The most common office gripe is not about lack of receptive management, disregard for well-being, or difficulty interacting with coworkers. No, more than anything else, workers just wish they could control the temperature of their workspaces.
In a survey commissioned by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and the Business + Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA), “Ability to adjust your workplace temperature” topped the list of office qualities with which workers said they were unsatisfied. “Temperature” also made the list, coming in fifth place.
Why is temperature such a common dissatisfaction? One reason may be that it is actually important to getting stuff done. An analysis of 24 scientific studies about the impact of temperature on productivity concluded that office temperature and productivity are indeed linked.
Another explanation for the high number of workers who say they’re dissatisfied with their office temperature situation is that it’s difficult to get right. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administrations recommends workplace temperatures between 68°F and 76°F. The UK mandates a “reasonable” workplace temperature and recommends offices set their thermostats to at least 16°C, or 61°F. But neither guideline is likely to keep everyone happy all the time. The way that temperature impacts a person may change over time. And most offices set temperatures based on a formula that uses the metabolic rates of men, which leaves some women shivering under office blankets.
Open-plan offices, which the majority of workers in the US occupy, exacerbate this problem by taking away the option to crack a window, turn on a fan, or heck, plug in a space heater without impacting coworkers (who might have different opinions about the ideal temperature). Other office gripes on the survey’s list include lack of privacy and noise level.
This isn’t the first study to document the downsides of the open-plan office and its impact on workers, and some companies have started rethinking the popular office layout. No sign yet of personal thermostats.