No matter what season it is, there’s an insidious war going on in offices around the country. The conflict is so pervasive that it’s been given a name: The Thermostat Wars. While it may not be as significant as the war on poverty or the war on drugs, it’s still contentious because it touches millions of office workers on a daily basis.
When the International Facilities Management Association (PDF) did a survey back in 2009 of more than 400 of its members, they found that the top two complaints had to do with the office temperature either being too hot or too cold.
Take a minute to check out the chart above. Notice that the “too cold” and “too hot” categories are almost even. That means that on any given day, someone is uncomfortable in the workplace to the point that they may have trouble doing their work.
A lot has been written on the subject of Thermostat Wars. After decades of men turning the temperature down and women turning it back up again, Nature and Climate Change published a study whose results are trivia worthy. Here’s just a bit of the summary:
“Indoor climate regulations are based on an empirical thermal comfort model that was developed in the 1960s. Standard values for one of its primary variables — metabolic rate — are based on an average male, and may overestimate female metabolic rate by up to 35 percent.”
According to The New York Times, this outdated standard was based on the average male being 40 years old and weighing about 154 pounds. As a point of reference, the CDC published figures for 2007-2010 that have the average male over 20 years of age weighing 195 pounds and the average woman weighing 166 pounds.
This explains why both men and women fight over the Fahrenheit, but what’s the impact that this temperature toggling has on your business?
You might think that Thermostat Wars are an employee morale problem, but in truth being too hot or too cold at work can seriously impact productivity. So if you’re trying to get control of your energy budget by turning the thermostat down, you may be paying for it by losing productivity and employee efficiency.
Wondering what to do? A recent Cornell University study (PDF) found that when the room temperature was below 68 degrees, employees made 44 percent more mistakes. So if you want to increase productivity, set your temperature to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
The same Cornell study says that setting the temperature at a more comfortable level for all employees can save an average of $2.00 per worker per hour, saving up to 12.5 percent of their wage costs.
Now that you have some battleground history, here are a few strategies you can use to bring a Thermostat Truce to your office.
Let’s face it, Thermostat Wars aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, but if you put the focus on clear and open communications about what temperatures work best for your employees, you just might find gains in energy efficiency and productivity.
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