How Office Temperatures Impacts Staff Productivity

It’s no secret that healthy employees are more productive. Sick employees are absent more often, sick employees that show up may make others sick, and according to the CDC, absenteeism costs businesses US$225.8b per year. Ouch.

Physical and psychological health is key to a productive workforce.

One aspect that goes into the optimal health puzzle is office temperatures. Too cold, and your employees will have numb fingers trying to type. Too hot and they’ll be making excuses to visit that one cold meeting room.

The impact of temperature on work

Let’s take a look at the impact of temperature on one employees’ experiences in a office:

“I have poor circulation and I’d hazard a guess that the temperature in my old office was one of the reasons I ended up leaving. The temperature throughout the building was all over the place. The thermostat was in my office, of among 20 offices, and there was no way to change the building temperature overall - it was set somewhere else.

In the middle of summer I’d have a blanket on my lap. In the middle of winter I couldn’t even keep my hands warm enough with fingerless gloves, I’d be chugging tea all day in the hopes of warming up. There were ugg boots under my desk. Once I found a little heater and put it under my desk, but then of course, the other people complained because the thermostat in my office drove up the AC in the other offices…

That cold office definitely affected my productivity. I’d have to get up and go for a walk / stand in the sun / get a tea when I really wanted to be finished my work instead but was shivering and going numb. Sometimes I’d even have to go for a shower in the building! Nightmare.”

This is the exact type of situation you want to avoid. An employee who wants to work, but being so affected by temperature that it severely interrupts her work day.

The proof is in the studies

There are plenty of studies regarding the effect of office temperature on productivity that you can find, such as this one from China: The effects of air temperature on office workers’ well-being, workload and productivity-evaluated with subjective ratings (2010). This study tested with temperatures of 17°, 21° and 28°, and found the warmer temp decreased well-being, and the cooler temp decreased motivation and that workers required more effort to stay productive.

A literature review, Room temperature and productivity in office work (2006), finds many studies indicate a decrease in performance in tasks typical of office work when temperature increase above  24-26 °C

However, the majority of these studies don’t come from Australia, they’re from other places in the world, where temps throughout the day may be different. Are we different?

Let’s check out one from Aus: The effects of higher temperature setpoints during summer on office workers' cognitive load and thermal comfort (2017).

The study starts out by nothing that Australian commercial lease agreements usually stipulate a recommended 21.5° (+ or - 1.5°) during summer. However researchers bumped the temperature up to 25° and discovered that “Participants' thermal comfort was not significantly jeopardized.”

What can your office do?

So studies suggest that temperatures in the range of 22° to 25° are acceptable for Australian office workers, especially during summer. By increasing the temperature slightly you can make savings on energy bills while ensuring your employees remain productive.

It’s also important to keep tabs on temperatures throughout buildings, rather than simply having a thermostat or two in place. IoT devices can enable smarter temperature monitoring throughout buildings.

Servicing air conditioners regularly (and having efficiently designed systems in place to begin with) can also help regulate temperatures throughout the building evenly.

With the right setup, you can not only save money on power bills, but keep your employees safe, working happily and healthily.

Why not get us to come in to give your office a free assessment? We can test temperatures and grade cooling/heating options, then provide advice on how to best optimise your setup. Get in contact to arrange a time that works for you.

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