18

I am a warm person to begin with, so I actually brought in a thermometer to verify.

I have been working here for years and never had an issue, but recently we underwent an office renovation and temperatures have since skyrocketed in some offices.

I have been told it is the sun beating on the windows/roof, and yes on sunny days it is worse, but that is not that is not the entire issue. I keep my blinds closed, I have a fan. The windows get so hot, you cannot even touch them.

HR has moved my office, but the problem is I got a bad one to begin with so all the offices with no temperature issues are already taken.

HR has made comments about how as a female I should like it, and really inappropriate things like am I going through menopause (I am not), but I don't think anyone should have to work in 80°F/26°C or 90°F/32°C temperatures. I losing productivity, feeling irritable, suffer from headaches and feel nauseous.

How should I approach this situation with HR, or management?

  • 8
    Why are you talking to HR & not Building Services / Maintenance / the landlord? – Dan Pichelman Mar 31 '16 at 17:19
  • 27
    Honestly though, if your HR department is making nasty, sexist comments, you should probably change jobs anyway. It doesn't sound like they're even capable of doing their job properly. – BSMP Mar 31 '16 at 17:34
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    Are you in the USA? – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 31 '16 at 17:35
  • 11
    @RichardU she certainly is, she's not using the metric system, unless she works in an oven, then maybe – Kyle Mar 31 '16 at 19:23
  • 8
    Since I'm probably not the only one who didn't know this: 80°F is 26°C, 90°F is 32°C. – Étienne Reinstate Monica Mar 31 '16 at 19:58
8

I can take 80° F but I don't know anyone that would think 90° F is reasonable for an office.

I don't know if you are in the US but OSHA has a temperature guideline of 68-76° F and humidity control in the range of 20% - 60%. But that is just a guideline and is not enforced.

I would go to your manager and then his / her manager and if that goes nowhere then you might need to start looking for another job. 90° F in an office is just not reasonable.

  • 3
    +1 for at least bringing up OHSA, but if looking for a job solved all problems we wouldn't need it in the first place. – user42272 Mar 31 '16 at 21:48
  • Remember- there are LOTS of jobs that are not in temperature controlled environments. – Paul Becotte Apr 1 '16 at 19:47
  • @PaulBecotte Remember the stated question is an office. And this answer is an office. – paparazzo Apr 1 '16 at 19:50
  • Understood- but the government is not going to step in here and force a business to turn up their air conditioning. – Paul Becotte Apr 1 '16 at 19:53
  • @PaulBecotte "But that is just a guideline and is not enforced." – paparazzo Apr 1 '16 at 19:55
5

Make sure your complaints are backed up by a log of temperatures in your office(s) and take your complaint to HR. If they are not helping you or say, sorry we don't have a temperature controlled place to allocate to you, you know what to do: QUIT. I hope you have some intangible skill to let you land another job shortly. No amount of money they are paying you is worth becoming miserable for 8 hours a day on every day of your life.

  • This does sound like they are none too subtly pushing her out the door. I agree. It's resume floating time. If they have not acted now, they will not act and are not a good employer. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 31 '16 at 17:39
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    Don't quit, this is a clear case of discrimination/harassment (being women or menopausal) and is an unsafe unproductive work environment. Depending on your jurisdiction you should try and document proof from HR (can you secretly record in your area) then take it to the appropriate agency. – Bill Leeper Mar 31 '16 at 19:28
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    meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/q/1692/16 - Just quit is not an acceptable answer here at The Workplace SE – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 31 '16 at 19:41
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    @Chad it is not just quit. It is if all else fail, you can quit and look for a job elsewhere where you will not be miserable. What is the better alternative to quitting in this case ? Suffer till retirement. Quitting is never the first answer in workplace problems but it always is a critical option. – MelBurslan Mar 31 '16 at 19:46
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    -1, sick of listening to IT professionals in extraordinarily labor-friendly job markets telling people they've never met how quitting is the right solution to workplace antagonism. – user42272 Mar 31 '16 at 21:48
3

HVAC is one of the things that is very likely to be screwed up when a building is renovated, particularly if the layout of the rooms within the building are changed. I have no doubt that the renovations could have resulted in the problems you've described.

The first step is to document the problem so people can't dismiss you by saying you're imagining or exaggerating the problem. I would get a wall clock with a date, and a thermometer and hang them next to each other on the wall and take a picture whenever the temperature gets unreasonable.

The second step is to find out who is responsible for the facilities. HR assigns your office, but who do you talk to when the plumbing is broken, or a light is out? That is who you want to talk to about the HVAC problems, and to show them your documentation of the problem. Maybe it is something that they're aware of and working on. Maybe they're fighting with the contractor that did the work to get them to fix it, and your documentation will help.

If they won't help you, there's not much you can do. OSHA has guidelines, but there is no regulation of office temperatures, other than requiring a business to report if any workers require medical care beyond first aid for heat exhaustion. If your work is something that lends itself to telecommuting, you might explore that option with your manager and reduce the number of days you have to suffer. Maybe you could do some desk sharing with someone that has a cooler office.

In the meantime, do what you can to make your office more comfortable. A compact fan to move the air around can make a world of difference, and there are options that aren't expensive. I have a little monkey fan that makes me smile in addition to making a poorly designed HVAC system a little more tolerable.

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2

You have to follow the chain of command, address the issue with your manager. Let them know that this is affecting your health, and that you need reasonable temperature control for your work space. Ask them if there is anything they can do to help. The answer may be no. But if there is anything that can be done they are the ones most likely to be able to get it done.

If they can not help you then it is time to make some tough decisions, would you rather work in the uncomfortable temps, or find a new job. If you can hold on to your job until you have a new one that generally works best. If not then can you survive with out your income for several months if needed to secure a new income. If so then quitting outright may be the best option for you. But make sure you are prepared for all the consequences that come with that decision.

1

If you're getting ill, file a Workers Compensation claim. If that doesn't get someone's attention that you are serious about the working conditions, I don't know what else will besides you quitting. They will be required to respond, by law.

-1

You are talking to the wrong people. You need to engage facilities or the landlord for your building.

Secondly you are being harassed. Try to document that as file a complaint with the appropriate authorities.

  • Building management will not do squat, unless you are the designated person from your office suite to submit trouble tickets. If you look at the original post, OP says there are some areas which are climate controlled. Probably where she is working does not have enough cold air flow from the AC system and heat absorption of the roof, being on the top floor, is not helping her either. If landlord jacks up the AC throughput, people on lower floors, who don't have this problem will complain about offices being too cold. Believe me I am living there in cold-land. – MelBurslan Mar 31 '16 at 19:34
  • 1
    I suppose it depends on the building management. I personally chat up our building supervisor and he would certainly look into a problem at least a little just on a casual discussion. If it required some major work it might be more, but it could also be blocked duct work, incorrectly set thermostats easy stuff. – Bill Leeper Mar 31 '16 at 19:39
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    having multiple offices with temperature issues while others are comfy, doesn't sound like a clapper forgotten in closed mode to me. Even if there is a fixable problem, it will not be an easy and cheap fix. OP should contact the management of her office and have AC checked for problems, at the least. This also will help her log the unreasonable temperatures as the first thing they will do is the sampling of temperature everywhere – MelBurslan Mar 31 '16 at 19:44
  • 1
    It could be a blocked or redirected circulation vent cause more or less air to enter and leave the office. Also many times office thermostats are either hidden or locked so that people don't mess with them. It's possible that nearby offices also share the thermostat and are cooler resulting in more hot air being directed to both. Either way she has exhauseted HR help in this, so facilities is the next logical step as is keeping all notes as to potential discriminatory behavior – Bill Leeper Mar 31 '16 at 19:56
-2

I am the original poster and wanted to follow up. The situation got progressively worse, and I ended up developing heat induced Eczema . I used to get a bit of Eczema on my eyelids once every few years, and had heat rashes as a baby, but never had it so bad I had to seek medical treatment. My arms and neck broke out in an itchy rash that became scaly and scabbed. It would only come on when I was in the office, when I was on vacation it went away. I took pictures and got a doctors note and actually showed HR. They took note and miraculously the building was able to get my office at a steady 70 degrees for the rest of the winter. In the summertime it stayed cool.

But here we are again and it's 85 degress consistently for the last two weeks. I got stern this time and told them they had one of four options

  1. Maintain the office at a temp below 75 (which I know they can do)
  2. Purchase me a portable AC unit
  3. Allow me to open a window or
  4. I will work remotely entirely.

It seems that 4 is the only option and so that's what I am doing. My boss is not objecting. This time no one disagrees that the temp in my office is unbearable. However, the answer seems to be that others are cold and so I just have to suffer. I should mention others are underdressed for the weather, and able to use office provided space heaters, but so be it. My experience has been that they give preference to those that are cold. If they do give me a hard time I will be filing a workers' compensation case with my doctor's back up.

I also have asked for a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition, so if they take away my ability to remote work I will fight with them. The doctor said that often people that have this condition do not regulate heat in the same way, instead of sweating they develop the rash and to them 70 feels like 80 which is why at 80 I was feeling so bad, it felt like 80 or 100 to my body.

I should mention I am a lawyer who practices in the field of Workers' Compensation defense, so yea they don't really seem to care that I am roasting in there and should know better but they don't. They are not trying to push me out, they promoted me. I think the bottom line is that in order to keep my office comfortable they have to freeze more people out so the majority wins out, or they would have to redo the entire HVAC system which is not feasible for them right now. It will never be fixed, so I am setting up my home office.

  • 3
    Hi Lisa, this should be an edit to your original question, not posted as an answer. I'm guessing that you did not register when you first posted, and so do not have the ability to edit the question as the OP. I recommend flagging your question for a moderator to see if you can have it associated with your account. – David K Oct 19 '18 at 12:42
-3

You're clearly not getting anywhere with the HR conversation, so stop before you make yourself unpopular. I suggest you go and buy a portable AC unit, get it delivered to work and plug it in. Put in an expenses claim for the unit and say nothing else. If they pay the claim, great. If they refuse, they will need to come to you with a solution. You should have evidence ready for that - keep a log of temperatures in your office. These are far too hot. If anyone says you're being unreasonable, politely suggest you swap desks for a day. You're request is reasonable, hold on to that, keep smiling and be nice.

  • 1
    This seems like a bit passive-aggressive. It may work in romantic relationships, but not in office ones. – Radu Murzea Apr 1 '16 at 10:46

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