Heatwave Hits The UK – What impact is that having in the workplace?

sun-clouds-blue-sky-14641020076aMAs an industry we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can save money on heating, reducing heat loss and plugging draft gaps in our buildings. If your heating breaks down or you have a very bad insulated building then most of the time the odd fluctuation in cold can be dealt with by putting a jumper or a jacket on.

What do you do when it’s too hot in the office?

Too hot in the office is hard to handle. In an office environment there isn’t really much that users can do to keep themselves cool. If you have a strict dress code you really don’t have any options, you still have to wear your suit each day. You might find it hard to concentrate, become very uncomfortable and even lightheaded or dehydrated in extreme cases.

office temperature and performance

Effect of Temperature on Task Performance in Offfice Environment, Olli Seppänen, William J Fisk, QH Lei (2006)

Extremes of temperature certainly affect productivity. There have been a lot of studies over the years looking at this issue – when you jam all the results together the overall effect seems to be a plateau around 21 – 23° and a decline in performance of about 1% for every degree above 25°

The good news is that there are seasonal effects. If your body is becoming acclimatised to 28° outside the office, it will tolerate slightly higher temperatures inside without too much impact on work performance. This might explain why a studies conducted in Florida by Cornell University found fewer keystroke errors and higher typing rates at 25°, where studies in Helsinki office environment identified more performance issues at 25°.

Office temperatures in the UK.

Sadly the UK is a lot closer to Helsinki than Florida, but this week week will see possible highs of 30 degrees. So what does this mean for our users? Well as you can imagine it’s hot in lots of your offices. During the last UK heatwave we saw temperatures of 39 degrees from one of our kittens!  We are talking about a normal office environment and thats clearly not comfortable.

Helpdesk and building managers across the country will be inundated with complaints about the heat. While we might be about to leave the cooling season and many FMs will be tempted to ride out the complaints, creating a more structured policy to deliver staff comfort has many benefits – and it doesn’t always have to mean a total overhaul of building services.

Temporary or permanent solutions?

It’s clear at times like this if you have a cooling problem in your building but relying on complaints doesn’t give you much data to identify what’s causing the problem or where the main problems are. Heatmapping using Purr’s system gives some hard data to help deliver staff comfort in a heatwave:

  1. Identity hotspots.
  2. Understand how well your air conditioning is working or isn’t!
  3. See where the heat in your building is coming from – for example solar gain or occupational gain.
  4. Find out if humidity is also an issue (with our temperature and humidity monitors).
  5. See if solar insulation is an issue – you could look to install blinds or solar reflective film.
  6. Identify where to prioritise temporary measures like fans, stand alone air conditioning units or even where to install more permanent units in the future.

In the UK we don’t always prioritise cooling within our homes or office as the common feeling is that we don’t get much of a summer so its not worth it. However as the climate becomes more variable creating a comfort policy that can deal with a problem that affects productivity and, just as importantly, morale, is going to become a higher priority.

If you interested in finding out more about our heat sensors and the insights you can gain from our services please contact us on 01223 967301 or help@purrmetrix.com

(Image with thanks to Public Domain Pictures)

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