Why Frigid Office Temperatures Can be Bad for Business


How many times have you gone to work in the sweltering heat with a jacket or shawl packed into a bag just to keep warm at your desk?

It may sound crazy, but some offices are colder in the summer than in the winter thanks to blasting AC--and this could be bad for worker productivity.

A study from Cornell University found that when an office's temperature was raised to 77 degrees from 68, typing errors fell by 44% and output increased by roughly 150%.

The study states that “at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100% of the time with a 10% error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54% of the time with a 25% error rate.”

Why Temperature Matters

Temperature Impacts Movement. Cold temperatures cause our muscles to tense and hurts concentration. This is exacerbated when you are hit with the shock of a frigid office after walking in from the heat outside.

Temperature Impacts Mood. Our brains associate temperature with feelings: The warmer you are, the more friendly you will likely be. Biological and psychological researchers have shown that cold tends to be associated with feelings of isolation whereas warmth tends to be associated with desire for connection.

Temperature Impacts Pace. Because we are wired to seek warmth, we will likely be in more of a rush to get to a warmer place, which means we will spend less time in casual conversations and meaningful interactions along the way. This can hinder the development of relationships.

What’s The Right Temperature?

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends employers maintain workplace temperatures in the range of 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit and keep humidity in the range of 20 to 60%. Most consider 70 to 73 as ideal for the office, but the Cornell study found temperatures as high as 77 to be optimal.

What to Do?

Make Some Noise. If your office is too cold, say something--all too often, people just grin and bear it. Have a conversation with your manager and the facilities team. Sometimes it may actually be a simple fix. Or, if you are in a small shared space with temperature control, try to come to a reasonable compromise. If you have to go to straight to the top… bring the study. After all, it’s a bottom line issue!

Move Your Space. If you are truly uncomfortable and your employer, facilities folks, or land lord refuses to do anything about it, go find another space. Look for a conference room, lobby, or even a local coffee shop, Productivity begins with comfort.

Drink Hot Coffee or Tea. As surprising as it may sound for this time of year, a good cup of hot coffee or hot tea will actually help bring up your body temperate… just don’t take it outside.

Accessorize. It’s never a bad idea to have a light shawl or wrap in your desk just in case. Some have even gone so far as to wear fingerless gloves to keep their hands warm while typing.

Take Outdoor Breaks. I always encourage taking frequent breaks. It’s summer, so enjoy the sun and a little vitamin D! Even popping into a non-air conditioned stairwell can give you a quick warm up.