Office Temperature Wars


It's the middle of June and Lana Kane is sitting at one end of the office wearing a thick knit cardigan, winter tights and is clutching a hot drink.' Remarkably, she also has a space heater blasting like a furnace just 6 inches from her legs.

Meanwhile, her boss, Sterling Archer, sits at the other end of the office with the air con set to 16 to try and combat the 30 degree heat outside.

If you think this sounds like a familiar workplace scenario, you would be right.' 'As sure as eggs is eggs, somewhere right now there is an argument ensuing between colleagues about the temperature of the office.

Office Temperature: Pleasing all of the people

Keeping the office comfortable for all employees is an impossible task, as comfortable means something different to everyone.' Even with modern buildings with air conditioning, the office temperature that suits you, may not suit your colleague sitting next to you.

But with the office temperature regularly topping the list of office grievances, is it possible to achieve a compromise that is acceptable, if not perfectly satisfactory to everyone?

Office Temperature: 'Research reveals...

So who is right?' Those who want it warmer or cooler?

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the research tends to come down in favour of those that prefer a warmer climate.' Results from analysis by Northumbria University of 16 UK workplaces and 400 employee questionnaires found that colder office temperatures is amongst the largest productivity killer.

And research from across the pond at Cornell University found that an office temperature of lower than 20 degrees Celsius increases employee error by 44%.

Personally I like a colder office.' One of the reasons for this could be that I spent my University years living with my Nan in a house that was akin to a giant 1950s Smeg fridge freezer, with my bedroom located at the back of the freezer section.

Office Temperature: Gender divide?

Without wanting to sound like a chauvinistic, you will tend to find that the people complaining about the cold office temperature will be of female persuasion.' And there is a good reason for that.' Because men tend to be more muscular than women, their body temperature tends to be higher.

You can also add clothing to this gender difference.' Men tend to wear long sleeve shirts and trousers in the office, which only leaves their faces, neck and hands exposed.' Whereas women's myriad clothing combinations tends to expose more skin.

Office Temperature advice for employers:

Compromise? Solution?

So just how do you resolve the conflict of office temperature wars and is it possible to find a resolution that the majority of people would be happy with?

A good starting point is to garner the thoughts of the workforce, perhaps initially with an anonymous email.

You can ask them what they feel the ideal temperature is, but give them a choice from 20 to 23 degrees, which is the recommended temperature for an office environment.

Office Temperature advice for employers:

More counter-intuitive advice

While it may seem logical and convenient to ask staff who feel cold to throw on a sweater, it's actually easier for people to cool down that it is to warm-up.

So rather than make the office as cold as my Smeg bedroom at my Nans, crank up the thermostat a couple of degrees and suggest lighter clothing for those who find it too warm.

Office Temperature advice for employers:

Make special arrangements

There will be some of your staff, such as your receptionist, that are exposed to the elements a little more than others.' For these individuals, you may need to make special provisions, such as space heaters, cooling fans etc.

Office Temperature advice for employers:

Don't let everyone have free reign with the thermostat

It would be carnage and anarchy if you allowed Sterling, Lana or any other random member of staff to change the office temperature when they fancied.

Obviously you don't want to get too Dickensian over who can and cannot get their grubby mitts on the thermostat, but if you can designate someone in each area it should make things run smoother.

Office Temperature advice for employees:

Think of others

Again, what is good for the goose isn't always good for the gander.' So simply consulting your fellow co-worker before you fiddle with the thermostat will go a long way to diffuse an impending office temperature war.

And when a co-worker does enquire about changing the office temperature, try not to sarcastically tell them to get a grip, stop being a wuss and put on a sweater!

Office Temperature advice for employees:

Turn off unused equipment

Computers, lights and even mobile phone chargers radiate heat and obviously raise the temperature of the room.' So turn them off when they are not in use, especially in the summer.

Office Temperature advice for employees:

Dress appropriately for the climate

The key is to wear layers that can be easily peeled off or put on.' Avoid Polyester and other man-made fibres, unless of course you enjoy sweating profusely in the office!

Choose wool for the winter and a lighter fabric like cotton or linen for the summer.' Again, without wanting to sound chauventistic, the ladies should avoid wearing short skirts and low-cut blouses which will only make them feel chilly and could be deemed inappropriate office wear anyway.

To keep warm in the office, the ladies could opt for a dressy scarf or pashmina and the chaps can always opt for a nice vest (no-one will know) or a light cardigan.

Apologies if that sounded a bit 'Alan Partridge'.

Office Temperature: Summary

Office temperature wars will continue long after we have all gone to meet our makers.

But the key to handling the situation is compromise and consultation across the board.

Tweak the temperature until you find something that the consensus is happy with.

You cannot avoid the extremes of a Lana in one corner of the room with her coal fire burning under the desk and a Sterling in the other who would probably be far happier as an Inuit.

Thanks for reading, and if you would like to discuss any element of this article, pop over to our LinkedIn group, which you can find here. 'We would love to have a chat, hopefully in a temperature that suits everyone, well nearly everyone!