Thermal Comfort: A hot topic in any work environment

As the battle of the office thermostat wages on in workplaces around the globe, researchers at the Well Living Lab in Rochester, Minnesota are investigating the impact of thermal comfort on workplace productivity, comfort and employee health and well-being. That information can be used to inform future design and building standards for employers, building owners and operators, and ultimately, individuals in a wide variety of work environments.

Thermal comfort is the feeling of being satisfied with how hot or cold you feel in a given environment. This is a subjective measure that was first developed in the 1960s and is represented as a seven-point scale: 0 being comfortable or neutral, positive 1-3 indicate feeling warm, and negative 1-3 indicate feeling cold.

Over the years, it has been acknowledged that this scale requires continued research. The original concept was developed based on input from white, male office workers, who dominated the workforce in the ‘60s. Studies are currently underway to gain a broader representation of thermal comfort measures from today’s diverse workforce.

Thermal comfort can be affected by geographic location as well. People who live near the equator tend to have a higher tolerance of heat. In places like Russia and northern Canada, people have a higher tolerance of cold. As additional influences on thermal comfort continue to be discovered, it’s important to continue research to help provide the best working environments possible for people across the world.

Learn more about thermal comfort and how it can impact health, well-being and productivity in indoor environments in this video presentation by Jie Zhao, Ph.D., Director of Delos Labs. Dr. Zhao is a researcher at the Well Living Lab and delivered a presentation titled “What we know about Thermal Comfort”, during Mayo Clinic’s Transform 2016.

ASHRAE. ASHRAE Standard 55-2013 — Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. 2013.