The impact of office temperature on health and productivity
Striking a balance in office temperature to keep all employees satisfied is one of the most notoriously difficult tasks of workplace management. It affects workers in different ways. A range of factors including gender, clothing and metabolic rate all influence the way in which a person reacts to temperature.
Temperature can restrict levels of productivity
Heating is one of the most important features of an office as it can have a major impact on productivity and levels of absenteeism. Adequate temperature control is required to keep employees comfortable and concentrated on work.
80% of office workers complain about the temperature of their workplace and an unsatisfied employee is unlikely to be a productive one. A 2014 survey found that 29% of workers spend between 10 and 30 minutes each day not working due to an uncomfortable office temperature, while 6% spend more than half an hour each day not working for this reason. Overall, around 2% of office hours are wasted due to temperature alone which could cost the UK economy more than £13 billion annually.
Research suggests that an optimal office temperature of between 21 to 23 degrees Celsius provides the best air temperature for maximum office worker productivity. However, there are a number of factors that need to be considered that can alter the optimal working temperature such as season, clothing, humidity, age and gender. 50% of offices are considered too hot in summer and 52% are considered too cold in winter. Men are less likely to feel too hot, women are twice as likely to feel a chill and people over the age of 55 are more likely to affected by the cold.
The temperature has a direct effect on employee health
Temperature can also have an effect on the health of office workers. Employees who work in an environment with sustained hot temperatures can suffer from heat stress, while those working in cold or fluctuating temperatures are more susceptible to illness. Absenteeism costs UK businesses an estimated £36 billion each year, so don’t allow the temperature to speed up the spread of illness in your office.
Humidity levels can also affect health. Relative humidity levels below 20% can cause discomfort through drying of the mucous membranes and skin, while relative humidity levels above 70% can lead to the development of mould and fungi which can be detrimental to a person’s health.
How to strike an office temperature balance
The key to employee happiness is by having a stable office temperature year-round with plenty of heating or cooling alternatives to adjust to changing conditions. Our bodies acclimatise to each of the seasons, so in winter we are more comfortable with it a little cooler and summer a little warmer. We tend to wear thicker clothes in winter time so a cooler office temperature will compensate for the added layers of insulation to give a more comfortable personal temperature. The opposite is true in summer when we wear lighter and thinner clothing that breathes better.
Humidity also affects how you perceive temperature. The human body cannot perspire properly in humid conditions and a relative humidity level of 40% is recommended for year-round comfort. Most condensing air conditioning units can control humidity and our team can produce detailed mechanical designs to ensure existing air conditioning and ventilation are being used optimally.
In warm periods, open windows to circulate fresh, cooler air. Desk fans can also be purchased as another method of cooling. In colder periods, turning the heating up is suggested but make sure the office doesn’t become so hot that employees feel sluggish and lose their level of productivity.
Taking these measures into account should ensure you have a happy, comfortable and efficient set of employees.