Why turning the heat up on employees isn’t the answer

Jo Horbury

In this installment of the blog we are discussing the impact of temperature conditions in offices on employee productivity. Whilst adding pressure to the working environment is always welcome, literally turning the heat up on employees and making them sweat is not the solution.

With many businesses failing to properly maintain thermal and air conditions due to improper control and insufficient heating and cooling systems in place this edition will explore why it is essential to adequately and consistently control temperature levels in the office.

The link between heat and productivity

The body of research exploring the link between high air temperature and productivity is substantial. From Niemela et al (2001;2002) and Ferderspiel et al (2002) exploring the impact on call centre workers to Seppanen et al (2004;2006) and Lan et al (2010) the overwhelming consensus shows that when temperatures exceed 25 °C employees ability to perform tasks decreased by a range of 2% to 8%.

High office temperature has also been shown to negatively impact on employee health with increased levels in the number of days sick taken.

Consistent comfort is the conclusion

The conclusion of the research undertaken is that in order to maintain business performance and employee productivity companies must invest in the adequate maintenance of their thermal conditions and air quality.

Though in the UK the Health and Safety Executive state that employees should expect temperatures of at least 16°C, we would recommend an optimal, comfortable temperature of between 21°C and 22°C to get the maximum out of your staff.


Frozen productivity

The research also indicated a similar affect resulting from low office temperatures those below 17 °C. Cold temperatures are linked to higher levels of dexterity and negatively impacts the ability to function to the optimum standard.


Card, J. 2014. Tips for boosting productivity with good office design. Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/jan/23/productivity-office-design

Federspiel, C. Liu, G. Lahiff. M. et al. 2002. Worker performance and ventilation: of individual data for call-center workers. Proceeding of Indoor air 2002, pp. 796-801.

Lan, L. Lian, Z. Li, P. 2010. The effects of air temperature on office workers’ well-being, workload and productivity-evaluated with subjective ratings. Applied Ergonomics, Vol. 42, Iss. 1, pp-29-36

Niemela R, Railio J, Hannula M, Rautio S, Reijula K. 2001. Assessing the effect of indoor environment on productivity. Proceedings of Clima 2000 Conference in Napoli, 2001.

Niemela R, Railio J, Hannula M, Rautio S, Reijula K. 2002. The effect of indoor air temperature on labour productivity in call centers – a case study. Energy and Buildings. 34:759-764.

Seppanen, O. Fisk, W. Faulkner, D. 2004. Control of temperature for health and productivity in offices. LBNL

Seppanen, O. Fisk, W. Lei, QH. 2006. Effect of temperature on task performance in office environment. LBNL