Productivity and Air Conditioning: The Facts

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How Temperature Impacts Productivity

Office TemperatureScience and researchers agree that a temperature-controlled workplace is a happier, more productive environment than a workplace that is stuffy and overheated.

In fact, the statistics regarding workplace efficiency and heating and cooling can best be described as staggering. To put a definitive, quantitative figure on the cost of working in closed workspaces that are improperly cooled, the Office of National Statistics reports that UK employers suffer no less than £19.3 million in in lost productivity every summer by workers performing in workplaces that are unsuitably cooled.

In fairness, it costs money to cool the workplace. But, with today’s refrigeration equipment and maintenance capabilities, the balance tips toward installing new equipment and maintaining it properly than suffering yet one more unproductive Summer. Outdated HVAC systems not only slow productivity, but they contribute to the company’s sick days and time lost. With today’s equipment and skilled technicians, this lost time and lost productivity can be easily rectified.

What Experts Know

Neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis made remarks following his experiments that measured productivity in overheated offices. He noted that the number of mistakes by employees climbed as the temperature in the workspace increased. He also noticed that concentration suffered and had a snowballing effect on all worker whose problem solving abilities nosedived at the same time.

Dr. Lewis concluded; “If we are too hot, our metabolic rate decreases, causing us to slow down mentally and physically. It is remarkable how little time it takes brains to go into meltdown when the temperature is increased.”

This report led many employers with inadequate cooling equipment to wonder why they bothered working on days where the workplace temperature was unproductive. In many cases, the number of errors and tie spent repairing the errors were excessive suggesting that for many businesses it might be less expensive to close the doors and send employees home with pay rather than continue fighting the heat. All employers realise the expensive cost of trying to undo needless errors and when the multiply, the task can be overwhelming, mentally and financially.

What Is The Ideal Temperature?

Scientists have devoted much research to ensuring UK employers understand how to maximise productivity. Everything from recommendations about colour, natural light and office layout affect productivity. Heating and cooling also fall into this category but are more subjective and more easily quantified.

While the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulation 1992 only stipulates a minimum workplace temperature of 16 degrees Celsius after the first hour of work, unless strenuous physical exercise is part of the job, no maximum temperature is stated. However, The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the maximum air temperature should be 26 degrees Celsius Indeed, safety reps often use this temperature as a bargaining chip in labour negotiations. And, why not? WHO certainly has no ulterior motivation than to make the most informed recommendation.

Another statistic furnished courtesy of the Office of National Statistics indicates that 92 percent of UK office workers waste up to one hour each and every day due to overheated office space. These workers often feel drowsy and as British Safety Council reported, when temperatures exceed 24 degrees Celsius bad things happen. The propensity of workplace accidents increases and productivity decreases, an ominous workplace formula by any standard.
For employees to sustain high levels of productivity, office temperatures of 20 or 21 degrees Celsius are recommended.

The Challenge

With these statistics in mind, it is easy to identify the challenge UK businesses face. As ominous as lack of productivity can seem, so can high energy bills. It is easy for managers to fix onto operating budgets and overlook the critical responsibility of productivity. After all is said and done, overhead is budget-able and track-able. Productivity is not quite as tangible on the surface.

So, the logical question is how to sustain good productivity and control the necessary cooling costs. In some cases, this can lead to investment in better equipment and better maintenance, especially in terms of clean air flow which is critical to good employee health.

In today’s marketplace, the new era of technology driven HVAC systems and air-conditioners is likely to yield better air quality, better heating and cooling results at much less energy cost than your current system. Why not contact a licensed heating and cooling system provider for man estimate. Happy, productive days can be had next Summer!

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