Hot topic: Should businesses pay for air con for work from home staff?

- February 15, 2022 3 MIN READ
Woman using air conditioning in home office

With the big COVID pivot happening across industries, more employees than ever are conducting their work remotely, prompting business owners to consider how to create an optimal work from home environment for employees, writes Steve Glaveski, author, podcaster and CEO of Collective Campus.

“Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on.” These words, immortalised by The Power Station’s 1985 hit, Some Like It Hot, had some scientific credence.

Women like it hot

For years now, the debate has been raging over what the optimal office temperature is, with a 2015 study published in Nature finding that the typical office temperature tends to favour males.

While men and women share an internal body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), men run hotter than women because they typically have more muscle mass, which generates heat by way of extra calorie consumption. As such, males tend to prefer cooler environments – this is true for both sleep and work.

More recently, a study published in PLOS One observed almost 550 German college students and concluded that women performed better than men in warmer temperatures when it comes to math and verbal tasks.

As the charts below clearly demonstrate, men performed better in colder rooms, performance skewing downwards as temperature increased, with the opposite effect holding true for women.

Graph image from Plos One Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance study

Study: Battle for the thermostat: Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance

The optimal office temperature?

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers keep the thermostat between 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20C) and 76 Fahrenheit (24C), however, the PLOS One study found that men prefer the temperature under 70 Fahrenheit.

In my case, I find 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18C) optimal for both working and sleeping.

Your optimal temperature is likely to be unique to you, and can only be discovered by tweaking the air conditioning, which in a world of ever-increasing remote work, is something you now have control over.

Working from home

As I write this, Melbourne is gripped in a three week long heatwave, with temperatures soaring into the 90s (30s Celsius) for days on end, bringing the resting room temperatures of households across the city up with it to what can only be described as warm, stuffy, and intolerable.

Even for women, a resting room temperature of over 30 degrees Celsius or 90 degrees Fahrenheit is too warm.

And with more of us working from home than ever, the conversation is shifting towards optimising our household temperature for work.

However, only two in three Australian households use air conditioning, and the lack of air con can pose a significant problem when it comes to the cognitive capacities of people to do their best work.

Employer obligations?

With that being said, do employers, who are confronted with cost savings by decreasing their office footprint, owe it to their employees, and perhaps themselves, to cover the cost of domestic AC unit installation, maintenance and running costs – or at least a portion of it?

I personally think that employers should consider redistributing some of the cost savings to employees, in order to optimise their home working environments and get the best out of themselves.

After all, doing so should serve to increase the performance of the organisation.

What do you think?

Join the chat on the Flying Solo forums to have your say.

This post originally appeared on steveglaveski.com you can read the original here.

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