August 8, 2018
Why does it seem significantly more difficult to concentrate on work when it’s hot outside? It has much more to do with our bodies than we may realize. A series of studies have proven that we are unable to concentrate and fully engage with our work if the temperature around us is not within a specific range; if you want to reach a peak level of productivity, you should work in an environment that stays between 68℉ and 76℉.
Those of us who work in large buildings--either within a company or at a coworking space--often don’t have the luxury of controlling the thermostat to place the indoor temperature within the ideal productivity range. What’s worse, it’s common for offices to over-air condition when outdoor temperatures are hot. If you think that your office is freezing throughout the summer, you aren’t alone—a survey conducted by the EPA found that indoor office temperatures are typically set far below the recommended range in the summer months, and can even have colder temperature settings than in the winter. The decision to drop temperatures below the productive range is counterproductive; it's been proven that companies that better maintain workplace temperature see 3% gains in overall productivity.
How can you stay productive in a work environment you can’t entirely control? It all starts with managing the temperature in your immediate workspace.
Instead of bundling up the moment you enter your workspace, make the temperature work for you by setting up a small heater below your desk. Placing the heater on a low setting will help balance out the temperature of a freezing office--just remember to turn it off!
Does your workspace have plenty of windows? The amount of sunlight let into a space can make all the difference for temperature. To keep an office cooler, try to see if the windows can be covered with blinds during the hottest times of day--and make sure the reverse happens if your office is too cold!
Certain indoor plants have been known to help regulate the temperature of their space, especially if indoor temperatures get to be too warm. If your office is above the recommended 76℉ during the summer, add an aloe vera plant or snake plant to your desk for some added help.
It may not be possible for every workspace, but if you are located near a window that can be opened, make a note of doing so every few hours throughout the workday. An open window will let in fresh outdoor air that can help regulate indoor temperatures and even help clean out any airborne chemicals in your space.
Of course, it can be just as distracting to try to keep tabs on the exact temperature in your office throughout the day. Placing an indoor air quality monitor on your desk, like Awair, can help do the work for you. Awair tracks the factors that affect your indoor air quality--like temperature--and can both alert you and give you recommendations when these factors reach outside a healthy range. Awair also keeps track of how your air quality fluctuates throughout the day via graphs, which can be useful when showing to building management if you’re trying to advocate for a change in your building’s temperature. Awair also offers enterprise solutions if your company is striving to improve employee productivity, health, and profitability at a larger scale.
The recent California fires created a statewide impact that stretched well beyond it's flames. When disasters like fires spread smoke to cities miles away, we typically trust the indoors (such as our homes and workplaces) as a safe haven. Unfortunately, fine particles, smoke and chemicals from the fires easily penetrated businesses and homes across the state. Across California business and homes, Awair sensors saw an over 1800% increase in harmful fine dust (PM2.5)
In December, I joined Awair as a key advisor and board member. I first became interested in the company after meeting its founders and hearing about their dedication to studying and improving indoor air quality. While they started the company to improve their children’s lives, their products can help anyone measure indoor air quality in real time. To me, that creates an enormous opportunity to improve people’s lives everywhere.
As many students, teachers, and administrators return to in-person learning this fall, there are mixed feelings about health and safety. School districts have come under heat time and time again for building issues, particularly in underfunded communities. For instance, a 2020 report from the United States Government Accountability Office found that “one-third of public schools were estimated to have inadequate heat, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.” Since COVID-19 spreads most rapidly in poorly ventilated areas, there is urgency amongst school leaders to improve indoor air quality and, therefore, reduce the spread of lingering airborne viruses.