Anybody who has ever worked in an office setting knows how contentious the temperature setting can be. Depending on whom you talk to, it’s either too hot or too cold, and the divide seems to fall along gender lines: women are often huddled beneath blankets with portable space heaters at their feet, while their male colleagues might be walking around with their sleeves rolled up, fanning themselves. Inevitably somebody will sneak over to the thermostat and adjust it to their liking, only to have another person do the same a short while later. While it’s impossible to please everybody, there are steps you can take in your office to ensure a fair temperature for all.
The Science Behind Temperature
One thing is clear: debate over the office thermostat is a universal phenomenon. According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 full-time private sector employees conducted by CareerBuilder.com, nearly half of all respondents claimed the temperature in their office was either too hot or too cold. Furthermore, 51 percent claim that a cold office hurts their productivity, and 67 percent claim a warm office does the same. It seems that both sides are forever at odds; in fact, 15 percent of respondents say the office temperature has led to either verbal or written confrontations.
If it seems that women are always cold, and men are hot, there’s actually some hard science to back this up. A 2015 study published in Nature Climate Change found that women’s body temperatures are lower than the standards used to establish air-conditioning settings. It’s no wonder, when you consider that these standards were established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) way back in the 1950s and used data representing the metabolic rate of a 40-year old, 154-lb. male. With far more women in the workplace today, it’s understandable that there’s a temperature war raging, and it seems to favor men.
Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold
Naturally, you want your coworkers to get along and work productively. Finding a compromise is the best way to avoid conflict in the workplace, but how do you go about doing so? One way to start is to lock the thermostat so only a few key employees can adjust the temperature settings. Establish a temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold – many experts suggest that 72-74 degrees is just about right – and keep it there. A little flexibility is a good thing, though, for those occasions when heatwaves or cold snaps strike. You might also consider relaxing your dress code a bit, at least during periods of extreme weather. Allowing short sleeves during the dog days of summer, or a comfortable sweater or hoodie when those cold north winds are howling, can help keep your employees comfortable and limit the number of complaints.
You’ll never make everybody happy, but following these tips should help appease the majority of employees.