Office Temperature and Productivity

Not everyone agrees on what the ideal workplace temperature is. Crank up the thermostat too high and half your employees will be sweating, but set it too low and the other half of employees will spend more time shivering than working. According to one 2014 study, office workers in the UK waste 2 percent of their work hours fighting over control of the thermostat, amounting to a whopping £13 billion a year in wasted productivity.

Is there a temperature you can set your workplace to make everyone happy and keep up productivity? Research says yes, but the answer is a bit more complicated.

What Is the Recommended Temperature for a Workplace?

For many decades, experts recommended working in air-conditioned office environments between 70 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they studied workplaces with primarily male employees; more recent research shows that, because women have a lower metabolic rate than men, they are likely to feel colder. The recommended minimum temperature for the average office is 71.5 degrees Fahrenheit, but you may need to adjust that setting based on the gender distribution and overall age of your office. Older workers tend to feel colder than younger workers, so they may be more comfortable at slightly warmer temperatures.

In addition to the male-female makeup of your workplace, consider the design of the building. If large windows or high ceilings warm up the office or make it harder for air to circulate, take that into consideration when setting the thermostat. Humidity also plays a role in how warm or cool the indoor air feels to workers; it's recommended to keep indoor air at around 40 percent humidity year-round. To maintain a comfortable level of humidity and temperature, air conditioning service professionals can help you choose among types of air conditioner models to pick a unit that works best for your building design and is efficient, helping the office save money.

The Relationship Between Temperature and Productivity in the Workplace

Time spent adjusting the thermostat or layering clothes on and off to regulate body temperature can result in lost productivity. According to one study, only 24 percent of workers surveyed were satisfied with their office's temperature throughout the entire year. Employees who are constantly sweating or shivering are much less likely to work at their best, which has even been measured by real data.

When researchers from Cornell University adjusted the thermostat and measured workers' productivity, they found that the workers were twice as productive when the office was 77 degrees Fahrenheit compared to when the office was 68 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when the temperature was raised to more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, productivity fell to 85 percent. Researchers concluded that a slightly warmer office made workers more productive, but the workers' efficiency fell when it was too hot. This effect was observed in another study in India: after looking at 70,000 workplaces, researchers saw that productivity fell by about 3 percent for every degree the temperature measured above average.

If your workplace includes an outdoor environment, it's important to keep this data in mind. Your workers should always have access to cool water, shade, and protective clothing during summer to prevent hot temperatures from slowing their work.

Cold temperatures can have a negative effect on workers, too. Employees should have access to warm clothing and other protections to maintain a minimum temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is widely recommended.

Maintaining Ideal Office Temperature and Productivity

Office temperature may not seem like a high priority, compared to all the things your company has to deal with on a daily basis, but it's clearly in every business' best interest to keep workers as comfortable as possible to maintain high levels of productivity.

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