Keep Cool in the Office

Global warming aside, we in the UK still live in a temperate climate but that doesn’t mean to say that during our summers, the office can be a very uncomfortable place to be. In the UK, we’re not geared up for hot, humid temperatures and have in the past, not built our office blocks to cater for this. Heat is harder to deal with than cold. We have fewer options to stay cool than we do to stay warm. Heat exhaustion, and it’s more serious cousin heat stroke, are not to be toyed with.

You can of course install Air Conditioning, either permanently or free standing units as and when the need arises. But, by doing so, we’re increasing our carbon footprint (A/C units don’t run on fresh air) and, it is argued, A/C may result in an uncomfortable or unhealthy environment. Some people near the units get too cold, others not cool enough whilst others open windows, thereby negating the benefits of A/C which are designed to operate in closed environments. After all, you’re paying to cool the air so why let it escape out the window.

If you do use A/C make sure you change the filters regularly, this prevents pollen and air contaminants building up and being blown into the office and also ensures the A/C unit operates at its most efficient.

Office Fans

Last thing to remember, if you want A/C, or even fans, GET THEM NOW, don’t wait until the temperatures are in the 80s as the supply chain for A/C and air cooling equipment invariably fails to keep pace with demand, availability will dry up as frantic managers go down to the DIY stores to buy up 20 office fans and coolers to prevent staff from downing tools.

In most instances, opening the windows may be sufficient. Remember though that the ideal is to create cross ventilation to move air from the cool (shaded) side of the building and out of the windows on the hot (sunny) side of the building. You might try supplementing open windows with strategically placed fans, the idea behind using them is not to cool each worker individually but to ‘vent’ hot air and suck in cool air.

Here are a few other things you can try.

Review the office dress code

If shorts are acceptable then let people know exactly what shorts can and can’t be worn, e.g. Bermuda shorts are ok but football shorts aren’t.

Are sandals acceptable footwear? If so, advertise the fact, after all, the cooler your feet the cooler the rest of the body will be.

Stay hydrated

Provide easy and free access to drinking water but sip it slowly as over hydration is as bad as underhydration.

Avoid sugary drinks as well as too much tea and coffee.


Spray your face and neck with a water mist. The household plant sprays will do the job. This works best if there’s a fan nearby as the moving air evaporates off the skin and is one of the best ways of keeping cool.

Appliances & Lighting

Turn off all unnecessary lights or machinery, anything electrical will give off some heat.

If you use Halogen bulbs, replace them or turn them off as Halogen bulbs give off a lot of heat.

What to look out for

- Sweating, dizziness and a racing pulse are all signs that the body is trying to keep itself cool.

- Pumping more blood to the skin makes the heart work harder and decreases the blood supply to the gut and other organs.

- The result is a general feeling of malaise.

- When the body becomes dehydrated or too hot, some tissues can leak toxins into the blood stream and muscle damage can occur.

It’s not all doom and gloom and the British Summer is a time to enjoy even though you may be stuck in an office for 5/7th of the week. Keeping cool is largely about applying a bit of common sense and you don’t necessarily need to buy elaborate A/C units, after all, as we all know, the British Summer doesn’t last that long,…..unfortunately.


Carl Barton is a director of Office Allsorts who has worked in the office products industry for 15 years.

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