Keeping the office feeling and looking warm as the weather gets cold

Autumn is the time of year many people hate, for the last hints of summer are ebbing away, the weather is getting colder and the days rapidly shorter.

Of course, there are many who love autumn with its golden colours and events such as Halloween and Bonfire Night, but even so, there is no arguing with Game of Thrones: winter is coming.

For offices, the key is to make sure everyone feels warm. In the summer, this is seldom a problem and certainly not this year, when opening the windows, switching on the air conditioning and allowing staff to wear shorts were more appropriate responses to the meteorological situation.

The office temperature is certainly something to bear in mind. There is a legal duty on employers that there should be a ‘reasonable’ temperature in which to work indoors, as laid out in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. This will take into account that those working inside are likely to be sitting down and not doing physical tasks that can warm them up.

If the term ‘reasonable’ sounds vague, there is approved guidance that states the temperature should be 16 degrees C unless rigorous physical effort is taking place, in which case 13 degrees will suffice. The duty lies with the employer to decide what is enough, and as far as the law is concerned, its definition of indoor workplaces is broad – that can also mean workplaces that are very hot such as a foundry.

What is most important to consider, therefore, is the needs of the staff, as well as the fact that temperature will be factored into any risk assessment. Ultimately, you need to think about how much more productive your staff will be in the right temperature. Some will have had trouble enduring the summer heat, but most will be struggling very badly before too long if the need to turn on the heating isn’t addressed.

If you don’t have an automatic system to maintain the temperature, be vigilant as the weather changes. Some autumn days can be classical ‘Indian summer’ occasions, but others will suggest that winter is already here.

Keeping the office looking physically warm is not enough, however. Now is a good time to make it look warmer too.

If the office needs re-decorating, now could be a great time to do it, adding on some warm colours. Even if it is not, consider hanging up colourful pictures and even adding some extra lighting to brighten things up.

A novel way to keep warm may be to encourage staff to bake more, maybe even in the office if there is a well-equipped kitchen. A few warm, freshly-baked buns will cheer people up and give them a nice glow. Consider something autumn-themed, like bonfire toffee.

Indeed, good facilities where warm food and hot drinks can be prepared for breakfast, lunch and breaks could also help. Remember, this is not just about how they feel indoors, but also ensuring they feel lovely and warm before they venture back outside, either when heading home or having to leave the office for any reason.


Image courtesy of iStock/auleena

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