SOME LIKE IT HOT
Temperature is only one component of the office environment,
but it has a real impact on overall employee satisfaction. When
workers are uncomfortable, they can become irritable and grouchy.
Their grumblings may drag down employee morale, especially
when management doesn’t seem concerned about their com-plaints.
What’s more, people who are already stressed are not very
tolerant of chilly air.
However, the answer isn’t just to crank up the heat. Each per-son’s
metabolism and personal preferences are different, so it’s
often impossible to arrive at a perfect thermostat setting for the
entire building. When the Accountemps survey asked workers
whether they were more productive when the office temperature
was warm or cool, 45 per cent of respondents said “cool,” 30 per
cent answered “warm,” and 26 per cent said there was no difference.
THAWING OUT THEIR DIFFERENCES
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers
some guidelines for optimal thermal comfort, which is when a per-son
wearing normal indoor clothing feels neither too cold nor too
warm. If that seems a little obvious, here’s a more detailed range of
what that means on the thermostat:
■■ In winter, 22°C is the optimal temperature. The acceptable
range is 20–23.5°C.
■■ In summer, 24.5°C is the optimal temperature. The acceptable
range is 23–26°C.
■■ The ideal relative humidity for both winter and summer is 50
■■ The ideal average air speed is <0.15 m/s.
These are only recommendations and these temperature ranges
are comfortable for about 80 per cent of individuals. Is it enough
to make four out of five workers happy?
Companies can do much more than just leave the thermostat at
22°C and hope for the best. Here are some tips to help get it closer
to five out of five:
■■ Open lines of communication. Making an ongoing effort to
listen to staff is key to preventing office conflict. Encourage
employees to email their manager or HR contact with any
temperature-related complaints or drop by for an in-person
chat. Online apps like Google Surveys and SurveyMonkey
make it easy to gauge the temperature of worker sentiment and
gain anonymous – and potentially more honest – feedback.
■■ Reassess the office layout. Just because the thermostat is set
at one temperature doesn’t mean the entire office is at that
temperature. Desks next to north-facing windows might be
one of the nippiest places during winter, while cubicles directly
below a vent could get too toasty or breezy for some workers.
By identifying the cold and hot spots in the workplace, then
asking people if they’d like to switch places, managers can
help employees find a climate zone that fits their personal
■■ Give the gift of warmth. Show employees the company cares
by reimbursing each person for a temperature-related freebie of
their choice for the office. It can be considered a late holiday gift.
People who are perpetually cold can buy a personal space heater,
heating pad, electric hand warmer, fingerless gloves or electric
socks. Those who are sensitive to dry winter temps could opt
for a mini humidifier or hand lotion for their desk. Set a dollar
limit like $30-$50.
■■ Raise spirits with cozy perks. Grey skies and less daylight
can have as much of a negative impact on workers’ moods
as colder temperatures, but companies can brighten up the
office with a little post-holiday cheer. A hot chocolate station
is a great addition in the break room. Treat employees to
a variety of piping hot soups for lunch. Throwing a luau-themed
office party, complete with heat lamps, is another
possibility. Some companies even offer free valet parking,
which helps workers avoid the bone-chilling walk from the
■■ Focus on wellness. During cold and flu season, companies can
help employees boost their immune system. Many people are
more sedentary in winter, which leads to weight gain and poor
health, but employers can help offset this effect. Perhaps offer
a weekly Zumba or team spin class to get the blood pumping
and heart rate up, while boosting team spirit. Replacing the
soft drinks in the vending machine with 100 per cent fruit
juice, coconut or flavoured water provides healthy alternatives.
Companies can remind workers to get moving by taking the
stairs rather than the elevator.
Business leaders and HR professionals can’t do anything about
Canada’s notoriously cold climate, but they can take active mea-sures
to make sure workers don’t get hot and bothered, or that
morale doesn’t dip as low as the thermometer. Banishing the win-ter
blahs with proactive measures can really make for a warmer
office environment and happier workplace overall. n
Rhea Attar is a branch manager for Accountemps, a division of
TEMPERATURE IS ONLY ONE
COMPONENT OF THE OFFICE
ENVIRONMENT, BUT IT HAS
A REAL IMPACT ON OVERALL
Offer employees group fitness classes to get the blood
pumping, boost office morale and overall health
58 ❚ FEBRUARY 2019 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL