Service of Office Temperature

June 9th, 2016

Categories: Office, Temperature, Workplace Disputes

Office thermostat

Sue Shellenbarger’s Wall Street Journal article rang so many bells that I had to toss out all plans for other topics and cover “Let the Office Thermostat Wars Begin: In summer air-conditioning season, nothing is more divisive than where to set the temperature; dummy stats and wading pools.

My office is in a space shared by many businesses, but clashes over heat and cold are just the same because temperatures vary from room to room and by nature, some like it hot and others not. Bet this conversation takes place in many a home or shared dorm room as well.

Some companies install fake thermostats. “Research shows office workers perform best when they have control over their physical environment,” [even if they don’t]. And if they work at their ideal temperature, their “work memory” is at its peak.

Freezing in officeDue to their slower metabolic rates, reported Shellenbarger, women generally prefer warmer temperatures, from a 2015 study in Nature Climate Change. The goal of building managers is to hit a temperature between 68 and 74 degrees, she wrote.

“Never mind messy desks, noisy colleagues and smelly office kitchens. No workplace dispute is as divisive as where to set the office thermostat. Some 3 in 5 employees tamper with the thermostat without asking colleagues, according to a 2015 survey of 301 employees by Survey Sampling International for OpenWorks, a Phoenix commercial-cleaning company.”

Tape on office vent turnedSome tape cardboard over air vents, she writes, calling such a step a guerilla tactic. Mine is the coldest office so I have done this [photo at left]. It was necessary. Either I’d be a block of ice or if I lowered the temperature so I could remove a layer, we might very well hear officemates crash to the floor in dead faints from the heat.

Shellenbarger mentioned a seven year old survey of 452 facility mangers who shared the temperature complaints they parry. She wrote “3 in 5 participants use personal fans or heaters or don lap blankets and fingerless gloves. Some employees stay cool by placing a ‘small wading pool under the desk to ‘paddle’ their feet,’ one participant wrote.” I stash a winter sweater in mine.

One company installed a Comfy smartphone app in which employees select to warm or cool their spaces or note that they are “comfy.” If at least two people in a section have the same request within a 10 minute period, they can expect 10 minutes of cool or hot air. Another app, CrowdComfort, lets employees alert the facilities manager immediately so he/she can regulate temperatures, fix broken AC units or do the necessary to restore comfort.

Is the temperature where you work or live to your liking? How do you deal when it’s either too cold or too hot?

 Hot dog with fan



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6 Responses to “Service of Office Temperature”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    This brings to mind an experience my wife, Nancy, had when working for a now-defunct Manhattan publishing company. She and a female colleague worked together in a large office that was so cold, all winter, that they had to huddle near a crackling space heater (something most firms would outlaw today, I suspect). Male colleagues chided them—those guys kept their suit jackets on—but each of these women sniffled and coughed for much of each winter.

    I am reminded of the story about Katharine Hepburn, who insisted that the backstage temperature be kept to 55 degrees when she appeared on Broadway. When she was doing “Coco,” way back when, a clutch of her female cohorts complained to the producer, who had the temerity to approach Miss Hepburn.

    “The girls say they’re freezing backstage.”

    To which the lady is said to have replied, “I don’t give a shit about ‘the girls.'” The temperature was not changed.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Some office heaters are small and quite safe in that they turn off if tipped over, do not have visible hot coils etc. Under the circumstances you describe about Nancy’s former office, I think that two per office would be just about right.

    I had a college roommate who was much like Katherine H. She was from Minneapolis. We went to school in Boston. In winter, she wanted the bedroom window open at night and on many a morning we’d wake up with snow on the floor. What did I get in return? Her permission to smoke in the room.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    There was no trouble with office temperature, since I worked solo for the most part, but can imagine contention if polar bears and hothouse plants, such as myself, collide! Guess I lucked out.

    At home, cherished CAT has nothing to say!

  4. hb Said:

    I am sure that some of the offices I worked in had temperature problems, usually on the cold side, but I suspect I was less sensitive to hot and cold then because I don’t recall any major problems. I do remember space heaters and air conditioners in some offices and colleagues, particularly women, complaining at various times.

    They were generally an unruly bunch for the most part who, when riled or uncomfortable, took matters into their own hands, ignoring the rules and were threatened to be disciplined, which never came. Occasionally, they may have jimmied windows to open them and broken thermometers, and done it with impunity.

    Nothing ever happened to any of us, and nobody ever died of frostbite.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Our apartment tends to boil in winter but we’re lucky: The windows open. But we don’t always agree on that option because the noise is too much for my husband. I don’t notice it! I’m used to working in a bit of chaos and as far as sleeping, I was brought up on Lexington Avenue…with the same honking and sirens and rumbles when busses fall into potholes.

    Temperature discomfort doesn’t only happen at office or home: I find the commuter train we take upstate on weekends is over air conditioned. I’ve mentioned this to countless conductors and nothing happens as they say they can’t change it. When there is AC on in winter, it’s even more irritating. I always have a jacket or sweater at the ready regardless of season!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It’s better to be too cold than too hot, I think. You can always add a sweater. I can’t blame the folks in my office who need more air: their rooms are warm which not only makes it hard to concentrate, it makes a person feel sleepy, especially right after lunch!

    I am irritated, however, when one of my fellow tenants lowers the temp on the thermostat to 50-something. Apart from it being wasteful, it REALLY is too cold.

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