Air conditioning in offices has made people’s lives infinitely more comfortable, but it’s impossible to please everyone. Differences in our biology and habits mean that everyone experiences temperature a little differently, leaving some people red-faced and sweaty, and some with zooper doopers for fingers. Both have cause for complaint, so how do you keep everyone comfortable?
In this article, we confirm the correct office AC temperature based on research and explore some ways that you can help to make people in your office more comfortable.
Why people complain about the office AC temperature
Though we all maintain the same core body temperature of around 37°C, many of us “feel” the temperature differently, especially men and women. There’s biological reasons for this: the female hormone oestrogen thickens the blood, which reduces its flow to fingers and toes, and makes them feel colder.1 Blood flow is also affected by women’s naturally lower muscle mass when compared to men, which also increases the chance of them feeling the cold1.
Because of these differences, men are usually most comfortable with a temperature of around 22°C, and women around 24°C, which is the main reason why you can’t please everyone when it comes to the office climate. There will be many exceptions to this rule of course (our bodies are complicated, and we all differ in some ways), but this meagre two degrees is often why shivering ladies or red-faced men appear at your door and demand that you fix the temperature.
It’s not just sex differences either. There’s many other factors that can affect how we experience temperature, including3:
- Your muscle mass
- Your BMI
- Your age
- Whether you’ve exercised recently
- Whether you’ve just eaten a meal
- Your stress levels
- Whether you’re sick
So…when it comes to setting the right AC temperature, it’s very hard to please everyone. Of course, there might genuinely be a problem with the AC system itself, in addition to other issues such as being directly below a vent, or near a sunny window. But setting the standard AC temperature is your first port of call.
Standard AC temperature in office
The ideal AC temperature in offices is 22°C. This is the widely accepted “best” temperature based on a review at the Helsinki University of Technology2, but it certainly doesn’t mean everyone will be happy. The trick is to make as many people as possible comfortable, and troubleshoot the complaints of individuals.
How to get the right office AC temperature, and keep your staff happy
Set the temperature to 22°C
First, set the temperature to 22°C, and give it a week to see how staff react. If you want to risk it, you might even send out a “yes/no” staff survey asking everyone if they are comfortable with the temperature, with the option to add more info if they want to.
Experiment with the temperature
You might be working for a company with a greater ratio of women to men, which may push the optimum temperature from 22°C to 24°C. Play around with the temperature and gauge your staff’s reaction.
Call a professional
Office air conditioners get a hell of a work out, and need to be serviced annually to be kept in good working condition. Get in touch with an air conditioning professional who can assess your system, and take readings around the office to ensure that an acceptable temperature is being maintained.
Don’t give staff access to the thermostat
If a member of your team has spent the morning with hot pits and a steaming forehead, and the AC’s thermostat is staring at them from the opposite wall, there’s a good chance they’ll adjust the temperature to make themselves more comfortable. But it’s a selfish thing to do because they might be making someone else less comfortable in the process.
So the best thing to do is install a lock cover over the thermostat. Alternatively, you can try adding a “Please do not change the thermostat” note, and sending an email to staff letting them know why.
Install sun blinds
The sun is another big reason for complaints about the office temperature, especially from those sitting near windows. Reflective blinds can reduce the increased temperature from the sun, enough to make people more comfortable.
Install vent deflectors
Vent deflectors can be installed across AC vents to redirect the air flow away from cold employees. You’ll just need to ensure that the deflectors fit your particular AC vents.
Keep windows closed
It goes without saying that an air conditioned office should have its windows closed. If you find that team members are opening windows, send an email to the company explaining how this affects the AC’s ability to control the climate.
Move team members
If possible, move team members to another spot in the office, preferably one that isn’t underneath an air conditioning vent or next to a sunny window. This small change might make them a lot happier.
Give out branded clothing
If your company can afford it, free branded jumpers or hoodies will encourage colder people to wrap up and can make staff feel a little more appreciated.
Provide desk fans
Small but mighty desk fans can help hotter team members to cool down. Just try to buy quieter models if possible, to reduce noise levels in the office.
- Hannah Devlin, 2017, Why women secretly turn up the heating | Biology, The Guardian
- Olli Seppänen, William J Fisk, QH Lei, Effect of temperature on task performance in office environment, Helsinki University of Technology
- Runar Finanger, 2019, 8 Factors that influence your body temperature, Onio