Summer's almost here, which means it's time for another edition of the office thermostat wars. It's getting hot outside, so the company cranks up the air conditioning only to have some employees complain constantly that the office is still too hot, while other employees complain constantly that it's gotten too cold. No one is happy, and this includes management after reading all of the tersely-worded musings employees have stuffed into the suggestion box regarding the company's faulty temperature settings. It's waaaaay too cold in here! PLEASE adjust the temperature! We're all shivering!!!
Management might think it'll never find a happy medium amid the bipolar polar extremes. To quote the philosopher Katy Perry: You're hot then you're cold, you're yes then you're no, you're in then you're out, you're up then you're down. And 'round and 'round we go until the leaves start to fall, the office heater kicks on, and then employees start complaining (constantly) how it's suddenly too hot.
I tell ya, when it's freezing inside the office, but hot outside the office, it makes me be like... "Really??" I'm always turning to my coworkers like, "Really??" I then explain that cranking up the air conditioning so far that one is forced to wear winter clothes when it is summer outside is like, pardon my French, bananas. "It's bananas!" I say, pulling on my hoodie sweatshirt—in the summer, mind you! I have to literally leave a sweatshirt in the office, in the summer time, because the air conditioning makes it so cold inside, even though it is hot outside.
Yes, it is totally bananas, isn't it?
Now I know what you guys are thinking. And in this case, by "guys" I mean men with robust circulatory systems. Oh, yada, yada, yada --- just more bitching from the women in the office. How can they possibly be cold? It's freaking August and hot as hell outside!* I'm enjoying the cool air! But we women are wearing silky shirts, thin skirts and heels in the summertime while you guys are wearing a full business suit (or a long-sleeved polo shirt, socks and slacks) that's probably made from a bit thicker material that we're typically wearing this time of year. Why don't you guys put on one of our 80% rayon/20% polyester fiber tent blouses, sit down at your desk (the one underneath the air conditioning vent!) and then get back to us after an hour or two. Feeling a bit chilly, you say?
We'll also -- tell him what he's won, Bob! -- be happy to throw in a few peri-menopausal symptoms and perhaps even an undiagnosed case of hypothyroidism that will have you sporting layers on an 80-degree day because the wind feels cold. Come on in guys, the water's warm.
Gender-specific kvetching aside, I think the answer is pretty simple: ask employees what they want, ask them what feels comfortable, then find a happy median. Also, does the biggest summer thermostat complainer in the office sit close to an A/C vent? Can you relocate this employee to a warmer spot, at least temporarily? What would help, keeping an eye on productivity? Can your company invest in a few tiny desk fans for employees who think the workplace is still too hot? Whatever you do, don't blow off employees' complaints. They may seem trivial, but they're not.
The experts recommend setting summer office thermostats in the 72-to-76 degree range, but if a significant number of employees start wearing layers, bringing socks, donning slacks (if they're women), buying lap blankets, asking if it's okay to bring a small space heater to work, and, in general, complaining about the office temperature to anyone who will listen, then management has a hot potato of a problem on its hands that could hurt overall productivity and quite possibly, employee morale. After all, if you really care about your employees, you don't want them talking about how they can see their breath while walking down the hallway, right? I thought so.
*Statement applies specifically to the Northern Hemisphere.