Ideal Office Temperatures for Productivity

It's a challenge to find that one temperature everyone can handle

Conventional wisdom says that finding the ideal office temperature is important to worker productivity. A difference of just a few degrees can have a significant impact on how focused and engaged employees are.

For decades, the available research suggested keeping the office temperature between 70 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit would be best for the majority of workers. 

The problem was that the research was outdated.

It was primarily based on an office full of male employees, as most workplaces were until the later half of the 20th century. Today's office buildings, however, are likely to have as many women as men. So should that factor into decisions about office temperatures?

Women And Office Temperature

According to a 2015 study, women's different body chemistry must be considered when setting the office thermostat, especially in the summer months when air conditioners run all day long. Women have lower metabolic rates than men and tend to have more body fat. This means women will tend to be more susceptible to cold than men. So if there are a lot of women in your office, some temperature adjustment may be required.

Even though the research may recommend 71.5 degrees as the minimum acceptable temperature, office managers should consider not only how many women are in the office, but how the building is designed.

Large windows that let in a lot of sunlight may make a room feel warmer. High ceilings may create poor air distribution, meaning heaters or air conditioners have to work harder. Knowing your building as well as the people in it is crucial to getting that ideal temperature.

How Temperature Affects Productivity

If productivity is the driving factor in setting office temperatures, looking at old research is not going to help create comfortable workplaces.

But research shows that as temperature rises, productivity declines. It makes sense that workers, male and female would be less productive in an office whose temperature was over 90 degrees. The same is true as the temperature decreases; with the thermostat set below 60 degrees, people are going to spend more energy shivering than focused on their work. 

Other Factors Affecting Temperature Perception

How much a person weighs, specifically their body mass index or BMI, can affect how they react to temperature. Those who weigh more will feel warm more quickly, while those with lower-than-average BMI usually get cold easier.

Age also plays a role. As we get older, particularly above 55, we tend to be more easily affected by the cold. So an older workforce may benefit from a slightly warmer office temperature.

And let's not forget humidity, which affects how we perceive temperature. If the air is too humid, it can affect people's ability to sweat, which can lead to heat exhaustion. 

A relative humidity level of 40 percent is optimal for year-round comfort.  And while high humidity can feel oppressive, low humidity can make the air feel colder than it is, which is also problematic. This can cause skin, throat and nasal passages to feel dry and uncomfortable.

Being either too humid or not humid enough affects perceived temperature and comfort levels. So keeping a good relative humidity level is key to maintaining a healthy and productive office environment.