Surviving the Office Frost

 

We all know when it comes to temperatures in the office there is always a battle of whether it’s too cold or too warm. It seems apt to post this now given the lovely heatwave we are having in the UK at the moment.

I can only imagine the air conditioner’s in the office are getting heavily used and complaints are going through the roof!

The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius.

16 degrees!!!! I’m not being funny but that is ridiculous…don’t you think?

If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements; the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.

Reasonable!!! Well, how long’s a piece of string…

A review of the evidence found the ideal temperature for ‘typical’ office work – calls to customers, processing text documents, etc. is 22°C (71.6F). Other research has suggested 22-24°C.

That’s more like it…

Two personal factors influencing thermal comfort, which the designer of an office environment, office manager, or the poor facilities manager that we keep moaning to cannot influence, are:

  • Clothing: can be moderately controlled by the individual
  • Metabolic rate: a factor that is beyond anyone’s control

The metabolic rate which currently controls the office thermostat is based on a 40-year-old, 70kg man. So Boris Kingma from Maastricht University Medical Center decided to take a closer look. He found that women have significantly lower metabolic rates than men and need their offices 3°C (5.4F) warmer.

Well that is hardly a surprise…

So it is likely that for the foreseeable future that those who naturally feel the cold will have to bring another layer to the office and that those who naturally feel more warm will have to remove layers.
Whilst there isn’t much we can do at this point, there are a few things that may help.

  • Unfortunately, you can’t change the position of the air conditioning units but you can relocate yourself and in this era of agile working it’s easier than ever
  • We get cold when we are seated for long periods of time so get up and stand and work or move around the office more regularly
  • And my personal favourite, find an excuse to leave the office and enjoy the warm sun for a moment or three before you jump back into those exciting spreadsheets

All said, the thermostat wars might be at an end. “We’re increasingly moving towards personalised control,” said UCL researcher Shipworth. That means desks with their own climate systems – heating units radiating warmth on to the tops of your legs, air vents you can open and close – like those in airplanes.

Let’s hope this happens soon…

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