to stay put at their desk for longer periods of time, being too cold can be incredibly distracting and take a toll on the amount of work being done when one is constantly making cups of tea, putting on more and more layers, or having to simply get up and walk around every half an hour. The same can be said with heat, as higher temperatures can cause dizziness, headaches, and, again, a loss in concentration, especially when staring at screens for long periods of time.
These problems stem primarily from poor heating/air conditioning equipment in buildings, and, as is common in the UK, older buildings, themselves, with poor insulation.
Finding a happy temperature medium
Unfortunately, there’s very rarely a chance you’ll manage to please everyone in the workplace with one temperature.
There is actually no specific legal requirement for a minimum temperature (thus the fighting over the thermostat), but research has been done to determine a temperature that seems to stimulate the highest level of productivity. According to the HSE (Health & Safety Executive), it is recommended that your workplace should be at a MINIMUM of 16 degrees celsius or 13 degrees if the work is more physical.
There is legally no maximum temperature but it’s recommended that for physical workers, it shouldn’t go any higher than 27 degrees celsius, while offices/receptions should not push past 30 degrees. Joint research from universities in Finland and USA has found that 22 degrees celsius is the optimal temperature for productivity in an office, but again, no regulations are in place to enforce that number and discussion must take place to find a temperature that suits all employees within the workplace.
Thermal comfort, though difficult to specifically define, is the temperature of which an individual is content to work and be productive. The problem with defining this temperature is that there are many factors involved in determining this number which are environmentally and individually influenced.
- Air temperature – The temperature of the room/air around you.
- Radiant temperature – The heat that comes from a warm object (heaters, machinery, oven, etc)
- Air velocity – The speed at which the air is moving around the room (whether it cools/warms).
- Humidity – The amount of water in the air.
- Clothing insulation – Wearing too much/too little clothing/protective clothing based on the temperature.
- Work rate/metabolic rate – The more work we do, the more heat is produced. Personal traits should also be taken into consideration ie: age, fitness level, size/weight.
There is a thermal comfort checklist that can be handed out to employees, or a union or safety representative, to determine whether or not the thermal comfort of your workplace is at an acceptable level. Once you have determined whether or not your workplace is a comfortable environment for your employees, steps can taken to ensure their happiness and encourage optimal productivity.
Maximising employee potential via positive environmental conditions
Happy employees tend to be productive employees, which is why maintaining favourable standards in regards to temperature is such an important part of the workplace environment. Temperature discomfort can lead to not only a drop in concentration, it can cause fatigue, irritability and may cause employees to unsafely cut corners, rush work, or not wear the correct protection in order to get out of that environment. This leads to a chance of workplace accidents and a drop in work standards.
If you’ve gone through the procedure of determining the appropriate thermal comfort for your workplace, you should be set to encourage optimal productivity, at least from a comfortable environment standpoint.
In the Office
Offices are probably the hardest places to find a common thermal comfort for all employees due to the varying characteristics from person to person. Depending on their role, employees may sit closer to windows or outside doors which could cause a complaint of being too cold, while others may sit beside a radiator and find the heating to be too much. Though it will be hard to please everyone 100%, finding an agreeable compromise is key. Buildings, especially in the UK, can be older and drafty in places and temperatures can change from floor to floor or room to room. Open offices can also be harder to distribute temperature around than individual offices where people may have more control.
Once the individual characteristics, the factors of thermal comfort and actual statistics on office/retail temperature have been considered, how does one ensure their building is up to the challenge?
It’s important, particularly in the UK, to be able to control both the hot and cold to deal with varying seasonal temperatures. The build/age of the building is also something to consider and, if the building hasn’t been updated in a few years, may need to be investigated further. Windows are a major cause of heat loss, therefore making sure they are double glazed and insulated properly would be a good place to start. Boiler maintenance is also high on the list as ineffective boilers are not very cost efficient.
Electric heating is a common way to heat office spaces, in particular, due to their quiet nature. They are also easy to install and control. A combination of convector and fan heaters is an efficient way to heat a space, as the two work together to heat up in the morning and once the optimal temperature is reached, the quiet convectors continue to keep that temperature consistent. Fan heaters are most useful when a room gets drafty or needs a blast of heat.