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Help! Dealing with Employee Comfort Complaints

Key Points
  • The two biggest employee comfort complaints are that they are either too hot or too cold.
  • Uncomfortable employees are less productive, and they often use energy-wasting personal appliances.
  • Create a comfortable environment with thermostat settings, window treatments and dress policies. 

HVACcomplaintsPICWe all know the drill, in our homes, offices, even in the car, no single temperature setting pleases everyone. We fiddle with settings, check temperatures, clean vents, but somehow, somewhere, someone is unhappy.

While you may pull rank on your children in the car, or be overruled by your spouse at home, at the office it’s a democracy of complaints. Uncomfortable workers can be a source of stress. It can be hard to balance the cooling or heating needs of staff with a program designed to save energy, but there are ways to ease common issues.

Too hot or too cold

Before we get to tips for dealing with complaints, it may help to know that the two biggest complaints are that folks are either too cold or too hot. Winter brings out more complaints than summer and other problems like the air being too dry or too humid can make matters worse. The place of occupation correlates with some issues as well. Schools and industrial settings are more often too hot, while office workers gripe the most about being cold.

To combat their conditions, workers employ a host of appliances, like fans and space heaters, which can gobble up the energy savings that balanced heating and cooling systems are supposed to provide. Workers may also fail to dress properly, such as wearing thin summer clothes when the office will feel chilly because of air conditioning.

Three steps to a more comfortable indoor environment

While some complaints can’t be mitigated, there are some ways to ease comfort issues. 

First, set standards and communicate them to everyone. For example, the office thermostat will be 73ºF for cooling and 70°F for heating and no adjustments are made to vents or thermostats unless conditions are otherwise. Ban personal heaters, which not only rob you of energy savings, but can be a fire hazard. Same goes for fans, which can annoy co-workers. Keep a digital thermometer handy to check out temperature complaints.

Second, suggest that employees keep layers, such as sweaters or a light jacket, handy to use if it gets too cold. Likewise, in winter, suggest that employees wear layers, so that if they get too hot, they can remove a layer for better comfort.

Third, take action where it makes sense. Employees near windows often gripe the most. Install blinds to allow them to mitigate heat from sunlight in the summer, yet also allow that light to help warm their space in the winter. If possible, ask an employee to move to another station if a vent is bothering them, or if their spot just isn’t comfortable. Leaving internal doors open where possible can sometimes help air circulate through a building more efficiently, keeping spaces at a more uniform temperature.

Call for help 

If you’re getting too many complaints, call in a qualified professional. Also, have your heating and cooling system cleaned and inspected annually. With a small investment, you can keep your employees comfortable and productive, and save energy.

Image source: iStock