The Air Con Debate: What’s the Right Temperature for an Office?


Achieving the perfect working office temperature for every member of staff can be an ongoing struggle. There's no doubt it has an impact on productivity and overall comfort in the workplace, so it’s important to get it right.

A recent study found that four in every five office workers complain about it being too hot or too cold at work. So what’s the solution?

Currently, there’s no law stating the minimum or maximum working temperature – but research suggests a minimum of 16 degrees for all employees.

Depending on the workplace, the general climate should be “reasonable.” If enough members of staff complain, bosses are obliged to rectify the situation. It should also be noted that studies have found women to be more susceptible to the cold, so if there are a lot of women in your office, some heating adjustments may be required.

The Trades Union Congress has called for a maximum workplace temperature of 30℃ for non-manual work and 27℃ for manual work, which means that staff could be sent home if the conditions exceed the suggested limits.

However, until it reaches these levels, the optimal working climate is still up for debate, but lies somewhere between 16 and 30℃.

A study conducted by the Helsinki University of Technology discovered that performance peaked in an office heated to around 22℃. However, individual differences such as age and gender can cause radical differences in their preferred temperatures.

It’s thought that warm environments are better for creative thinking, while cooler conditions are believed to help keep people alert during repetitive or monotonous tasks. Above 27℃, we’re also apparently not so good at mathematics.

Humidity can also have an impact on how we perceive temperature. If the air is too humid, it can affect people’s ability to sweat, which can lead to heat exhaustion. While high humidity can feel oppressive, low humidity can make the air feel colder than it is – causing the skin, throat and nasal passages to feel dry and uncomfortable.

man working at computer

Image source: Unsplash

The best way to ensure comfort for all of your employees is to implement the following:

  • Proper air conditioning: this should include regular maintenance and any arrangements for it breaking during hot weather.
  • Control of the relative humidity level: 40% - 60% is said to be the optimum for year-round comfort.
  • Provide desk fans for those who have a tendency to feel warmer.
  • Make cold and hot drinks freely available.
  • Relax dress codes, if appropriate – this allows people who feel colder to dress in more layers or wear jumpers and cardigans.
  • Make specific arrangements for any employees such as pregnant women, who are generally susceptible to feeling particularly warm.

Every individual reacts differently to varying levels of heat, so there will never be a perfect office temperature for everyone. There is, however, an agreed consensus that the optimal working climate lies between 20 and 23℃. Remember to ask your employees what they think and find a way to maximise the comfort of your staff while ensuring a positive and productive working environment. 

What are your thoughts on the right office temperature? Tweet us @OregaOffices

Header Image Source: Orega

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