Too Hot At Work?
What is the optimum working temperature and how does it affect employee’s performance?
We all know what it feels like to find ourselves in an environment which is either too hot or too cold and it is widely recognised that the more uncomfortable people are the more likely they are going to be distracted. In a workplace environment this can lead to a lack of concentration and lower productivity.
What are your legal obligations?
Temperatures in the indoor workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992. The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16°C. However interestingly, there is no upper temperature limit but it does place a legal obligation on employers to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature.
To achieve this ‘reasonable’ temperature, the Health & Safety Executive suggest that you undertake a Thermal Comfort Risk Assessment which looks at both environmental factors such as air temperature, radiant temperature, air velocity and humidity as well as personal factors such as clothing insulation and metabolic heat.
What is the optimum working temperature?
It seems that no-one can agree on an exact optimum working temperature as it will depend on a number of factors and vary according to the nature of the business and from employee to employee. However, creating an environment that is neither too hot nor too cold maybe the key.
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found the exact temperature to maximise creativity and productivity should be 21°C.
In their study ‘Room Temperature & Productivity in Office Work’, they found that “performance increases with temperature up to 21-22°C and that performance decreases with temperature above 23-24°C”.
A study by the Helinski University of Technology in Finland also found that temperature affects productivity and concluded that the optimal temperature for productivity was between 21°c – 22°C.
How do you achieve the ‘optimum’ temperature?
There are many ways employers can help their staff to adjust to changing temperatures from encouraging them to dress appropriately for the weather, providing hot or cold drinks as well as making use of window blinds to reduce solar gain and switching off unnecessary electrical equipment as this can contribute to heat gain.
However, if you are looking to control the indoor temperature with any degree of accuracy you will need a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System suitable for your building.
Singapore’s 1stPrime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew maintained that the optimal temperature was 22°C. During an interview he was asked the secret to Singapore’s success and alongside multicultural tolerance he also answered ‘air conditioning’.
Factors to consider
When choosing an air conditioning system suitable for your building a number of factors need to be taken into consideration such as the number of people working in each area, whether the building is north or south facing, the function of the workspace such as a server room or meeting room, lighting and the amount of electrical equipment such as computers and photocopiers.
In addition, the maintenance of the air conditioning system needs to be considered. Equipment that has not been maintained for a while can cause temperature variance. Blocked air filters and dirty fan coils can reduce the airflow and ultimately affect the temperature.
Can we help?
Balancing the needs of all your employees can be challenging and it is unlikely that you will find a temperature that ‘pleases all of the people, all of the time’. However, an air conditioning system, which provides you with both cooling and heating, can be one way of providing a ‘reasonable’ temperature in your workplace.
If you would like help and advice on finding the right solution for your business, contact the Mattair team today on 01246 414922.