We’re currently experiencing the hottest heatwave in over 40 years and you may be finding that productivity in your London office has been hugely impacted, as office staff melt from the heat. Office space can be notoriously hot and if your London office isn’t equipped properly it can lead to high temperatures leaving staff hot, drained and lethargic which in turn will reduce productivity.
What’s the Law on Office Temperature?
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that employers have a legal obligation to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace. Unfortunately it does not state a maximum temperature so this leaves it open to interpretation.
There is however a minimum temperate at which you can work. The Approved Code of Practice and guidance suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius or at least 13 degrees Celsius if the work involves rigorous physical effort. It’s important to note that these temperatures are not an absolute legal requirement however employers have a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in their particular workplace circumstances.
What Do We Know About Temperature and Productivity?
There have been a number of studies which have looked at how office temperature affects office staff. Of course it’s not just the heat which can cause issues. If an office is too cold this can also affect office staff too.
The FMJ reported in 2014 that around one third of workers lose productivity due to uncomfortable office temperatures. 29% of workers estimated that they don’t work for between 10 – 30 minutes a day due to it being too hot or too cold. Around 6% of office workers felt more than 30 minutes per day was wasted where they could not work efficiently because the office temperature was not conducive to working efficiently.
When these results are fully analysed it suggests that around 2% of office hours are wasted each year due to problem office temperatures. This equates to losses to the UK economy of around £13 billion each year (assuming an average wage of £26,500; 29.84m UK employees and a 228 day working year).
The Right Temperature For Your London Office
Research suggests that improving indoor air quality (of which temperature is one important component) can lead to productivity gains in the workplace from 6 to 9%. So clearly getting the office temperature right can result in a better working environment leading to improved worker productivity.
So what is the right temperature for a London office environment?
Work carried out in 2006 by Helsinki University of Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggested “… performance increases with temperature up to 21-22 degrees Celsius (69.8 to 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The highest productivity is at a temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit).”
However since then further research at Cornell University has shown the optimal temperature for office productivity was 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis and director of Cornell’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory explained “At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate. Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance.”
He went onto comment “We expected that when you cool people down, they work harder and better… We found the exact opposite. When it was cool to colder in the office, people did less work and made more mistakes.”
However if you think about it, a higher temperature leading to increased productivity, does make sense. After all if you’ve ever worked in cold temperatures you’ll know that it can become uncomfortable and when you stop working you notice just how cold you are resulting in having to take time to try to warm up again before you can resume work.
When we’re cold we expend energy trying to get warm and keep ourselves warm, leaving less energy available to allow us to concentrate and get on with any tasks we have.
Cold employees are just distracted and uncomfortable, they can be costly. In the Cornell study above, it was shown that a reduction in temperature resulted in a drop in employee performance which “was costing employers 10% more per hour, per employee.”
How to Achieve the Right Office Conditions in Terms of Temperature
Whether you’re looking to refurbish your London office workspace where temperature has been a problem in the past or to improve your office to address temperature issues there are a number of ways to achieve the right office temperature conditions in your workplace. Here are a few things to consider:
Look at Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
If you’re planning a new London office refurbishment think about HVAC from the get-go. It’s easy to put it way down on your list but having the right HVAC system can make all the difference in the long run.
Also if you’ve already carried out an office refurbishment without updating your HVAC system you may find that it may no longer be working efficiently in your new office layout. In this case you should look at whether you can adapt the current system e.g. by making changes such as rerouting ducts which can make a big difference in maintaining the right office temperature in the workplace.
Once your HVAC is installed it needs to be maintained otherwise clogged air filters and dirty fans and coils could lead to temperature problems. Regular maintenance is a must if you want to keep your HVAC system in tip top condition and working for you as efficiently as possible.
Office Layout and Number of Staff
Your London office layout can significantly impact staff comfort. When you are planning your office layout consider where HVAC units will be and avoid placing desks directly below them as this can lead to staff having to endure blasts of hot and cold air.
Also consider how many people will be in your office space and therefore how many people the HVAC needs to work for. Make sure you don’t overcrowd workspace areas as this can lead to over-heating issues.
In a number of our articles we’ve discussed having areas away from the main office area e.g. break out areas, kitchens etc. which provide staff with alternative workplace areas they can work and relax in. Where your workplace has different areas or rooms it’s a good idea to look at how temperature could be adjusted to give staff the best working or relaxing environment e.g. in a room where staff will be working and need to brainstorm or be creative temperatures should be slightly higher, around 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit), thereby freeing up energy for creative efforts (rather than trying to keep warm). In an area where staff may want to relax a cooler temperature would be more appropriate.
Having “custom temperatures” in different rooms can provide ideal working standards. This idea is supported by the WELL Building Standard which explores how design, operations and behaviours within the places where we live, work, learn and play can be optimised to advance human health and well-being.
Although colour may seem like a strange topic when it comes to office temperature it’s a well-known fact that colour can have a big impact on making a space feel warm or cold e.g. red, orange and yellow are next to each other on the wheel and are all warm colours. Colours on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colours and include blue, purple, and green. So when it comes to your office colour scheme bear in mind how colour may affect the perception of temperature in a room!
How We Can Help
Contact JBH Refurbishments on 0333 207 0339 or via our contact page today for a free on site consultation.