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Group employees in offices based on their ideal ambient temperature

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Michaela D
Michaela D Mar 16, 2022
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Set offices with different ambient temperatures and let people work in the office with their ideal temperature.
Inspired by this creative contribution of Contrived _voice.
According to this survey almost half of the employees find their office either too warm or too cold and that their productivity is affected. Also, 15% of them admitted to having argued with a co-worker about the office temperature.
A basic factor of the ideal ambient temperature is the metabolic rate, which varies between individuals. The standard reference is based on the metabolic rate of a 70 kg, 40-year-old male. For women, the metabolic rate may be up to 35% less. That explains why women usually prefer higher temperatures, and need to wear winter clothes in the office all year long.
How it works
Distribute a questionnaire asking employess which is their ideal working temperature. Based on the results set different temperatures in every office. For example, three offices at 20°C (68°F) and two offices with 25°C (77°F), etc. Then, allow people to work in the office that maintains their ideal temperature. Meetings can be held in offices that have an average temperature. This grouping is especially easy to implement in companies/institutions with many offices.
Potential challenges
Currently, workers tend to group in offices based on their role and projects. Depending on the size of the company it may be hard to group together people with similar ideal temperatures and projects. Adaptations will be necessary. Working in ideal temperature that will increase productivity and reduce disputes versus working in the most fitting group. Let’s keep in mind though, that working with people with different focus may prove beneficial because they can provide outside views on your projects and lead to new collaborations.
Have you ever worked in an office that was too warm/cold and even disputed with a colleague about it? Do you think this is a doable solution?

[1]Kingma, B., van Marken Lichtenbelt, W. Energy consumption in buildings and female thermal demand. Nature Clim Change 5, 1054–1056 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2741

Creative contributions

Emphasizing the felt temperature rather than "numeric" temperature

Povilas S
Povilas S Mar 16, 2022
Good idea! I can very much relate to the problem. I almost didn't work in offices, but I had one colleague in a bar with whom I was often arguing about the temperature of the workplace and the right settings for air conditioning. This happens not only in workplaces but many different settings - shared homes, vehicles, etc., so it's a common problem at least from my experience. However, offices are a rather convenient place to implement the solution you propose.
However, I think there's no "ideal" temperature number-wise. The same temperature set on a heating device or an air conditioning will feel differently in different spaces, it depends on many factors such as air humidity, ventilation, air convection, where the thermostat is placed, how many heater/air conditioners you have in a room and the way heat/cool air approaches people, etc.
So the best would perhaps be not to set standard temperature numbers in different rooms, like 19, 22, 25, etc., but to let people test the temperature in different spaces and group them accordingly where they feel the most comfortable. They could adjust microclimates in different rooms themselves and form different groups according to the inclinations of each person by talking to each other and testing things out.
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Michaela D
Michaela D2 years ago
Very good points! You are right, the questionnaire would not even be necessary.
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General comments

Povilas S
Povilas S2 years ago
Regarding the issue you raised about people being grouped according to different problems they have to work on, I think the vast majority of the job in most companies is still done by individuals separately (I mean they are at their computers virtually the whole day), dedicated group meetings that happen from time to time is something to coordinate the group effort, being in the same room shouldn't be that important unless you brainstorm, discuss future plans of the company, etc.
Otherwise (if everyone is at their computer) you'd only interrupt each other's work by talking. And if people have live group chats for this it is also not important to be in physically the same space.
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Michaela D
Michaela D2 years ago
Povilas S this is not always the case, an example is scientific research groups. Bigger groups run multiple projects and people share offices based on shared projects, status (intern, PhD, postdoc...) or randomness (empty place when you arrive) 😆
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