In summer, there’s lots of discussion about the maximum temperature your office can be. However, the rules around an office’s minimum temperature are less well known. As we enter the winter season, the question of how to keep your office at a comfortable temperature for your employees is an important one.
While extremely cold temperatures come with serious risks, such as hypothermia and frostbite, there are a whole range of issues that can arise if your office is just a few degrees lower than it should be. As well as increasing the likelihood of colds and related bugs, cold offices can mean increased blood pressure and tightened airways, with a higher risk for more vulnerable workers.
On the other hand, by keeping your office at a steady temperature, you can make sure your employees are comfortable, healthy and productive. So, what does the legislation say, and how can you make sure you’re following it effectively? From efficient heating sources to energy saving tips, we’ve gathered all our best advice to arm you for the months ahead.
Office minimum temperature: what does the law say?
Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers are required to provide a ‘reasonable’ office temperature, meaning it can’t be too hot in summer or too cold in winter.
The minimum temperature your workplace can be will depend on the kind of work carried out there. According to the Approved Code of Practice, offices should generally be at least 16℃, while those undertaking rigorous work (like heavy lifting or construction) shouldn’t be in temperatures lower than 13℃. These are guidelines rather than strict legal requirements, but employers have a duty to determine what a ‘reasonable’ temperature is and keep employees comfortable.
How to know if your office is the right temperature
If you’re not sure whether your office is warm enough, use the HSE’s Thermal Comfort Checklist. This list addresses numerous factors, including air temperature, air movement and humidity. If your answers indicate your employees might be at risk of discomfort, there’s the option to carry out a more detailed risk assessment. If your office really is too cold, you’ll need to take steps to improve things.
So you have a freezing office? Here’s what to do
There are a number of ways you can help keep your office at a good temperature throughout the colder months. While heaters are the obvious solution, clever design and small changes also have a role to play. Here’s our advice for heating your office efficiently.
Use quality curtains and blinds
Make the most of the sun’s heat during the day as a free heat source for your office. Then when it gets dark, shut your blinds and curtains – these act as an another layer of insulation and will help retain the heat for as long as possible. If you have a larger office, make sure all doors are closed too.
Stop cold draughts
The ‘stack effect’ occurs when there’s a significant difference in temperature inside and outside a building. This means rising hot air will pull in cold air from outdoors. You can limit this in your office by cutting down the number of places the cold air can seep in.
Take the time to seal windows and doors effectively, and avoid leaving doorways open throughout the day if possible. This will keep your office warm for longer, without spending more on the heating bill.
Move furniture away from radiators
Having desks, sofas and other furniture pressed up against radiators and other heat sources will block the flow of warm air into the room. This makes your office slower and less efficient to heat.
Avoid wasted money and cold rooms by re-positioning office furniture so that it’s at least a few inches away from any heaters or radiators.
Use portable heaters
Portable heaters are ideal for use in spaces that aren’t occupied for the full work day, and they can also help reduce the time it takes for your office to warm up on particularly chilly winter mornings.
If your staff are mobile throughout the day, or you have a particularly large and open-plan office, these are yet more reasons you might benefit from having individual heaters that can be moved around as needed.
There are lots of options, such as having a foot heater under the desk, or a free-standing heater in a meeting room. Low-budget alternatives, like hot water bottles, are great in a pinch as an optional extra.
Install a smart thermostat
Last but not least, installing a smart thermostat will give you better control over your heating, and possibly cut your costs too.
Old fashioned and manual thermostats are limited because they’re typically guided by a minimum temperature, and need monitoring throughout the day. They’re also less efficient, making it difficult to accurately control the room’s temperature.
Smart thermostats can be controlled remotely and detect any changes much quicker so you can adjust the heating accordingly.
Upgrade your office this winter
Having a toasty warm office is only part of the picture when it comes to protecting your staff. As experts in ergonomics, we know it’s also important to make sure you have the right chairs and equipment to keep staff comfortable and productive all through the day.
We always recommend booking a thorough DSE Assessment to check your furniture and equipment is up to the task. It’s the first step when it comes to future-proofing your workspace. Contact us today to learn more.