Can a cold office really increase productivity?

It may seem obvious, but workers who are too hot will not perform at their best

Ever felt sleepy when it gets warm? Many people believe a chilly environment makes people more alert, which can make staff pay attention and lead to greater productivity. This attitude now has some support from research conducted on the relationship between temperature and output in the workplace.

It may seem obvious, but workers who are too hot will not perform at their best, and global warming could play a role in this too.

One study looked at how temperature affected manual workers, and this demonstrated that a temperature above 27 degrees Celsius was linked to a decrease in output. It was also found that higher temperatures could be linked to an increase in workers not attending work.

The study looked at the effect on workplace outputs in the Indian manufacturing sector, although the research was carried out by the University of Chicago in the US. The research was given the title of Impact of Temperature on Productivity and Labour Supply: Evidence from Indian Manufacturing. It was carried out the university’s Energy Policy Institute.

The study discovered that workplaces installing climate control measures such as air conditioning could offset the declines in productivity associated with higher temperatures, but this had little effect on the incidence of absenteeism. It appeared that continued hot weather could drive higher rates of workers being absent from their jobs, and air conditioning appeared to have little effect on that.

Anant Sudarshan, from the Energy Policy Institute and one of the co-authors of the study, pointed out that the physiology of human beings is essentially the same throughout the world, and the link between increased temperatures and lower output has ramifications for all employers, especially with concerns about global warming.

Even without scientific figures to back it up, many people would agree that most human beings tend to move more slowly, and feel drowsier, when it is hot. Global warming could lead to temperatures that make manufacturing work unfeasible in a number of nations.

Hotter climates, warmer places of work and a likely decrease in productivity would cause concerns for most employers. In colder countries, this is perhaps less of an issue, but when there is a heatwave in a city like London, where many offices do not have air conditioning, the effects on workers are marked, with increased lethargy and discomfort.

The study also noted that air conditioning could be an expensive solution for businesses engaged in manufacturing, and if temperatures were to keep increasing to the point where workers were severely affected, then relocation to a cooler climate might be required. This also incurs significant expense and disruption. In this case, automation is another possible solution.

Workers find it more difficult to carry out their roles when they are uncomfortable, and extremes of temperature – whether hot or cold – would contribute to that. Human physiology is geared to operate at its optimum in a relatively small temperature band, and this is an issue that more employers may need to recognise. This is yet another reason to be concerned about climate and global warming.

Recruiters love this COMPLETE set of Accredited Recruitment & HR Training – View Training Brochure

Comment on this story

The British Institute of Recruiters is the Professional Body operating The Recruitment Certification Scheme

Send this to a friend