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The office temperature debate and how to combat it

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If you work in an office with more than a handful of people in it, chances are you’ll have encountered the classic office temperature debate at least once. For some it’s always too hot, while for others the air con might feel like an ice blast, so how do you keep everyone happy? Here, we take a look at how the temperature of your office space can affect productivity, what the rules are when it comes to warmth, and ways you can keep everyone happy (or at least try to).

The current rules

In the UK, there’s no specific temperature requirement for a work environment. The government simply states that working environments must have a “reasonable” temperature, with guidance stating that it shouldn’t get below 16°C, or 13°C if the work involves physical activity.

Interestingly, the guidance doesn’t just relate to temperature. As an employer, companies should make sure that their workers are comfortable, and provide fresh, clean air for their staff too.

How big a deal is workplace temperature?

In short, very.

In fact, the temperature of your office space can have an impact on how productive your workforce is. Research from the Indoor Environment Group at the Berkeley Lab found that performance in the workplace actually increases as the temperature gets towards 21-22°C, but will become less productive if it gets above 23-24°C. 

In addition to this, an article from the BBC explains how 2% of office hours in the UK are dedicated to quibbling over the temperature, which as it stands doesn’t sound too harmful , but as the article goes on to explain, in terms of numbers that costs the UK economy £13 billion a year.

But why?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, when the temperature’s too hot or too cold, people are more likely to take risks, short cuts, and experience reduced concentration levels, which can ultimately lead to errors.

Why do we disagree about the temperature?

How you maintain your own temperature is largely dependent on your body’s metabolic rate. As explained by Wired, your metabolic rate is all about the rate at which you convert calories to energy, and plays a big part in how you keep your body temperature regulated.

Naturally, this rate is different for everyone, but generally speaking, females tend to have lower metabolic rates than males.

In regard to our temperatures, this lower metabolic rate results in females being more likely to “feel the cold”, in an environment that a male might feel just right.

So, thanks to the individual nature of how we perceive temperature, it’s no surprise that groups of people working in the same office tend to disagree.

What's the best temperature?

While there’s still a chance it won’t meet the ideals of everyone, research from YouGov states that the average British person prefers a temperature of 21°C. The study, which surveyed 1,745 adults in Great Britain, also found that the average person deems it just too hot when it gets to 27°C, giving offices quite a wide margin before things get uncomfortable.

In another study, the aforementioned Berkeley Institute found that performance at work reached its optimum level when the temperature was at 22°C.

What's the best temperature?

While there’s still a chance it won’t meet the ideals of everyone, research from YouGov states that the average British person prefers a temperature of 21°C. The study, which surveyed 1,745 adults in Great Britain, also found that the average person deems it just too hot when it gets to 27°C, giving offices quite a wide margin before things get uncomfortable.

In another study, the aforementioned Berkeley Institute found that performance at work reached its optimum level when the temperature was at 22°C.

How can we control the temperature?

There are several common ways you can control the temperature in your office, such as:

  1. Installing air conditioning and setting it to the recommended temperature (21-22 °C))
  2. Choosing a well-ventilated space
  3. Making sure you have the proper insulation to keep heat inside in the winter

In addition to these, you might also want to consider the following options for keeping your office space comfortable:

  1. Investing in de-humidifiers to keep air feeling fresh (air quality can be as important as temperature)
  2. Instil best practice in the office - for example making sure windows are closed if the air con is on
  3. Reducing draughts in winter
  4. Provide heaters in winter, adding portable heaters where necessary
  5. Make space for people to move - hot desks or communal areas can be great for escaping a draughty window or particularly cold air con draught

Can tech help us with the debate?

Other than the obvious – air conditioning for both cooling and heating – there are some ways you can incorporate technology to help create a better working environment.

Individual controls

ZDNet reports on a survey by Memoori (a Stockholm-based consultancy company), which concluded that the best way to keep the office happy temperature-wise is to incorporate individual environmental controls.

This is something that can be more easily incorporated if your office consists of numerous rooms, with one person per room, but in an open plan office environment it’s slightly different. For example, it works very well in a serviced office which comprises a series of private suites. 

You can incorporate separate controls per area or zone, which is likely to give teams more power over their temperature than one set of controls for an entire office, but is likely to still encounter some level of dispute.

That said, the tech does exist that allows individuals to have more control over the environment…

Bring in the apps

The Wall Street Journal reports on apps that can help office workers to have more control over their environment. One, called Comfy, lets users submit feedback on their building, which ultimately influences the environmental controls. Users can request changes to the temperature and light levels in shared spaces, and flag issues in the office that need fixing. You can also use it to book meeting rooms and find hot desks and amenities around the office.

Introducing the latest tech to your office can be a great way to create a more comfortable temperature but finding a space that works for your team in the first place is a great way to create a better environment.

Serviced Offices vs Conventional Offices

While conventional offices usually have individual controls for air conditioning in every room (or at least on every floor), serviced offices may differ. It all depends on the space you choose, and what facilities are included with your contract - but it's always best to check.

Firstly, don't forget to ask who's in control of the temperature in the serviced office you're viewing. If it's a shared serviced office, will you have control of your own space or will you need to share with another business?

Some serviced offices will also benefit from a receptionist, who may or may not be in charge of monitoring the temperature of your building. In many ways, this can actually be a beneficial thing - having an authority in control of temperature can prevent office aircon debates.

With Workthere, you can find a work space that has all the features you need already built in. Using our comprehensive search tool, you can filter the spaces by facilities such as air conditioning, showers, breakout areas, rooftop terraces and even a bar – all aspects that can encourage a happy, healthy work space!

 

Sources

https://www.britishgas.co.uk/business/blog/how-temperature-affects-productivity-in-the-workplace/

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/07/16/ideal-temperature-21c/

https://www.gov.uk/workplace-temperatures