Business of Well-being

How Thermal Comfort Can Impact Your Bottom Line

Last week, I decided to take a moment to sort through my closet. I leaned in and started shuffling the hangers from left to right so that I could identify each item. While doing this, I realized that clothes for every season were hanging in there. Short sleeved shirts, sweaters, tank tops, flowy skirts, casual pants and an array of scarves.

Typically, as one season ends I transfer that clothing into drawers and then replace the closet with more weather friendly wear. Although this winter, with the extreme temperatures from mild to freezing, everything is hanging tightly together, ready for any weather forecast. The reason?

So that I can be comfortable and hopefully a bit stylish at the same time. While looking at my wardrobe, I couldn't help but think of the workplace and the quest for the optimal office temperature. I wondered if such a number existed. Over my 20 year career, there has consistently been a variety of personal thermostats.

We all have likely encountered the "always cold," "chronically overdressed/underdressed," or like me, "the human furnaces." Each of these categories makes setting the perfect office temperature virtually impossible. What are the consequences to employees always struggling to get warm or cool off?

At a former job, I recall the air conditioning breaking down and not being fixed for a few years. From experience, I can tell you that not only did the employees suffer, but so did the business. As sweat trickled from temples, employees lacked concentration, took more breaks, and utilized sick days to escape the heat.

Thermal comfort has been described as "a condition of the mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment." A person can be described as being "thermally comfortable" when they are not conscious of being either too hot or too cold.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, thermal comfort is important for one's well-being and for productivity. They claim that even minor deviation from comfort may be stressful and affect performance and safety. Plus, workers already under stress are less tolerant of uncomfortable conditions.

The author of the Productivity Project, Chris Bailey, promotes accomplishing more by managing your time, attention and energy. In his article titled, "The exact temperature to set your office thermostat to be the most productive," he gathered the following results from research on the topic.

  • Any temperature above 73 F decreases your productivity. At 86 F and above, your productivity drops to about 90 percent of what it was before, a 10 percent decrease.
  • Any temperature below 68 F also decreases your productivity. Lower temperatures increase frequency of errors you make, and they also increase your chances of getting sick.

What's the best temperature?

  • 70-72 F (21-22 C) is the temperature range that will make you the most productive.

Employers, it's time to pay attention to your shivering and sweating employees! Put an end to the temperature wars by creating a thermally comfortable workplace. By doing so you'll increase employee retention, satisfaction, productivity - and your bottom line.

Photo - Copyright: cunaplus / 123RF Stock Photo

About the Author

Rebecca Gicante is a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist who is employed by Heart Niagara, a cardiac health non-profit, in corporate development and communications. She is a passionate promoter of health and lifestyle empowerment and looks forward to continuing her career in corporate wellness.

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