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How Cold is too Cold in the Office?

How Cold is too Cold in the Office?

As we continue to experience a late cold snap in the UK, many of us have been busy doing what we do best – complaining about feeling chilly. But how cold is too cold in the office?

Setting a minimum

The UKΓÇÖs Health & Safety Executive advises that the minimum temperature in the workplace should be 16┬░C, or 13┬░C if ΓÇ£much of the work is physicalΓÇ¥. Offices tend to fall into the first category, with most workers spending long periods sitting at their desks.

Before you turn the thermostat to 16┬░C, however, thatΓÇÖs just the minimum ΓÇô and as anyone who has ever shared an office with colleagues will know, finding the right temperature is a little more complex.

A question of thermal comfort

According to the HSE, employers should be measuring the thermal comfort of employees ΓÇô in other words, whether they feel too hot, too cold, or just right.

Of course, the only way to find out whether your employees are too cold is to ask them. YouΓÇÖre likely to get a wide range of answers ΓÇô different people will have different opinions on temperature levels based on everything from age and gender to fitness level ΓÇô but if more than 20% of workers are unhappy with the office temperature, then HSE says you should consider the temperature in your office as unsatisfactory.

Warmer workers are more productive

According to HSE, being too cold can decrease workersΓÇÖ ability to concentrate. This is backed up by research from Cornell University demonstrating that workers are more productive in warmer offices.

According to the study the ideal temperature for maximising productivity and minimising mistakes is 25┬░C ΓÇô much higher than HSEΓÇÖs minimum of 16┬░C. Unsurprisingly, the study has been widely cited as evidence for making the workplace toasty. If youΓÇÖre looking for a quick fix way to boost productivity levels though, you may want to hold back.

The Cornell study was carried out over the course of a single month, during which the temperature in the office was steadily raised. As we all know, office workersΓÇÖ productivity rates can fluctuate over the course of a single month, particularly as we race to meet mid-month or end of month deadlines.

Meanwhile, a 2006 study by the Helsinki University of Technology found that 22┬░C was the optimum temperature for worker productivity. Worth a thought, before you crank up the heat.

Colder workers are more productive?

ThatΓÇÖs Mark ZuckerbergΓÇÖs theory, at any rate. The temperature in FacebookΓÇÖs California office is set to just 15┬░C in a bid to boost productivity among workers. As far as we know, thereΓÇÖs no scientific basis behind ZuckerbergΓÇÖs theory, which probably has more to do with personal preference than anything else.

The practice is unlikely to carry over to FacebookΓÇÖs London offices, where it would fall foul of HSEΓÇÖs Approved Code of Practice which states that ΓÇ£all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortableΓÇ¥.

And really, who wants cold, grumbling employees, anyway?

Do you work better in warm or cold offices? Would you consider adjusting the temperature to boost employeesΓÇÖ productivity? Tell us in the comments below.

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Author: | March 27, 2013 | 0 Comments

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