Engineered Systems Magazine

JCI study: most will sacrifice comfort to save energy

October 29, 2009

Business owners should think twice before tweaking workplace temperature settings this fall. According to a new survey of office workers, sixty-nine percent said they would be willing to sacrifice their preferred ideal temperature in the office to help their company conserve energy. However, the survey also found that nearly four in five participants (78 percent) say they are less productive at work when they are too hot or too cold.

Johnson Controls commissioned a survey of nearly 800 American adults who work in an office setting. The good news: The findings indicate that many workers think their employers could be doing more to be energy efficient. The challenge: Business owners must avoid a negative impact on office productivity and the possibility that workers may take action to circumvent their discomfort, including the use of portable heaters or fans, if temperatures are not ideal.

“Employers may be tempted to turn down the thermostats this fall, but this quick fix could lead to hidden costs,” said Clay Nesler, vice president of Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls. “Energy efficient systems and equipment is the win-win alternative, allowing businesses to save energy and money without sacrificing workplace productivity.”

Almost all participants said their office has been too hot or too cold at some point (98 percent) and when that occurs, most (78 percent) said they are less productive. Not only does workplace productivity suffer, individual actions – such as bringing a heating or cooling device into the office – result in increased energy use.

• Forty-nine percent of office workers have used a fan when it was too hot in their office, and 28 percent used a space heater when it was too cold.
• Nearly one-third (30 percent) have left their office building to take a walk outside when it was too hot or too cold in their work space.
• Forty-one percent have informed their office manager or custodian of their discomfort.
• Approximately seven in ten (69 percent) have adjusted their clothing, such as adding a sweater if was too cold or removing a layer if it was too hot.

American workers expect their employers to take action. The results indicate that forty-five percent think their employer is not doing enough to make their office environments energy efficient.