The pandemic brought much pain, suffering and loss to many families, and we don’t want to make light of the health and social challenges caused by COVID. But one thing it did for those working remotely for the past two years is provide total control over their daily thermostat. Now as employers welcome back workers, the return to offices brings back chilly memories of arctic temperatures at desks and in meeting rooms.
For those with Raynaud’s, the chilly memories can be significantly more vivid and disheartening. Even conferences held in warmer climates can be challenging, as any dramatic change in temperature can trigger Raynaud’s attacks. So moving to or from 80 to 90 degrees outdoors into or out of an air-conditioned convention center can bring painful chills to Frosties.
What’s worth noting is that it’s not just Raynaud’s sufferers complaining these days – it’s become more of a mainstream issue now that the masses have experienced the comforts of temperature freedom for so long. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently published an article titled “Brrr! Air-Conditioned Offices Give Chilly Reception to Returnees” that reviews the temperature challenges workers are currently facing. Reading their stories and complaints as a person with Raynaud’s, it warms my heart to think we’re not the only ones dealing with frozen shivers just to make a living. Here are a couple of the chilling stories shared in the WSJ article:
A Minnesota nurse brought a suitcase of winter clothes to an Atlanta conference and still froze wearing multiple layers. At her office, “everybody has a blanket at their desk.”
A marketing director working in SoHo found he had to sit on his hands for warmth. When he finally got the nerve to speak up about the cold, his office manager noticed people wearing winter coats at their desks.
Sound familiar? We’ve shared in earlier blog posts how office temperatures were historically set to comply with comfort guidelines established in 1966 when most office workers were men in long-sleeve shirts and ties wearing three-piece suits. Men have higher metabolic rates than women, so they can more easily tolerate colder temperatures. Offices are now more evenly populated across genders, and work attire has become more casual, but office thermostats haven’t changed to reflect these social changes. Plus, there’s no attention given to how people dress lighter for warmer outdoor temps in the summer.
Research conducted in 2004 by Cornell University provides scientific confirmation that mistakes increase and productivity decreases as the temperature is reduced to uncomfortable levels. The WSJ quotes this research stating “Workers typed only half as much and made more than twice as many errors when office temperatures fell to 68 degrees from 77 degrees.”
Of course, there’s always the Goldilocks factor that everyone has their own preferences and tolerance, but that’s just the issue: Workers have had two years of personal comfort. How can they accept going back to a situation where the office thermostat is kept under lock and key?
Let’s hope this is a wake up call to office and building managers everywhere: It’s not enough to convince people that the workplace is safe – workers want to experience some of the basic comforts of home, as well. For people with Raynaud’s, maybe now others will understand what we’ve been dealing with for so many years as they experience their own chilly memories.
For more articles on office temperature challenges, check out the links below to several articles from our blog, the New York Times and the Washington Post (including our editorial published in the New YorkTimes). You can see it’s a very hot topic (pun intended)!