The air temperature at your office has a strong affect on your productivity. It may seem like common sense that the working at a comfortable temperature would make you more productive, but what may not be apparent is how much of a difference just a couple of degrees can make in that very same productivity and your overall office ergonomics.
There have been a number of studies conducted to determine what temperature your office thermostat should be set at for optimal productivity across your workforce. And it should come as no surprise that the more studies that are done the more disagreement there is as to what that temperature is.
The majority of research has shown an optimal office temperature between 70 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 23 degrees Celsius) provides the best air temperature for maximum office worker productivity. However, a well respected study by Cornell University returned a result of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) as the optimal temperature. The British government organization that oversees these kinds of things recommends 74 degrees F after in conducted its own study. It also found that 74 degrees would appease about 70% of people, so you really can’t please everybody.
What’s the big deal? Can’t we just agree on a median of, say, 75 degrees F? Well, you could, but these same studies show that just a few degrees difference can have a 5% or more degradation in productivity. So, dialing in the perfect thermostat setting can have a dramatic affect across the entirety of the workforce.
If we look at the research that gives us 71.5 degrees F as the optimal temperature and 100% productivity we only go down in productivity as temperature increases or decreases.
As temperature increases:
- at 77 degrees F we’re about 98% productive
- 82 degrees F = 95%
- 87 degrees F = 90%
- 92 degrees F = 85%
As temperature decreases
- At 66 degrees F we’re about 98% productive
- 63 degrees F = 95%
- 59 degrees F = 90%
Unfortunately we can’t just dial a given temperature into the thermostat and consider it done. There are a number of factors to be considered that can alter the optimal temperature. The first thing to keep in mind is that we are talking about the “optimal” temperature, that is, the temperature that will be the best for everyone. Other considerations are:
The season gives us a predisposition to what we expect the temperature to be. We also become more acclimated to those temperatures so in the winter we are more comfortable with it a little cooler and in the summer with it a little warmer.
The clothing we wear affects are personal temperature as it relates to the air temperature. And this is mainly driven by the seasons as well. In the winter we tend to wear thicker and warmer clothes so a cooler office temperature will compensate for the added insulation to give us a more comfortable personal temperature. In the summer we tend to wear lighter and thinner clothes made of materials that breathe better so the opposite is true.
How much you weigh, or more precisely your body mass index (BMI), tells you how much insulation (fat) you have on your body. That acts just like a thicker jacket keeping you warmer the heavier. For the inverse of that, those who have a lower than average BMI usually get cold easier.
As you get older, particularly above 55, you tend to be more easily affected by cold. So an older work force may benefit from a warmer office temperature.
Climate or Latitude
Your normal climate, based on your geographical location, may impact the expected and acclimated temperature range much the same as the season and normal clothing worn does.
Let’s not forget humidity. Humidity affects how you perceive temperature. If it is humid your body can’t evaporate sweat easily, air doesn’t move over your skin easily and the world feels heavy. 85 degrees F at low humidity may be incredibly comfortable, while 85 degrees F at 90% humidity can sap you will to go on.
A relative humidity level of 40% is optimal for year round comfort. In the summer months the air is often more humid than that so a dehumidifier may be necessary, however most condensing air conditioning units dry the air out somewhat. In the winter months you may find yourself below a comfortable humidity level, especially if heating with gas. This makes it feel colder as well as dries out your skin, throat and nasal passages.
Being either too humid or not humid enough affects your perceived temperature and comfort level. So keeping a good relative humidity level is key to maintain a productive office environment. It also has myriad health bonuses which is good for worker productivity as well.
Thanks for reading!
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