The thermostat can be a topic of heated debate in some workplaces. People are surprisingly passionate about the temperature of their office environment.
Well, it turns out there may be more to these debates than what meets the eye.
Research suggests there’s a relationship between temperature and employee well-being and productivity. Psychologists from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University conducted a study wherein participants performed cognitively demanding tasks in rooms of different temperatures. They found that warm discomfort (i.e. being too hot) negatively affected participants’ sense of well-being whereas moderate discomfort of any kind (i.e. either too hot or cold) made it more challenging for participants to complete tasks.
Evidently, it is important that office temperature is taken into consideration to ensure employee well-being and productivity are optimal. However, this may be easier said than done. Closed-concept office environments have an advantage as each individual can adjust the thermostat according to their own preferences. It can get more complicated for open-concept offices where everyone is subject to the same temperature, despite individual preferences.
So, what can employers do to improve temperature conditions in their office environments for the betterment of their employees? Here are some ideas for those looking to cool down the thermostat debate once and for all.
Find The “Comfort Zone”
Unfortunately, there is no consensus about what the “comfort zone” is.
The mere 15°C that Mark Zuckerberg keeps his thermostat set to is unlikely to work for the majority of people. Temperature preferences are highly individual but there’s a democratic way to come up with a solution.
To find the comfort zone of your office, it is recommended to start by setting the thermostat somewhere between 21° to 24°C. From there, gauge employee sentiment by asking around or sending out a poll to establish an office temperature that is preferred by the majority. While you can’t make everyone happy, this is a surefire way to achieve the closest thing to a middle ground.
Pick A Side
Although the best solution would be one that works for everyone, there is some evidence that the “comfort zone” isn’t necessarily ideal–it all depends on the outcomes you’re looking to achieve.
Let’s say that there are a lot of complex issues that need to be solved in your workplace on a day-to-day basis. Well, one study found that warmer temperatures actually made complex decision-making more challenging than cooler temperatures. In this case, it may be best to err on the cooler side of the temperature debate.
The issue with this, however, is that cooler temperatures are associated with less collaboration. Another study found that people were more likely to be friendly towards others and work together in warmer work environments. Warmer temperatures are also said to be good for promoting creative thinking and innovation.
Hence, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, it may be favourable to pick a side rather than trying to appeal to the masses (we can’t guarantee people will appreciate you playing with their thermostat so freely! )
Accommodate Individual Needs
If you’ve taken steps to adjust the temperature of your office environment but are still hearing complaints, don’t be surprised. The “comfort zone” solution won’t work for everyone. In this case, it’s time to get creative and offer some personalized solutions for the perpetually chilly or warm individuals at your office.
Give people the option to move their desk closer to (or further) from temperature sources such as windows, baseboard heaters or A/C units. For individuals suffering from the shivers, encourage them to make use of pullovers and sweaters as much as possible. Should all else fail, it could be a good idea to start an office budget that will enable you to purchase devices like energy-efficient fans, heaters or blankets for those that need them to be comfortable.
Since most people’s temperature “comfort zones” are approximately the same, it will only be a small subset of individuals who will need to take these additional steps to ensure optimal comfort in the office.
Regardless of which solution you choose to pursue, you are already on the right path to a more productive, efficient workplace by considering how you can improve the comfort and well-being of your employees. Aura specializes in creating personalized workplace strategies that are built around the unique needs of your company. For more tips on how to improve your workplace culture, check out our other resources or to book a complimentary consultation.