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We've recently moved to a new location in the outer suburbs, and in new shared offices. In our previous location, we had no ability to open windows, or control heating and cooling.

In our new offices, we can now open the windows, and have an individual heater/air conditioner for every office.

I share an office with two other people which makes this complicated.

One runs hot like me, and prefers it to be cooler (but not freezing!) I would say 22-23 is comfortable (though to be honest at home I would keep it more in the 20 range, but I'm happy to compromise). The other runs cold, and prefers it hotter, around 28 if they could! They constantly turn the air con off even when we set it to 24, and when we compromise with opening one of the windows to let fresh air in, they shut the window too, complaining that the wind and the sound is distracting. They also keep the office door closed as it gets quite noisy outside, so no other air circulates, it gets VERY stuffy and hot with three people in a not-so-large space.

How might we best approach this situation without seeming like we're ganging up on the individual? I don't mind open windows, I prefer it over a freezing cold air conditioner, but to not be able to do that either is getting ridiculous and affecting my work productivity. I don't want the individual to feel bad either, and just want to come to a good solution/compromise for the three of us so we can work better.

  • Have you addressed the bigger picture before at all? If so, how did this colleague react? – Lilienthal Feb 14 '18 at 8:06
  • Are you sure this conflict is really about the temperature? Imagine for a second the temperature and window situation would be perfect for all of you, would you be happy in that office together? Or would soon something else come up? Maybe someone wants a little background music, someone not, or anything else. Reasonable people should be able to make compromises and talk about things, not just switch something on or off. – Edgar Feb 14 '18 at 9:38
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    If someone only feels comfortable in a 28C environment it's possible they have some kind of medical condition. Also, do you have an HR department that could mediate? – user Feb 14 '18 at 10:43
  • Is there a reason for this particular office layout? I mean, shuffling people with similar ideas of optimal temperature around - may be the easiest solution, unless this is like a 3 people team that must be in the same room. – TomTom Feb 14 '18 at 12:24
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    @Edgar to be honest I wonder if there is something else going on, some other tension that could be contributing. – researchD Feb 15 '18 at 8:47
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Biology rules in this case.

You can always get a heater or put on more clothes if you are too cold, but the options are limited if you're too hot, and that's how you can begin to approach it.

I'm sorry, Dave, but it's just too hot in here for us. I'm sorry if you're uncomfortable, but you can put on a jacket or sweater while we can't do anything to cool off

If you're VERY comfortable with this person and are CERTAIN they wouldn't take offense, you could make a joke of it.

I'm sorry, Dave, but if we dress any less for the heat, HR may write us up.

or something like that.

But the point you need to make is that you cannot make yourself cooler as easily as he/she could either wear more clothes or get a space heater(depending on building and company rules)

  • Exactly why I like it up north here in the states. Can always put on more clothes until I'm warm. I can only take off so many clothes before I'm not allowed outside anymore and I'm still hot. – BirdLawExpert Feb 14 '18 at 17:59
  • I completely agree with this answer, but I would add that a high comfort temperature can indicate poor circulation. In extreme cases these people can bundle up to the extreme, but still be left without feeling in their hands and fingers, impacting comfort and effectiveness; I've been in this position before. While space heaters can solve this problem if they're allowed, some level of compromise may be advisable in extreme cases. – Nicholas Feb 14 '18 at 20:05
  • @BirdLawExpert if only! I live in a hot country in the summer (40+ degrees C). – researchD Feb 15 '18 at 8:53
  • @Nicholas I agree which is why I don't want to make assumptions about this person's needs (I don't know them well at all) as my mother suffers from the same condition and I know it can be very painful, so trying to be as considerate as possible. On the other end, people can also suffer from heat intolerance, such as those with MS which can cause symptoms to flare up and reduce body capabilities. I don't have MS (that I know of) but I do suffer from something similar that has gotten worse as I've gotten older (so makes me wonder). Double bind! – researchD Feb 15 '18 at 8:56
  • Good argument to make. I'd combine it with clearly stating a target temperature you want to maintain going forward. 21C is the typical office standard so suggesting 22 if you're comfortable with it should be an acceptable compromise. – Lilienthal Feb 15 '18 at 9:49
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You have come in touch with one of the most touchy subjects in office environments: the office temperature!

Being on the hot side myself (my comfort zone is around 18-20 degree Celsius), I understand the topic.

What I did when I had to face the issue was: I tried lightening my clothes as much as the office dress code allowed, and then if that was not enough I engaged the "cold" person making visible that I could not be less dressed than that, asking if he/she could do something to help me, too.

You can also try seating the cold person away from the window, so that when it is slightly opened the disturbance will be minimized.

  • yes absolutely! This person is sitting the furthest away from the air conditioning and the window (I sit closest to both as I run hot) but apparently this is not sufficient. I am already dressed as lightly as I can without it become inappropriate. – researchD Feb 15 '18 at 8:52
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I am a "cold" person and when working in an office with about 10 "warm" ones, all I could do was dress accordingly. I found extra large scarves and ponchos work wonders, so if you think this would be appropriate you could gift your co-worker an office scarf/blanket. Of course only if your relationship allows this without offence and it fits the dress code.

You could also try to find a compromise, e.g. open all windows once every half hour for 5 minutes to let in fresh air (adjust accordingly). The "cold" person could even leave the room for coffee or toilet breaks, so they don't have to "suffer".

P.S. I also found that cold-hot compresses work wonders for cold hands when you have a microwave in the office. Just heat it up every once in a while and you have a perfect personal way of heating up.

  • just commenting to say cold-hot compresses is an acceptable term in English :) – BirdLawExpert Feb 14 '18 at 18:01
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I am the cold person, i found a small oil filled radiator under my desk, kept my personal area warm, but didn't really affect the others too much.

And of course you need to come dressed for summer every day

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    Some offices/buildings prohibit space heaters. Check before buying one! – alroc Feb 14 '18 at 14:10
  • @alroc mine tried but faced with me sat there wrapped up in blankets saying "but I am cold" they couldn't find an alternative solution. – WendyG Feb 14 '18 at 16:59
  • @WendyG That's horrible. As much as I am the hot person, I feel for those who run cold and function better in heat. I wish more offices would actually pair people up based on temperature/noise needs to avoid some of this tension. – researchD Feb 15 '18 at 8:57

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