Solving Office Temperature Wars

By Julie Curnow
February 3, 2014

It may seem comical, but office air conditioning wars are a serious business. What can start as a playful, sneaky adjusting of the temperature can very quickly turn into a full blown conflict and, believe it or not, every now and then Air and Water Residential are called in to be the official umpire of air conditioning office wars! So how can you solve the ongoing office temperature battles? Here are some tips I give people when I’m the official umpire.

Understand the temperature disagreement between men and women

You may notice that more often than not, women complain about it being too cold while men complain they are too hot. The reason is – men and women are different. Firstly, men tend to have more body mass than women, making them that little bit more resistant to the cold. Men are also usually required to wear long pants, covered in shoes, vests and jackets in the workplace, while women tend to wear skirts, open shoes and lighter material. To add to the dilemma, research shows that women are more susceptible to frostbite and hyperthermia than men and hence they feel the cold on their fingers and toes more. Understanding these differences can help you solve the constant air conditioning battles in the office and be empathetic.

Take a poll

Although offices may shy away from this because they think it’s a waste of time, taking a poll can help reduce the amount of time spent battling over the temperature. Get everybody in the office to write down what temperature they are comfortable with and what temperature is too cold/hot for them. Use this poll to determine what the majority are comfortable with and share this information with everyone so they understand the fairness of the temperature chosen.

Decide on a temperature and stick with it

In my experience, conflict often arises over air conditioners when someone keeps taking it upon themselves to adjust the temperature to a level that is comfortable for them. This then causes other people to become uncomfortable and they switch it back. To stop this from happening the boss needs to find out what temperature the majority is comfortable at (through a poll) and make it clear that no one is to touch the thermostat. In summer, a temperature of 74-78 ºF is energy efficient and is usually comfortable for most people while in winter 69-75 ºF is more appropriate because people are generally dressed in warmer clothes.

Adjust the vents

Once you have a poll in place but the odd person is still disgruntled, the easiest solution is to redirect or shut off part of the air flow from one outlet (where the air comes out). If you choose to do this, make sure you don’t upset the person next to you because let’s face it, you don’t want any more battles. If the outlet in your office has biscuit style vents you can re-orientate the airflow or close one or two biscuits (one of the quarters in the vent pictured). Simply lift up the biscuit and rotate it 90 or 180 degrees and carefully drop it back into place. Alternately you can carefully tilt the vanes on the biscuit so they shut. A word or warning: if lots of people close vents then this will affect air flow.

Get the airflow rebalanced

If you can’t adjust the vents or it starts more disagreements, you can get the air flow re-balanced. Within the duct (used to distribute air from a ducted reverse cycle to the outlet) are dampers which affect the airflow to each outlet. If someone has too much air coming out of their outlet and someone else doesn’t have enough air, an air conditioning technician can further open or close the dampers to re-direct the airflow to where it is wanted. The design of the air conditioning may limit how much air flow can be re-directed.

Adjust workspaces

One reason some people are too cold while the majority is comfortable may be because of their desk location. If someone is constantly complaining that they are too cold, move them further away from the air conditioner and allow someone who is comfortable with the temperature to move closer.

Give staff somewhere to store warm clothes

At the end of the day it is easier to put on layers than to take off layers (such as suit jackets and cardigans). If there are people who are still too cold at the set temperature, offer them a safe place to store a warm jacket or let them hang their cardigan over the back of their chair. This means they won’t have to carry it in to work everyday and risk forgetting it.

Temperature affects productivity, and at the end of the day you want productive, happy staff. Taking some time to solve the air conditioning disagreements in the workplace can help create a more pleasant and profitable work environment where time isn’t wasted adjusting thermostats. I hope these tips are helpful and that they result in a cease fire at your office!

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