Blasting the air conditioning doesn’t just run up energy bills, it may also be running up costs in lost worker productivity. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, nearly half of workers (46 percent) say their office is either too hot or too cold — and 51 percent say sitting in an office that is too cold impacts their productivity, 67 percent say sitting in an office that is too warm does the same.
Drilled down by gender, survey findings indicate women feel temperature differently in workplaces from men. Eighteen percent of men say they are too cold, 17 percent too hot; and 36 percent of women are too cold, 19 percent too hot.
What’s an Employer’s Role?
Federal labor laws regarding health and safety issues in the workplace are enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA does not have a specific standard regarding the temperature required for a business office so that workers are not uncomfortably warm or cold.
The only standard that may apply to office temperatures is OSHA's General Duty standard, which requires employers to keep the workplace free of hazards that cause or could cause serious injury or death to employees. For this standard to apply to an office that lacks heat, the office temperature would have to be low enough to cause a cold-related injury such as frostbite or hypothermia.
What Can You Do?
Balancing the wants and needs of an entire office can be tricky when it comes to temperature, especially in larger offices, as everyone has a temperature that they are most comfortable with. But these three tips can help employees feel more comfortable with the temperature in their workspaces:
- Offer a relaxed dress code – this will allow employees to dress in a way for the temperature they feel most comfortable.
- Provide facilities such as cold water dispensers for those who are hot and warm drinks for those who are cold.
- Ensure employees are permitted breaks to move around and go outside if they wish.
Want to get a sense of employees’ sentiments? Check out our guide on how to create an effective employee engagement survey.