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I work at a desk job as a software developer and like the rest of the IT department, we are in the basement of our building. As a result of this and constant air conditioning I find it is quite cold. We have a business casual dress code (which I normally translate into khaki pants and a dress shirt) but after a day of sitting at my desk shivering, I determined this was not an option. I tried wearing a shirt under my dress shirt and a professional looking sweater on top but still found myself spending more time being cold then working. The only thing I have found which keeps be sufficiently warm at work is wearing two hoodies on top of a shirt which unfortunately does not meet 'business casual'.

A few notes: I am an exceptionally cold individual (temperature, not personality!), there are people who wear short sleeve shirts on occasion at my office so I don't think requesting that the climate should be changed is practical. Space heaters are not an option, company policy has deemed them a fire hazard. I have owned a couple business looking sweaters but I find that they are not very warm and don't look great when wearing more than one.

Any recommendations as to mitigate being cold while still dressing properly?

  • 5
    what actually is the temperature sounds like you may have an underlying medical condition. I used to wear a gillet when I worked in cold lab environments. – Pepone Jul 14 '14 at 22:04
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    Thermal T-shirts. Put them on and take them off in the bathroom. A friend of mine also swears by the UnderAenor line of clothing. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 15 '14 at 2:23
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    Are you sitting in the path of an air conditioner blower? Is it just cold where you sit or is it cold all over? If you sit somewhere else, do you still feel cold? Check the position of the thermostat. Is it on top of a heater? – cup Jul 16 '14 at 11:51
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    cold intolerance is one of the signs of thyroid disorders. might be time for a physical if you have not been checked for this recently. – Jessica Brown Jul 18 '14 at 16:40
  • I worked for a well known company where it was standard to wear a suit and tie to work but during winter when for some reason the air con was still cold I had no issue wearing a jumper, I think the same should be true in your situation where you have a much more casual environment. – pi31415 Dec 2 '14 at 2:42
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I ran into this very problem on a recent project. The weather outside was over 100F, but inside it was much, much cooler.

My advice is to leave a jacket (something business-casual like) at your desk. That way, when you're in the middle of a code marathon, go ahead and get cozy. Meetings and the like can be handled by simply taking off said jacket and going to meet with whoever you need to.

Edited to add: I forgot the best part! The cold ended up bringing the team together. We referred to the lab as "Hoth" and at one point we were considering a group buy for "Snuggies" (a blanket with sleeves) with our project's logo on them.

  • Seconded. I had a goosedown vest/jacket that I would wear when I got particularly cold. If you want, you could also get a sportcoat to wear over your button-down shirt. Camelshair is pretty comfy and with the right modern fit, would not make you look like a grandpa. – Garrison Neely Jul 14 '14 at 22:13
  • Or a good-looking sweater. If you're cold, you're entitled to wear another layer. If you're too hot, that becomes more difficult to manage. – keshlam Jul 15 '14 at 6:26
  • I agree. I had the same problem at a client last year while they were having problems with their heating. I wore a vest (singlet), thick cotton shirt, thick open neck wool jumper and a heavy jacket while sitting at my desk. Sometimes I even left my hat on. Not the most comfortable, but better than freezing. – Mark Micallef Jul 16 '14 at 4:34
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Silk long underwear is your new best friend. Seriously!! Keeps in warmth without adding lots of bulk. It can be purchased with different levels of heat retention, so you can choose the one that's going to work best for you. (Lightweight probably won't cut it, for your particular situation.)

Wear the silk long underwear like an undershirt, and put your day's shirt on over that. Then over that, add one sweater (which would live at your desk) if you need it...et voila. The only potential downside would be that in very warm weather, you may want to add that layer once you're actually at work (duck into the bathroom or something) to keep from roasting on the way in.

Also, another note: in the winter, I can be wearing as many layers as I want on my body; but if my feet are cold, I'M cold. I put on an extra pair of socks, and I might not need quite as many layers elsewhere. You may find that covering your hands, wearing thicker socks, or covering your head helps with this chill-problem. Good luck - being uncomfortable where you work is utterly lousy.

  • 1
    Consider wearing underleggings as well as an undershirt. Multiple layers on your top half can be outperformed by a single layer all over. – Kate Gregory Jul 15 '14 at 19:09
  • It's been several years, but I once heard a talk by a guy who was tasked with investigating why a particular employee's computer kept crashing. It turned out that her silk undergarments were leading to a build up of static electricity which caused the computer to crash when it discharged. Hopefully systems are better protected now, but it might be worthwhile to be aware of this. – GreenMatt Apr 29 '15 at 15:03
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I had to bring in fingerless gloves. Having my hands be warm made a huge difference. You can take them off when you leave the desk to still have the business casual appearance.

  • I have read that about 50% of body heat is radiated from the head (so wear a hat) and 30% from hands and feet. – user37746 Nov 30 '15 at 14:44
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There are many different ways to mitigate this, as several others have answered. One more option, not yet offered, is to get up more and move around. If you have stairs, or an easy way to walk outside, take a break when you start getting too cold, and walk up a couple of flights of stairs, or walk around your building in the hot outside. Both will get a bit more blood movement going, and will help warm you up. If you have a desk job, it is healthier, too.

I personally use many of the options listed: I have a sweater I keep here (as well as a blanket for my lap), I drink hot tea, and I try to get up about once an hour and walk around the building during the summer, climb stairs in the winter. I've used gloves on occasion.

1

Professional Appearance

In general, your workplace will set what is considered professional attire. Clothing like polos, jeans, or cargo pants may be allowed in some organizations, but not others; for what clothing is allowed specifically, ask someone in HR, or look in your employee handbook.

That aside, the best ways to stay warm don't have to affect the outermost layers of clothing. Undershirts, long underwear, and double-layer socks will provide plenty of comfort, without changing the outside layer of clothing. In fact, you may not have to buy a new wardrobe at all, as long as you choose the right underclothing.

Layer

Layers are awesome. You can wear a thin thermal undershirt, a tank top, a t-shirt, a blouse/shirt, and a vest or sweater, which provides five (or six, if you wear both the vest and sweater) layers of clothing. Thick, long underwear under trousers is also a good idea, and multiple pairs of socks will keep your feet warm. If the day grows warmer (or you know you will be in a warmer part of the office), you can remove some of the under layers without changing your appearance.

Remember that many thin layers always trumps a few thick layers. Also, if you keep your core warm, it's a lot easier to warm up your extremities.

Buy Quality

When buying clothing, don't just buy what's on sale, or what looks good. Look at reviews online, and shop around for used clothing for a better deal. Cheap clothing is often made with a very low thread count, which may save money in the short term, but will also hold very little heat. I have a few cheap shirts that are great for the summer - they're so thin, wind goes straight through them. The thicker the fabric and the tighter the knit, the more heat the clothing will hold. Since you want to hide multiple layers, you should get loose, long-sleeved shirts, trousers that are not too tight, and shoes that will allow an extra layer of socks.

If possible, buy insulated shoes, or insulated inserts; otherwise, wear long wool socks. Man-made fleece works as well, but I've found that they wear out faster.

Choose materials wisely

Cotton is a great fabric for summer, but it doesn't hold heat well. The thick weave of polyester holds heat well - but don't get too warm, because it doesn't regulate very well. If you get warm enough to sweat, polyester will move from your best friend to your worst enemy in the blink of an eye. Don't wear it next to your skin. Wool has the same thick weave, but it has the added property of being able to wick moisture away from the skin; it works as a thick outer layer or as a thin inner layer. Silk doesn't hold heat as well, but it makes an excellent base-layer, especially if paired with polyester. It's a good idea to research what materials are available; new materials can make layers thinner and warmer, not to mention more comfortable. Gone are the days of itchy flannel!

Heating Technology

Finally, there are other possibilities beyond clothing:

  • Reusable heat packs are small, gel-filled packs that hold heat and slowly release it. A heat pack in your shirt or trouser pocket can substantially warm you up.
  • Single-use heat packs are great if you don't have a way to heat the packs; they come in many shapes and sizes.
  • Electric USB heaters may not travel around the office, but they will warm your hands for long hours of programming; a quick Google search reveals pocket warmers, gloves, hand warmers, shawls, slippers, mouse pad, keyboard wrist-rest, and more, all in a variety of styles. Just remember to unplug them before you leave your desk!
  • Heated chair covers won't travel either, but they are more permanent, so at least you won't worry about pulling your computer off the desk when you walk away. As someone who has a heated seat in his car, I can attest to the fact that a heated seat can turn a freezing room into a sauna in seconds.
  • Coffee (or tea, my drink of choice) is warm and warming; even if you don't drink coffee, you can hold a mug to warm up, and microwave it occasionally to add the heat back.
  • Other heated things include heated keyboards, hand-warming USB mouse, pocket heaters, and even an overheated cell phone.
  • Exercise helps get your blood moving and your muscles warmed up; a brisk walk will do wonders to help you warm up.
  • 1
    This answers the 'how to keep warm' part of the question, but neglects the 'professionaly'. – user8036 Dec 2 '14 at 8:05
  • I used to have a very sturdy electric floor heat mat. It was designed for people standing on concrete all day, but worked great at a desk. It was only 75 Watts, so not a fire hazard. – user37746 Nov 30 '15 at 14:46
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I have a few tips I can give you. I have experienced that kind of temperature in the office. I am a mobile developer whose table was in front of the air conditioning (coldest place in the office). Aside from dressing in layers, just think of your office as a fun place to drink coffee. It could help warm you up. Another option, try to take a rest outside every 2 or 3 hrs for 5 minutes. You can also try to put your palm on your computer. Mine's a Macbook Pro and was kind of hot so that helped.

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Go Wool-man!

  • Wool or silk underwear
  • Wool sweaters - you can easily find business-like ones
  • Reusable heating pads!
  • Drink hot drinks
  • Stand up at the desk
  • Take a walk when coldest
  • Be sure to eat a healthy breakfest
  • Get more exercise to get a better circulation
  • this seems to ignore what is asked about, dressing professionally / properly. See How to Answer – gnat Apr 29 '15 at 15:09

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