If the thermostat’s too high, productivity might be low

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Melting(I’m going to avoid temperature puns…even though I really, really want to employ them.)

Earlier this year, some of my co-workers and I moved our desks from one side of the floor to another. We moved approximately 75 feet, which seems like a negligible distance. Little did we realize we moved 75 feet closer to the sun.

In our old location we were often cold. For whatever reason a breeze would cut through our desks and force us to wear zippies or layer sweaters when everyone else was comfortable in polo shirts. Papers on our desk would flap from the phantom draft. Turn the corner and you’ll see us at our new desks, spritzing ourselves with water, holding ice cubes to our necks and standing in front of oscillating fans that are melting. It’s like you stepped into a Salvador Dali painting.  We try to ignore it, but sometimes we can’t concentrate.

Turns out we’re not the only ones. A new CareerBuilder survey finds that a third of workers can’t concentrate when the temperature at the office is too extreme. Twenty-two percent of workers say a workplace that’s too hot can make it difficult to concentrate. Conversely, 11 percent say the same about an office that’s too cold.

Is this really a big deal? Well, if you can’t concentrate, you won’t be productive. So it makes sense to be concerned about this. And seeing as 27 percent of workers say that their workplace is too hot and 19 percent say the same about it being too cold, a large percentage of the workforce is affected. (Granted, 54 percent of workers are being very Goldilocks and describe the temperature as “just right.”)

At first glimpse, the whole issue probably seems trivial. Yet, it’s a big enough issue that 10 percent of workers admit to fighting with a co-worker over temperature. Just imagine an ongoing routine of moving the dial, sitting down, watching the co-worker get up and move the dial back, and repeat ad nauseam. More importantly, 19 percent of workers feel that the company has turned down the office temperature this year–possibly as a result of budget tightening.

So what can you do about it?

  • If a co-worker is messing with the temperature and it’s bugging you or making you sweat through your turtleneck, have a chat with them. Be nice and you’ll probably have luck.
  • If it’s out of your hands and you can’t just flip a switch or everyone else thinks it feels fine and you’re the lone duck on the issue, dress appropriately. Layer for your commute and then remove the heavy stuff when you’re working. (Keep it professional, though. Crocs and a swimsuit are not appropriate, even if you’re sweaty.)
  • Figure out the issue and work around it. If your corner of the office turns into an igloo for the last half of the day, book some time in a conference room to get your work done so you can stay productive without seeing your breath in the air. Or ask your boss if you can move to another space. Or microwave your socks every hour. Just kidding.)

And in case you’re wondering, we did figure out how to adjust the temperature over here on this side of the office, but it’s still a lot warmer in here than I’d like, but that’s why I bought a fan and avoid sweaters if possible.

25 Comments
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  3. It is a basic difference between men and women so live with it.
    Try to dress accordingly. The gym I go to has an aerobics room that is cold. The men wear sweatshirts and the women are exercising in tank tops with a fan blowing on them. Put them in the office and the women crank up the temperature and the men want to open the window. So dress in layers so you can add or remove and still be decent.

    • The author is male, and he is hot–so maybe this is not about gender? If it is about the sun, have you tried doing something about the solar heating? For example, you might ask if you could put some reflective film on the windows. Or, you might check to see if you need to add some silicone around the glass. Or, you might even just get some of those peel-and-stick shades that one uses in cars. Or, you could get some screens . . . . Basically, if the problem is too much sun, just see if you can keep the sun from coming in the window and beating down on you. Of course, now that it’s winter, you are probably enjoying the heat.

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