In the summer months Louisville’s weather can be described as the three H’s: hazy, hot and humid. Although temperatures are hovering around 98 degrees, space heaters are blasting in many office buildings and businesses throughout the city.
Although it is impossible to please every employee when it comes to office temperatures, studies have been performed regarding indoor temperatures and employee productivity. Temperatures are controllable with a degree of accuracy but the design of the building and its HVAC system also affect the output.
Environmental conditions influence employees’ health and productivity. With the sweltering summer temperatures and the humidity, air conditioning is the only reprieve to beat the heat. The comfort zone for indoor temperatures is between 72 and 77 degrees.
According to a study by Cornell University, office workers are more productive in a warm environment. Sensors sampling the air temperature every 15 minutes for nine office workstations were monitored. The study also documented the amount of time the employees were using the keyboard and the frequency of errors.
The results indicated with a temperature of 66 degrees employees typed 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rating. When the temperature was increased to 77 degrees the workers typed 100 percent of the time and only a 10 percent error rated. From this study it is clear that office temperatures can have a drastic effect on productivity.
According to Professor Hedge from Cornell, “The incremental increase in power costs may be far outweighed by the savings associated with increased worker productivity; on average, raising the temperatures to the idea zone saves employers two dollars per hour per employee.” Multiply that savings by 40 hours times the number of employees and the weekly savings can be substantial.
Helsinki University of Technology studied office temperatures ranging from 59 degrees to 95 degrees. The employee performance peaked between 70 and 73 degrees; then the temperature was slowly increased to 95 degrees. As the temperature rose, the employee’s productivity dropped. When the temperature reached 88 degrees, the productivity level matched the cooler 59 degrees.
For some businesses it may seem uncontrollable. The building may have hot and cold spots, which signals an airflow problem. The International Facilities Management Association, a trade group, surveyed its members several times over the years about the top complaints they receive. The top HVAC complaints are:
- 94% Too cold
- 91% Too hot
- 25% Indoor air quality (employees complain of headaches, dry throat, dry or runny eyes, allergies)
- 21% Too drafty
- 16% Too noisy
- 9% Too dry
- 4% Other (smells, lack of air circulation)
For a small business with fewer employees, if a consensus can be reached by all, one temperature sitting will keep productivity flowing steadily. If one employee prefers a cooler climate and the remaining employees are using space heaters, the business owner needs to determine the cost of cooling the facility below the standard temperature for one person and hear space heaters roaring at every other workstation counteracting the cooler setting.
The winter months in Louisville don’t seem to be an issue as long as business are willing to keep those small heaters on throughout the building.