Office Productivity: The Hot and Cold of It
Albeit a rather far-fetched sounding claim, in actual fact, the temperature of your office space can have a significant impact on the performance of your workforce and their productivity. Research claims that a simple 1 degree shift in temperature can have an impact on the output of the office. At a comfortable temperature, more work is likely to get done efficiently and at ease. However, if there is a slight fluctuation of this ‘optimum’ temperature, then there can be considerable consequences.
One of the key issues that come along with getting that optimum temperature right is the array of people working on your workforce. Men and women for example have varying ideas of what is a comfortable air temperature of the office. Aside from personal preference, an ergonomics study conducted by Cornell University has proven that thermostat changes can have a serious effect on the efficiency of a work force. In this case, an insurance office had their thermostat altered (to 68ºF) and the results displayed that employees committed 44% more errors and were less than half as productive as when the thermostat was set at a higher temperature at 77ºF. The study described that when the temperatures were put lower, employees didn’t just feel cold, they were distracted from their work. The drop in temperature cost employers 20% per hour, per employee. Studies on the effect of office temperature on worker productivity typically measure such things as the workers’ output levels, efficiency and accuracy. In hindsight these figure make sense, as the human body consumes energy to keep ourselves warm, making less energy available for concentration and insight.
Further research has shown an optimal office temperature is between 70 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit (21-23ºC). An office which has their thermostat set within this boundary can provide the best air temperature for maximum office worker productivity. Another study has found that 74 degrees would appease about 70% of people, so in reality, you cannot please everyone. Different companies will have their own advice to offer as well, for example, EOC Services who provide air conditioning services for domestic and office use, recommend the optimum air conditioning temperature to be around 73.4ºF.
What’s the big deal? Can’t we just agree on a median of 75ºF?
This is an option of course, but these same studies show that just a few degrees difference can have a 5% or more degradation on the productivity levels. So, evidence has proven that dialing in the perfect thermostat setting can have a dramatic affect across the entirety of the workforce.
Looking at the research that gives a suggestion of 71.5ºF as the optimal temperature, and 100% productivity, productivity levels can only decrease as temperature fluctuates either side of this figure.
Research has shown, for example, that workers typing on keyboards usually are more productive and have fewer errors when the office temperature is 77° Fahrenheit (25° Celsius) than when it is 66° Fahrenheit (18.8° Celsius). A business has the right to be concerned about how office temperatures affect worker productivity for multiple reasons. Of course, it is every business’ aim to have workers who are at peak capacity. If there is something that can be done to increase workers’ productivity, like providing a work environment that is the proper temperature for the specific work for the business, it will usually be in favor.
Another reason why businesses might be concerned with office temperatures is the costs that are associated with heating or cooling a building. A company that is paying to heat or cool an office to a certain temperature has not realized it is actually making its workers less productive, it could be costing itself money in more ways than one. A company could save money and help its workers be more productive by keeping the office temperature within the ideal range at all times
Pleasing a larger number of people is definitely more challenging than appeasing just a couple. Hence, dependent on the size of your office, and how many people work in that office, you may have to experiment for a little longer to find your optimal temperature.
Chloe Hashemi is a writer for StartupNation. She is also a recent English Literature graduate from the University of East Anglia in the UK. She now works in Marketing, at Fountain Partnership. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism in the future. Twitter: @ChloeCZMoe. Email: chloe [at] fountainpartnership.co.uk