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HR Insights: Legally Required Office Temperature for Employers

Is there a legally required office temperature for employers?

HR Insights: Expert answers to common HR Questions

Scenario:

"Our company hired a new manager who recently moved from a warmer state, and he likes to set the temperature to 62 degrees. I tried to wear layers, but it gets so cold that I have to wear gloves, which gets in the way of typing! Our thermostat is only accessible by management, so even on the days he is gone I can’t turn it up. Surely there is a law about reasonable thermostat practices, right? TLDR; Is there a legally required office temperature for employers?"


Answer:

While there is no federal law requiring employers to keep the thermostat at a certain temperature, OSHA recommends keeping it between 68 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the industry or state you work in, there may be some additional requirements. Employers are required to follow OSHA’s general duty clause, which charges employers with providing a place of employment that ‘is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees’. Employers should take note of this if they have employees working in extreme heat, whether indoors or outdoors. For more information on OSHA’s recommendations, you can check here.


But that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter- that pesky thermostat. The government may not be able to fix that problem for you, but you can control your own destiny. Or temperature, at any rate. For cold temperatures, layers is always a good idea, allowing you to put on or take off what you need to keep at a comfortable temperature. For hot temperatures, it gets a little tricker. Employees should try to wear clothes that are light and don’t trap a lot of heat, but remember, keep it professional. Shorts and a logo t-shirt are not going to fly in most workplaces. Still, that implies that the temperature is at least manageable. If it becomes too hot or cold, to the point where even your clothing can’t keep up, then it’s time to have that awkward, but necessary talk with whomever controls the thermostat. See if you can come to a compromise.

After receiving this question, Vida HR took an informal poll of its employees to ask their ideal thermostat temperature. Here are the results.

  • 16% prefer a temperature between 66-68 degrees.

  • 33% prefer a temperature between 69-71 degrees.

  • 50% prefer a temperature between 72-74 degrees.

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