by Jennifer Landis
It’s common sense that a just-right temperature will make everyone feel more comfortable in the office, making it easier to focus on doing their jobs. However, finding that ideal temperature is difficult when there’s always someone that runs hot and someone else that runs cold.
Clunky space heaters under the desk blow out computers at cubicles and affect productivity. Employees layer sweaters and drape a blanket over their legs, even in the late summer. You don’t want to freeze them out or burn them up. You can’t please everyone, but adjusting the temperature is necessary to boost productivity within the workforce, according to updated research.
Temperatures change within the workforce
In 2015, a study noted that women feel the cold more due to their lower metabolic rate and their tendency to have a higher percentage of body fat. If the ratio of women to men is higher in your office, the temperature should be adjusted to reflect those stats. Women make up about 47 percent of the workforce today, and the body composition of both sexes needs to be accounted for when adjusting the temperature.
The ideal temperature used to be 70 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 to 22 degrees Celsius, but researchers only surveyed male employees in the 1960s with a control of a 40-something man weighing in at 155 pounds. The research has been outdated for years, especially since women have broken through the glass ceiling, and offices these days are likely to have as many women as men.
Age, health and humidity levels affect temperature perception
In addition to metabolic rate and body fat, one’s age and the humidity in a room also affect temperature perception:
- Cold weather and environments increase the risk of respiratory and flu problems in seniors. Those over 55 feel the cold more easily, and in an office with an older staff, a slight increase in temperature will help increase productivity.
- Talk with employees that may have health conditions that affect their temperature perception. For example, women who have a thyroid condition feel cold easily, and those with poor sleep quality, poor circulation or low iron also run chilly. Women who are pregnant tend to feel either too cold or too hot.
- Too humid air affects a person’s ability to produce sweat, which leads to heat exhaustion. Too low humidity levels make you feel cold, drying out your throat, nose and skin. Humidity levels should be kept around 40 percent year-round as a recommended comfort level.
Office architecture affects temperature perception
You also need to know your building. Office architecture affects temperature perception and circulation of heating and cooling:
- Big windows letting in lots of sunlight increase the warmth of a room. Allow employees control over curtains or blinds to adjust light and heat.
- While they can make spaces feel more open, high ceilings don’t allow the air to distribute properly, and air conditioners or heaters work harder to make up for the difference.
Boost productivity with air quality and temperature adjustments
When the temperatures rise in the office, focus drops. Similarly, when it’s too cold, employees will be distracted by shivering and numb fingers as they try to type up the latest report.
When employees are distracted by improper temperature and air quality, profits plunge along with productivity and health. American businesses experience a 33 percent drop in productivity as winter allergies occur, which totals nearly $160 billion lost. Winter indoor air is continually recirculated, and without the proper filtration, germs are recirculated, too. Changing filters and allowing employees with allergies to bring in humidifiers or air purifiers will help improve morale and focus.
Another way to boost productivity and improve air quality is by adding plants to your office environment. Minimalist offices without personality make for miserable employees. Researchers from Exeter University found that employees were 15 percent more productive when a few houseplants were placed in sparse office environments. With a plant per square meter, employee memory retention and performance substantially improved. Each employee remained psychologically engaged and happy with a plant in eyesight.
The study suggests that photos, pleasant scents, or lighting changes could also stimulate a similar effect. Companies may have spent loads of money on expensive desks, banners and memorabilia to decorate with, but when an office has personality, employees engage more with their environment and their duties.
Besides being an inexpensive decor choice, office plants also help purify the air, releasing oxygen as carbon dioxide is absorbed. This makes them a multipurpose solution to boost employee productivity and morale.
Productivity increases when you discover the optimal temperature and air quality for the office. Pay attention to the ratio of women to men and age and health conditions, as well as humidity levels and office architecture that affect temperature perception.
Filters may need to be changed, or plants added to purify the air and add natural cheer to office decor. Personal humidifiers and air purifiers may help employees with individualized needs. While you can’t please everyone, adjusting the temperature according to these facts will make your team more comfortable and productive in the office.
When in doubt, a simple employee survey may be the best way to get feedback and make small changes that make a big productivity difference!
What ways have you found to make your office a welcoming place? Tell us in the comments below!