Offices can be hotbeds of intrigue, as we all know. The once-obscure term ‘office politics’ is now understood by everyone, and there are many other ways that conflict can flare in an office environment – from the serious, such as gross misconduct or constant, buck-passing incompetence, to the petty, such as never washing up your coffee mug or replacing the sugar. One of the most potentially explosive conflicts, however, is a seasonal one: battles over the air conditioning.

 The all-or-nothing aircon wars

When it’s sweltering outside, nobody wants to feel the same way in the office, especially if it is humid as well. Air conditioning of some kind is essential to maintain comfort and productivity. Why is it, then, that some colleagues always go too far and either refuse to tolerate any lowering of the temperature at all, or turn the aircon up to Arctic levels, forcing many co-workers to wear cardigans and jumpers in the office in the middle of a summer heat wave?

The twin pillars of truth for office planners

The problem lies in the fact that everyone is different – we all have different levels of tolerance to heat and cold. As a result, keeping everyone happy in the same workspace is a thorny issue for office space planning professionals to tackle. To resolve this problem, it is important for planners and office managers to realise two important truths: although the boss has the final say, their choice absolutely has to take into account the needs and feelings of their workforce. The other vital truth is that perfection is impossible – you will never be able to perfectly please everyone, so compromise of some sort is the only way forward.

Involving staff in the solution

The staff themselves have it in themselves to be part of the solution, of course. Those who find the summer heat intolerable should try to come to an accommodation with those who feel the cold greatly, such as sufferers from anaemia, and swap places so they are nearer the aircon units. Similarly, those in charge of switching the air conditioning on or off should ensure there is at least a degree of consensus and avoid exercising despotic control over the controls. They should at least not automatically switch it to its coldest setting, regardless of the ambient temperature.

A reasonable proposition

This final point leads us to the nearest there really is to a one-size -fits-all solution: keeping the air conditioning at a generally tolerable level. Aircon units do not have to be blasting out icy air, they can easily be set so that they blow at a temperature only slightly lower than the natural room temperature itself. This provides comfort and relief to those suffering from the heat, while also preventing those prone to chills from turning into blocks of ice at their desks.