At the end of last year, we put together the first of our blogs on the contentious topic of temperature in the workplace.
Since Part 1 looked at Office Temperature in autumn and winter, you won’t be too surprised to learn that Part 2 will explore how you can best monitor and manage the office temperature in spring and summer.
As we mentioned previously, the Health and Safety Executive advises that employers should provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace, with a suggested minimum temperature of at least 16 degrees Celsius (13 if work involves rigorous physical effort) with no guidance for maximum temperature.
As temperatures are expected to rise (although with the British summer, who knows), we look at how business owners can ensure that everyone feels comfortable, with the least impact on monthly energy costs.
In Part 1, we spoke about The Goldilocks Zone; that happy medium of perfect temperature regulation.
We suggested a number of strategies to find the optimum temperature during colder months.
So here are our thoughts on how you can do the same when the sun comes out and it starts to get warmer in the office.
You might think that the solution is to drop the air conditioning unit to a low temperature, such as 16 degrees so that it’s blowing out cooler air.
This could potentially make the system work a lot harder than it needs to and result in more energy usage and costly bills.
Again, we’ll base this on a typical office environment that is not overly populated with a mid-range air-conditioning system.
Here are our suggestions for spring and summer:
In the same way that you did during the winter months, publish a staff communication explaining what you are going to do during spring and summer.
It might seem counterintuitive, but we’re going to suggest the same temperature range as autumn and winter, with a maximum of 23°C.
Tell staff that complaints will not be accepted 1°C above or below the temperature of 23 degrees because temperatures will fluctuate. Put out a staff comments box on reception for feedback.
Remind staff to regulate their personal comfort by wearing short sleeves with an item of clothing that can be put over the top in periods when staff feel cold. If you have a strict dress code in work, perhaps consider relaxing it when you know the temperature is going to be uncomfortably high.
Setting the air conditioning to Auto will result in uncomfortable temperature swings, with AC systems ‘fighting’ each other in Auto mode and causing bigger temperature swings.
The office will heat up as the day goes on, so time the air conditioning to come on at 23 degrees on the cool setting from around mid-day.
The timing of this might change slightly depending on the thermal properties of the building.
Opening windows can be a lot more efficient than changing the thermostat, especially if you wish to regulate temperatures without using air conditioning systems.
However, free cooling is only effective if the outside air temperature is cooler than the inside air temperature so it’s important to monitor both the outside and indoor air temperatures.
If the temperature rises above 23 degrees, permit staff to open windows slightly.
Just make sure that they stick to the 23 rule. This should avoid any large temperature swings.
As ever, this is merely a suggestion based on our own experience as facilities management professionals.
The heat gain and heat loss of a building will impact on comfort levels within it and we’d always suggest looking at the cooling and ventilation systems in a building before taking any drastic action.
And just as some people feel the cold more than others, there are going to be staff who relish the thought of a warm office.
However, in extremely warm weather basic air conditioning systems are not always designed to cope with high-temperature gains so our advice will help to control temperatures and manage staff expectations.
Whatever the season, it’s important to create a culture that recognises the fact that not everyone is going to be happy all the time.
As we’ve said before, a good planned-maintenance program is imperative to maintaining the working operation of any mechanical or electrical equipment and, when managed with the above advice, we believe that it is possible to save energy and control expectations regarding comfort to achieve a happy office.
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