Get the office temperature right

by Stephanie Zillman24 Jul 2012

Employers and employees alike take the temperature at work very seriously. Back in 1995, the federal government even produced an 11,000 word document entitled Air conditioning and thermal comfort in Australian Public Service offices.

An office which is too hot or too cold can lead to a productivity decrease, alongside grumpy workers with low morale. In a nutshell, getting the temperature right is a vital ingredient in a happy and productive workforce. Some studies have estimated that productivity can drop off by as much as 20% if the temperature is so uncomfortable. Office temperatures that are too hot or too cold are one of the most common complaints amongst staff and contribute to millions of dollars in lost productivity each year. Interestingly, the major contributor to lost productivity is in fact when the temperature is too cold.

According to the public service report, office temperature limits are usually set on comfort criteria and there is currently no general employment entitlement to particular level of thermal comfort. However, in settings for general office work, temperatures between 20°-24°C is generally found to be a comfortable temperature in winter when employees are wearing winter clothes. In the summer months, temperatures between 23°-26°C is generally comfortable when staff are wearing lightweight clothes. Notably, while temperatures a few degrees either side of the comfort ranges may cause some discomfort, it would be unlikely to affect health if employees are dressed suitably.

When the temperature at the workplace becomes uncomfortable, and lies outside the comfort range of 20°-26°C, this will have a direct effect on productivity and staff morale. Extremes of air temperature may also have an adverse influence on health in air-conditioned spaces.

Some top tips for ensuring you’re on the right side of the temperature battle according to Safety Concepts:
 

  • The Australian Standard AS 1837 – 1976 Code of practice for application of ergonomics to factory and office work recommends an average temperature range of between 20°-24°C for both offices and factories in summer. In winter, the temperature should be approximately 2°C lower to account for extra clothing.
     
  • Keeping an entire workforce satisfied is almost impossible. Notably, variables such as level of fitness, diet and age all affect how a person will feel the temperature.
     
  • HR should poll employees on their temperature satisfaction. Explain how the air-conditioning is managed in your building and explain any roadblocks in the way of ensuring an even temperature.
     
  • For example, if your workplace is in an older building with old heating and cooling systems, you may be facing an uphill battle. In older workspaces, it is not uncommon for an office to have two or more distinct climates under the one roof.  Some buildings have poorly designed air conditioning systems that deliver too much to one part of the office and not enough to other sections. Check that the thermostat has not been situated directly in the air flow from an air conditioning vent. Also office temperatures can be localised. A desk situated in direct sunlight will be much warmer than a desk situated directly under an air conditioning outlet
     
  • Some older personal computers can generate as much heat as a small fan force heater raising local temperatures above the room average. This problem can be compounded by the clustering of servers, printers and computers in one particular section of an office.

 

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COMMENTS

  • by maralyn 24/07/2012 5:24:44 PM

    Generally, I agree with your comments. However, the Australian Standard AS1837-1976 was withdrawn in 1998.

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