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nikipedia's avatar

What is the fairest way to manage disagreements about room temperature in the work place?

Asked by nikipedia (27300 points ) February 4th, 2013

A few months ago, we moved into a space at work over which we have total control of the temperature. This has led to some tension, as one of the people who works here likes the temperature significantly cooler than everyone else.

This person has VERY STRONG OPINIONS and can be difficult to deal with, so for months everyone has been dressing in layers and doing the best they can with the temperature rather than trying to negotiate.

We don’t have particularly extreme winters here, but it has been pretty chilly the last few days, and I really would prefer not to be so cold all the time (I am already wearing a heavy sweater). This morning I finally turned the heat up about 2 degrees, and got a reprimand from the Strongly Opinioned Warm Person.

What is the fairest way to manage this conflict?

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43 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

We go with one temperature for all and anyone who doesn’t like it has to dress differently. We have women in menopause to young men who are hot-blooded, it was constantly changing before we instituted.

Also, we had one person who had a glandular problem with sweating, and he loved the office super cold and tried to charm his way around the rules, but we had to tell him it was just too cold for the rest of us so he would have to cope.

Gabby101's avatar

I always use a space heater in my cube when cold. They aren’t allowed, but mgmt is pretty lax about enforcement. The new models seem pretty safe, so I don’t worry about starting a fire.

Seek's avatar

Tell SOWP to STFU.

He can buy a fan for his desk if it’s that big a deal. Here’s a nice Hello Kitty USB powered oscillating fan for the little pansy.

gailcalled's avatar

Manhandle him (with several colleagues) and remove all of his clothes but his underwear and dress him in a light-weight linen shalwar kameez

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I was going to say throw SOWP’s ass in the snow and the rest enjoy whatever temp you like, but Gail’s answer sounds so much better.

rojo's avatar

Don’t know if you can do it with the newer T-stats but one place I worked we bent the gauge needle so it read warmer than it actually was. This made the person most responsible for the contentiousness happy because she “thought” it was warmer than it was and the rest of us were actually comfortable.

SpatzieLover's avatar

My husband and son are temperature & humidity sensitive, so this is an actual problem we address regularly.

Since everyone else would prefer the office warmer, your sensitive co-worker is the one that will need to accommodate for himself. Desk fan, ice water, short sleeve polo or dress shirt (I don’t know what the dress code is), and maybe forgoing socks with his shoes would help him.

With our son, we take a light change of clothes, a cooler filled with cold water, a freeze pack and damp washcloth, and a personal fan.

Your co-worker sounds like a rigid thinker. He may need to be spoken to with a direct tone, since he’s the strongly opinionated one. “Everyone else would like to be comfortable. No one should have to dress in multiple layers inside of the office so you can be comfortable.”

tedibear's avatar

If everyone who is cold is already dressing in multiple layers, then yes, the situation needs to be addressed. I said it that way because I’m usually the person who is too warm but had co-workers who wanted to run around in sleeveless tops and short skirts. Sorry, I can’t take off any more clothes, so the temperature is going down to 70.

Can all of the people in that area – except Mr. Too Hot – agree on a temperature? If you can all say yes to 68 or 70 or whatever, then I would address the issue. Maybe give your supervisor a heads-up that this is going to happen. Or, involve the facilities area. Maybe they can set the thermostat and put a lock box on it. Be careful with that last thought however. They might decide to do that to the whole building and people may end up unhappy!

Seek's avatar

Gods. 68 sounds freezing. Yay, Florida. Keep it in the mid-upper 70s and it’s all gravy.

Pachy's avatar

The concensus in this thread seems to be… you gotta adapt. That’s what we do at my company, which has three floors with window offices, interior offices and cubicles facing all directions. The heating and air conditioning system is pretty good but can’t accomodate everyone’s preference. We have long hot summers and cold winters, so the people whose offices are colder than they like wear heavier clothing and/or use space heaters, and the people like me whose offices are too warm have fans. I guess it’s a problem for some people but most of us just “make do.”

ragingloli's avatar

Turn off the heating altogether and everyone brings warm clothes.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, if you don’t mind him running around in his underwear, then turn the heat the fuck up. So long as he has permission to dress accordingly, it should be fine.

I will point out that it is easier to put clothes on to warm up than it is to take clothes off to cool down. There are only so many clothes you can take off, after which people will be getting all squishy about bare asses on seats. Not to mention the uproar that seeing said dude’s dingle dangle flopping all around might cause. Hell. It would be even worse if it weren’t flopping.

Yeah, considering the alternative, I’d wear a sweater and be so, so grateful.

gailcalled's avatar

Actually, now that I think about it, you can wear the Shalwar Kameez without underwear and without bare asses on seats or dingle dangles flopping in a visible manner.

tinyfaery's avatar

The outliers should just bring a fan to work when they are hot. Mine is going right now. It saved all the bitching. I’m just hotter than most people all the time.

Other people should bring personal heaters. Room temp is between 68–72F. Anyone not ok with that should do what they have to.

Seek's avatar

If the Bedouins can live in the Saharah fully clothed, then SOWP can GTFOver it.

wundayatta's avatar

The Bedouins aren’t sitting at desks doing computer work. Maybe they should tie computers to camels for the SOWPs?

nikipedia's avatar

@wundayatta, let me point out that I already said that we are all wearing additional layers. I am still finding it pretty uncomfortable. My fingers are quite cold and I think it would be difficult to work with gloves on.

nikipedia's avatar

And I don’t know why everyone is assuming this is a guy? Not that it matters either way.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, not that it matters, but is it a guy?

And don’t you live in SoCal, @nikipedia? Where it never gets below 60 degrees outside? If it’s cold enough to wear gloves, break a damn window and let in some heat!

Just kidding. But what temperature is the thermostat set at, anyway?

Seek's avatar

I default to the male because we lack a gender neutral pronoun in our language.

nikipedia's avatar

No, it’s not a guy.

It is pretty nice outside, a balmy 62 degrees. But our windows don’t open.

I have been sneaking the thermostat up half a degree at a time. It is almost to 70 right now.

burntbonez's avatar

Wow. That’s hot! I never set the thermostat above 68, and I live where it’s below freezing outside. I also never wear a sweater, except when it’s below 20 outside. If you set my temperature at 70, I’d be in my undershirt and shorts, or I’d be sweating pretty badly.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, since it’s a woman, who cares?~

janbb's avatar

It’s a very difficult issue. My Ex’s office put a lock on the thermostat. I would say that if it is just the one person who is against the temp, majority rules and she needs to use a fan. But it is miserable to be uncomfortably cold or warm at work.

gailcalled's avatar

If I had my thermostat at home set at 65˚, I’d be naked and lying in a bathtub filled with ice cubes.

Seek's avatar

My home thermostat is set to kick on the heat when it gets below 70.

Of course, the temperature outside for most of the year is 80 or above.

nikipedia's avatar

Maybe I should just start bringing 2 sweaters. Or a blanket.

gailcalled's avatar

Hat, mittens with fingers cut off, scarf, ski pants and parka and Uggs.

nikipedia's avatar

@gailcalled, that would probably do the trick. I have to wear a winter coat when I am doing research at the MRI facility. The magnet is cooled to below 4 Kelvin and we recently learned the hard way that the rest of the equipment can’t get above 80 F or so, which means the room is cooled to about 60 F or below regardless of what it’s like outside. Miserable.

Jeruba's avatar

A manager at an office where I used to work told me in confidence that the thermostats weren’t connected to anything. People could move them up and down all they liked, if it made them feel better, but Facilities set the temperature, and only Facilities could adjust it.

flutherother's avatar

In our office some of the seats were under the air conditioning vents. It was quite uncomfortable but might suit her.

burntbonez's avatar

That must be like airplane seats on the exit row. You need to know how to open the door in order to get to sit there.

Or am I the only one weird enough to have this connection?

LuckyGuy's avatar

Can you plug in a small space heater?. You can buy a 1000 Watt unit at Goodwill for $5.00.

nikipedia's avatar

@LuckyGuy, one of the other people has already taken to doing that. It seems a bit silly to me for each person to have their own personal space heater just because one person is too angry and difficult to live with a warmer room.

diavolobella's avatar

Majority rules. If this person is the only one who is hot, they get a fan. If they are the only one who is cold, they get a space heater.

Jeruba's avatar

@nikipedia, I can readily appreciate how much distress this issue causes. I have seen it become a deeply contentious issue in the workplace. There’s a reasonable feeling that an employer is obligated to provide an environment in which people can perform the tasks assigned to them, but personal comfort is so subjective and variable.

One of the things I never understood was the all-or-nothing aspect of it. I was one who needed a lot of light in order to do my job (read and correct small print on paper), and my cubicle neighbors were often screen users who preferred a dim environment. Why couldn’t there have been some taking of turns? If we could have agreed to keep the lights on just one afternoon per week, it would have made my life (and those who felt as I did) more pleasant. But the people who wanted the blinds drawn and the overhead lights off demanded having it their way every minute of every day. They thought nothing of depriving everyone of light from the windows and overhead even though it was a common resource.

Why was compromise unthinkable? Why were the same people nominated to be deprived all the time so the same other people could be happy all the time? I could never fathom why this was considered acceptable.

My husband said that in his office people who were bothered by glare on their screens either turned their screens around or installed little shades rather than cutting off the light for everyone.

It becomes a very emotional issue when people are crowded close together in a cubicle environment. Sometimes it used to make me so mad that I couldn’t even talk about it.

In my case the ultimate solution was allowing people to work at home. Some jobs can be done this way, but many others can’t.

DancingMind's avatar

The most amicable rule of thermostat does seem to be go with the coldest setting—easier to put on clothes than take off, and if someone is sweating it can be very uncofortable for them and unpleasant for everyone else. But, her seeming unwillingness to compromise makes me not simply want to give in. 70 degrees, unless the person has some medical problem, I don’t think would feel terribly hot. Warm for the average thermostat, but not hot. Still, though, it’s easier to put on clothes than take them off.

Personally, my thermostat is always around 64 degrees. In the winter, it may make it up to 68. I also always dress in many light layers—I live in a mild climate—and temperature doesn’t affect me much anyway. If it’s 100 degrees, if it’s 40 degrees. Shorts and a T-shirt. Jacket and pants. Done. However, I know people who feel in pain when they’re cold, or begin to stain shirts when they’re too warm, so I do understand the discomfort…

Does anyone know why she needs the temperature her way? Maybe she has a medical condition of some sort. Unlikely, but maybe. I wonder if she’s offered a reason, or been asked? I’m imagining she’s just said NO. If it’s her being anal or controlling, she needs to get over herself.

It also sounds like maybe the thermostat issue has become a bit larger than just the thermostat dial? At least for some people…. with an office of people pointedly bundling up and one person demanding the thermostat stay put… I dunno. May need to find a way to diffuse the situation, and she’ll, and everyone’ll, be more open for conversation.

I think 68 degrees is the standard indoor temperature.

What is she wanting it at? What is the rest of the office wanting it at? Once everyone is in a place to negotiate and not try to win a specific temp, just add the opposing numbers and divide by two, voila!

zenvelo's avatar

This is what management and HR get paid to resolve. This is a classic difficult office problem. And on any given day it seems like somebody is complaining. When we had 750 monitors, roughly 500 computers, and 1500 people on our trading floor, we had two massive AC units. At any time one corner would be freezing and people wearing down coats, while in the other corner they were ready for heat exhaustion.

The only way we’ve ever gotten people to stop complaining is to tell them no more complaining, this is the setting, and dress comfortably.

nikipedia's avatar

@zenvelo, we exist in the Bizarroworld that is academic science. There is no HR for us, just a lunatic adviser who is more difficult than the rest of us put together.

rojo's avatar

Ok, I checked and this is in social so…..

Have you tried Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock???

janbb's avatar

FWIW, I generally find 67–68 to be quite comfortable unless I’m in a drafty place. That would seem – at least to me – to be a reasonable setting.

mattbrowne's avatar

The only effective thing good managers can do is facilitate the team building process which requires time and money. When team members really appreciate each other and care for each other and collaborate with each other, they solve the temperature problem on their own without ever getting a manager involved. The make sure the needs of everyone is met in the best possible way.

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