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Warm Offices Help Employee Productivity

Heating bills are expected to be high this winter, but keeping offices cool to cut energy costs could hurt employee productivity.

That's because people in warm offices work better than those in cooler settings.

The insight comes from Alan Hedge, PhD, CPE, a professor at Cornell University's department of design and environmental analysis.

Hedge recently monitored keyboard errors, employee productivity, and temperature at an Orlando insurance office. He watched how well employees performed at a variety of temperatures at nine workstations for 16 business days.

The best employee productivity occurred when the temperature was set at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. In that setting, employees had the fewest typos.

Lowering the mercury to 68 degrees had a chilling effect on employee productivity and accuracy.

Employee productivity was 150 percent lower than at 77 degrees, and keyboard errors were up 44 percent at the cooler temperature. That translates into losing an extra $2 per hour due to typos, assuming workers made $16 per hour.

"At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time, with a 10 percent error rate," says Hedge in a news release. "But at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate."

Optimizing office lighting, noise, and ergonomics would help employee productivity and save even more money, says Hedges, who presented his findings at the 2004 Eastern Ergonomics Conference and Exposition in New York.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: 2004 Eastern Ergonomics Conference and Exposition, New York, June 21-23, 2004. News release, Cornell University.