The highs and lows of office temperature control
As the temperature outside drops, maintaining a comfortable temperature in our office spaces becomes more important than ever.
In Australia, most people work comfortably in an office when temperatures are between 20°-24°C in winter when employees are wearing winter clothes, and in summer between 23°-26°C when staff are wearing lightweight clothes.
The risk to the health of workers increases as temperatures move further away from those generally accepted as comfortable. Some studies have estimated that productivity can drop off by as much as 20% if the temperature is so uncomfortable.
Office temperatures that are too hot or too cold are one of the most common complaints amongst staff and can contribute to lost productivity and low morale.
Both personal and environmental factors should be considered when assessing the risk to workers’ health from working in a very hot or cold environment. Personal factors include the level of physical activity, the amount and type of clothing worn, and duration of exposure. Environmental factors include air temperature, the level of humidity, air movement and radiant heat.
It is important to recognise that even though the whole temperature of the office may be sitting within the specified range, some areas may be above or below the recommended temperature. If someone sits directly under an air conditioning vent, then they may be in a draught and therefore much cooler than need be.
Equipment can also produce heat, raising the temperature in a particular area, and even a small room with a number of workers in it can see a rise in temperature.
While keeping an entire workforce satisfied is almost impossible, there are some things an employer can do to ensure the temperature is as comfortable as possible.
- regulate air conditioning for temperature and humidity
- avoid locating workstations directly in front of or below air conditioning outlets
- install deflectors on air vents to direct airflow away from people. These measures will help prevent staff being annoyed by draughts, particularly those directly under a vent.
- control direct sunlight (radiant heat) with blinds, louvres and window treatments
- minimise draughts and thermal differences between the head and the feet (thermal gradients)
- ensure adequate air flow; feelings of stuffiness can result when air flow is low, and draughts occur when air flow is high – an air flow rate of between 0.1 and 0.2 metres per second is desirable.
- ensure workers are aware of how the air-conditioning is managed in your building, and explain any roadblocks in the way of ensuring an even temperature.
- Last updated
- 23 March 2014