Being crammed into a tiny office cubicle on a scorching day is never fun, but there is more at stake here than just being uncomfortable. In fact temperatures are closely monitored under The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. According to stats published on Purified Air.
- 81% of UK office staff find it difficult to concentrate on work in the office if the temperature is higher than what is comfortable.
- 62% of office workers say that a simple task could take up to 25% longer in hot conditions.
- There have been 44 heat-related deaths in US offices since 2006.
So what rights can an office worker expect when it comes to temperature? How can over or under-heating in an office environment be prevented, and what can be done to educate staff so that workplace conditions are comfortable for everyone?
How hot or cold should my office be?
- The Health and Safety Executive advises it should be at least 16 degrees centigrade. If your work is physical, body heat must be accounted for and the temperature should be no less than 13 degrees.
- To quote the Guardian: “The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) used to say that ‘an acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F)’, but it now just states that ‘during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable’”.
- Two variables that will inevitably come into play are humidity and air velocity. An conditioning unit cannot control these factors.
What to do if your office is too cold or hot:
- The Health and Safety Executive recommends if these issues are not dealt with, employees should attempt to resolve these issues with their HR manager or employers.
- If the problem is still not rectified, employees should visit their local HSE office to discuss further action.
Too hot and sweaty in the office? Here are some symptoms you might be experiencing:
- Muscle cramps
- Heat stroke (which can be life-threatening)
- Lack of concentration
- Heat rash
Ways to prevent over-heating:
- Move workstations away from windows
- Insulate radiator pipes to prevent radiant heat
- Cover windows to provide cooling shade
- Provide fans for employee stations as standard
- A water cooler to supply hydration for staff
- If the work is physical, set times for breaks in a place out of the heat
- Basic first aid training for staff
Some common questions and misconceptions
- Is my tie optional?
You might think a heatwave would excuse you from having to wear a suit and tie – not so. If you think you will be able to beat the heat and the system, think again. Unfortunately your boss can force you to wear a tie to work every day despite the heat.
- Do I still have to wear my uniform if it’s hot outside?
Yes you do, the uniform provides a professional image to customers. This is very important to an employer.
- Does the boss have to supply air conditioning?
Surprisingly no, but as any boss or HR manager knows, an uncomfortable staff team means sloppy work.
A boss takes the initiative in an office
One example of a more laid back approach to office attire comes from Seoul. Mayor Park Won-Soon began promoting causal office clothing, such as office shorts, to fend off the sticky Korean summer and rising energy prices. Given that Government offices in the city will not turn on the air-conditioning until the temperature rises above 28°C (30°C), the option to dress down will be a welcome one.