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Workplace thermostat wars heat up


Goldilocks could relate. For some, offices are too hot, while others are too cold. Only half say the temp’s just right. After you’ve separated workers who battle over control of the thermostat, what’s the best way to stop flaring tempers and cold shoulders at work? Hint: Layers.

As arctic air blankets the country and companies turn up the heat, they may need to readjust the thermostat to keep their workers productive. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, when asked if the temperature at work affected their ability to get work done, 22% said a work environment that’s too hot makes it difficult to concentrate. Eleven percent said the same about a too-cold workplace.

Overall, 27% of workers describe the temperature at their work place as too hot. On the flip side, 19% reported it was too cold, while 54% said it was “just right.”

Disagreements about the thermostat setting sometimes cause conflict between cubicle mates. In fact, 10% of workers said they have fought with a co-worker over the office temperature.

Some employees suspect they’re the victims of unannounced cost-cutting measures. Nearly one in five (19%) believe their employers have turned down the office temperature this year.

“There are many factors that can affect work place productivity,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of HR for CareerBuilder. “Everything from morale, burnout and—as our survey finds—temperature can have an impact on workers’ ability to get their work done. If temperature is a concern, workers and employers can easily get together to find common ground so productivity doesn’t suffer.”

Office feeling too hot or too cold? Haefner offers the following tips to maintain productivity regardless of temperature:

  • Thermostat talk: Are people sneaking around, secretly adjusting the thermostat behind each other’s backs? Mediate by calling a brief meeting to discuss a compromise. You might offer hot and cold refreshments.
  • Layer it on (or off): Mom was right—it’s always good to keep a sweater handy. Encourage staff to deal with fluctuating temperatures by layering clothing. Add or subtract items as necessary.
  • Make it work: If a particular time of day or part of the office is too uncomfortable for productive work, ask employees to proactively find alternatives. Could someone come in later? Work in a conference room for part of the day? Telecommute? Urge people to come up with simple solutions—and remind them that this isn’t rocket science.