• Lee Calver
  • 1 April 2014

Office temperature costing UK economy up to £13bn a year

According to a survey released last week, approximately 2% of office hours are wasted due to the temperature being inadequate, potentially costing the UK economy more than £13bn annually.

The study of 2,000 office workers by One Poll, on behalf of heating and air-conditioning specialist, Andrews Sykes, intended to measure how temperature affects people’s working day, looking at workplace efficiency and output.

Office workers aged between 18-60 were questioned, with results showing that less than a quarter of respondents find the temperature in their workplace comfortable, while more than a third stated that they take at least ten minutes out of work each day due to the temperature alone.

Only 24% of those polled agreed that their office was an ideal temperature throughout the working year, and on the whole, the results pointed to a general sense of dissatisfaction around temperature.

Although looking at these figures on their own may not suggest a huge crisis or indicate that employers should worry about ways to ensure workers are happy with the office temperature, further findings disclose additional problems.

According to the survey, 29% of people estimate they spend between ten and 30 minutes each day not working due to an uncomfortable office temperature, while 6% said they spend more than half an hour each day not working for this same reason!

Commenting on the findings, Helen Pedder, Head of HR for ClearSky HR, said:

“Whether temperatures soar or plummet, unbearable office conditions can have a serious impact on employee health and well-being. Unfortunately the law is left open to misinterpretation by simply stating that employers must provide a ‘reasonable’ workplace temperature.”

She added:

“Until health and safety guidance provides clear and coherent requirements, there are various steps that an employer can take to prevent a dip in productivity and performance. Relaxing dress code requirements where appropriate and providing heating and/or cooling devices are effective methods that help to regulate thermal comfort.”

The survey also looked at the extent of the divide between men and women when it comes to comfort with the office temperature, revealing that women wasted an average of 33% more time (around nine minutes, compared to 6.5) than men trying to acclimatise themselves to unfavorable office conditions.

In addition, it found that 70% of women said that they have needed to bring in extra clothing to the office in order to keep warm, while 50% resorted to excessive cups of hot drinks. For their male counterparts, 44% and 28% respectively, stated they required additional layers or supplementary supplies of hot beverages.

Ten per-cent of female respondents even admitted to bringing in a hot water bottle to help them stay warm in the office.

East Anglia was also found to be the region where employees were most likely to moan about the temperature, with 46% of respondents complaining to colleagues and 32% admitting they have grumbled to management.

Being in an office on a daily basis, I can safely say that office temperature is a much talked about issue. Some colleagues wear numerous layers to keep warm, whilst others hardly feel the cold. One colleague even admits to liking the cold! Just from this small selection of people, it is clear to see that the issue of office temperature is one that remains troublesome to solve.

Workplace Law Head of HR, Suzanne McMinn, offers employers the following advice though for dealing with this contentious issue:

“You can clearly see when the temperature is not correct within an office environment, it causes disruption, dissatisfaction and upset.

“Employers in the first instance should listen to their employees - what suits one employee won’t suit another, so you need to be realistic to the fact that you aren’t going to be able to please everyone. However, what you can do is try to ensure that the working temperature is as comfortable as possible.”

Suzanne adds:

“Gauge from your employees what the main issues are and then look to try and address them - this doesn’t mean open ended costs, but it can be as simple as providing desk fans, opening more windows or allowing a little flexibility of dress codes during the warmer months.

“We should now be past the cold weather, but during the colder months, I would suggest employers look to provide small heaters in the coldest areas to keep the temperatures up.

“The small additional costs to make these changes would be easily absorbed by the sustained levels of productivity and of course happy employees!”

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