Temperature wars are heating up the workplace, according to survey

Seventy-one percent of workers think an office that is too warm impacts productivity

Posted December 28, 2015

The weather outside may be frightfully bizarre this winter, but the temperatures inside can be just as difficult for many.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 23 percent of employees say their office is too cold, while 25 percent are too hot. Office temperature isn’t just a source of discomfort, however; it can also be a source of conflict. One in five workers (20 percent) have argued with a coworker about office temperature, and 18 percent have secretly changed the temperature during the winter.

Drilled down by gender, survey findings indicate women feel temperature differently in workplaces from men. Thirteen percent of men say they are too cold, 28 percent too hot; and 31 percent of women are too cold, 22 percent too hot.

“It’s impossible to change the thermostat to something that pleases everybody,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resource officer at CareerBuilder. “But what you can do is look at what employees want and need to be productive and accommodate where you can.”

Information Technology (IT) gets it just right

Broken down by industry, information technology has the most comfortable employees:

  Health care Retail Sales Leisure and hospitality IT Manufacturing Financial services
Too cold 27% 14% 26% 20% 19% 17% 32%
Too hot 22% 33% 27% 32% 11% 40% 11%
Just right 51% 53% 46% 48% 70% 43% 57%

Rising temperatures, lower productivity

According to the survey, the temperature of your office space can have a significant impact on the performance of your workforce and productivity. More than half of employees (53 percent) said sitting in an office that is too cold has a negative impact on their productivity, while 71 percent said the same for a warm environment. Women are more likely than men to be negatively affected by both too cold and too warm environments — 58 percent are affected by cold (versus 47 percent of men) and 74 percent by hot environments (versus 68 percent for men).

To keep warm during the cold winter months, employees are taking action by:

  • Dressing in layers: 44 percent
  • Drinking hot beverages: 36 percent
  • Wearing a jacket all day: 31 percent
  • Wearing a heavy sweater: 27 percent
  • Using a space heater: 15 percent
  • Using a blanket: 7 percent

How to call a truce on office temperatures

Differing opinions on an ideal office temperatures can send tempers running hot. Haefner offers employers a few tips for keeping the peace:

  1. Try to agree on the degrees. Ask employees to agree on a temperature setting that will be acceptable to everyone. Let workers know you'll check for a few days and tweak settings until you find a happy medium.
  2. Make special arrangements. Some employees, such as those who sit under a vent, may need special provisions, such as space heaters or cooling fans. Consider accommodating them, but make sure you set safety rules first.
  3. Check on your insulation. Make sure windows are correctly sealed to keep warm air in during the winter and block heat in the summertime.

Outside workers also face temperature challenges

Those working in cubicles and offices aren’t the only ones affected by temperatures at work. Although only 10 percent of the respondents work outdoors, a quarter of them have had a medical issue tied to extreme temperatures in their working environments. These include:

  • Heat exhaustion: 13 percent
  • Severely dehydrated: 9 percent
  • Badly sunburned: 7 percent
  • Heat stroke: 3 percent
  • Hypothermia: 2 percent
  • Frost bite: 1 percent

The SUPER adVISORThe SUPER adVISOR™ newsletter contains four pages dedicated to the HR manager and a corresponding four-page pullout dedicated to the needs of supervisors.

 

J. J. Keller's FREE HRClicks™ email newsletter brings quick-read human resources-related news right to your email inbox.

Sign up to receive HRClicks™.