Julie Tucker
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Is it bad for you to work in a hot and stuffy office?

Do you ever feel drained and uncomfortable while working in your office? You’re not alone. Many of us suffer from a hot, stuffy office environment, particularly in the winter months when the heaters are turned up to the max and temperatures are above those usually considered to be comfortable or healthy for the workplace.

To make matters worse, heat exhaustion can set in quickly if we are exposed to heated conditions for extended periods of time without proper hydration.

What can happen when we overheat

Hot, clammy offices could potentially reduce our brain power according to research, which suggests that the efficiency of our brains is reduced by up to 50% when we are working in an office, due to poor air quality.

So, is there a serious explanation why we feel tired, drained, congested and generally below par while we are at work? Well, the answer is yes.

Whether you prone to workplace headaches, or your brain just feels heavy, there is a reason. Sick building syndrome is the term used to describe the way you feel in a particular building.

How central heating is making you feel unwell

When it’s freezing cold outside, few of us quite appreciate the consequences of putting the heating on to full capacity when we step inside. Among other things dust, pollen and other allergens that have collected in the duct work during the warmer months escape into your working environment when the dial is turned up.

Various symptoms are attributed to the heating making us feel under the weather:

• Sneezing and sinus congestion can be caused by the particulates in the air.
• You might find you start to cough due to a dry throat.
• Allergies might become more apparent due to allergens being blown into the air.
• Headaches can be a result of poor hydration in a stuffy office.
• Your throat might start to become sore.
• You will likely feel thirstier.

The simple solution

This all sounds pretty serious, but there is a very simple solution. Obviously, you could start by turning the heating dial down a notch or two. Perhaps more importantly, you could start to understand the significant importance of ventilation, particularly in newer buildings.

We can become allergic to the buildings we work in, but the answer is more fresh air. Open more windows, regularly dust off your desk and wipe it down with a damp cloth. The carpets should be regularly hoovered too.

Minimum office temperatures in the UK

In the UK, there is no legally mandated maximum temperature for offices. The only requirement is that workplace temperatures must be reasonable according to the Workplace Regulations 1992. However, many employers set a minimum office temperature of 16°C to provide staff with a comfortable working environment – colder temperatures can often lead to lower productivity and higher rates of absenteeism due to a variety of ailments, such as colds and flu.

In summary, there is no legal maximum safe office temperature but setting a minimum temperature of 16°C can help create comfortable working environments which reduce illness and improve productivity among employees. Employers should also put measures in place which help protect workers from extreme heat during summer months, when temperatures may rise significantly.

How can employers help?

There are a variety of methods employers can use to ensure workplace temperatures remain safe. Getting it right for everyone in the winter is quite the juggling act, but by assessing the level of ventilation that is required to keep up with the demands of any specific workplace environment, as well as providing adequate rest breaks throughout the day to give everyone the opportunity to get out and grab a breath of fresh air when the office becomes too stuffy, you could help your workforce to feel more comfortable and likely more productive.

There should also be access to cold drinking water throughout the day so employees can stay hydrated.


© thodonal88 / Shutterstock.com

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