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Keeping employees productive when it’s cold


It is not uncommon for employees to struggle with productivity in the winter months for a number of reasons.   One of the key reasons why productivity is affected by office temperatures is simply because when we are cold, we are not just uncomfortable, we are distracted.   When our body temperature drops, we automatically expend more energy to keep warm, which leaves less energy and brainpower for the tasks at hand. When we are cold, we tend to be more grumpy and unhappy as we find it more difficult to concentrate and feel less productive.  

Technically, there is not legal minimum temperature, but employers have a duty to “provide a reasonable temperature in the workplace”, which is generally considered to be at least 16C.   

There have been many studies over the years demonstrating the effects of coldness in the office, but one such study showed that in an average office, when temperatures were a comfortable 25C, employees only had a 10% error rate in typing – however, when the temperature was lowered , error rates rose to 25%. In a more recent study, it was found that 44% more errors were made in a colder environment, and these environments were less than half as productive.   Whilst the two studies had different focus, the message was clear that colder offices drastically impacted on productivity.

Yet countless business don’t recognise how much temperatures in the workplace can impact productivity.   When employees are cold, not only are they less productive, they are more likely to “pull a sickie” because of it (although not many would openly admit to this) and many employees would consider working from home rather than in a chilly workplace which could have a huge impact on operational resources.

Employees are not shy about telling their employers that they have felt cold in the workplace and most employers are keen to ensure that their working environment is at the optimal temperature to get the work done.

So how can you ensure your employees are productive when it’s cold outside?

  1. Ensure that there is a comfortable work environment
  2. Encourage employees to wear sweaters; scarves and wraps to keep warm by relaxing any formal dress code
  3. Encourage employees to drink plenty of hot drinks – drinking something warm can ward off the office chill
  4. Encourage employees to keep small blankets to put over their legs
  5. Encourage employees to get moving – a short brisk walk will get blood flowing
  6. Consider providing safe space heaters – these non-intrusive heaters will warm up personal space in no time and keep it at an optimal temperature at all times

Remember that a warm workplace will keep your employees happy and a happy worker will boost productivity.

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.