Working in the Arctic

Posted on July 11, 2010

In 2005, Junichiro Koizumi, then the Prime Minister of Japan (and epic hair guy) announced a “Cool Biz” campaign. The basic idea of this campaign was that, between June and September, office workers should dress down rather than wear ties and jackets. In doing so, offices could raise their thermostats to around 82°F, thus saving on energy and carbon dioxide emissions. Several years later, the UN took on its own form of the program, though they kept their thermostats at a cooler 77°F. Both programs were largely successful and really saved a bunch on emissions.

Now contrast this to several of the offices I’ve been in in the past few years. My current office is very cold; there’s no way it’s set above 70 degrees. The company office is even colder, to the point where I wear a button-down shirt and slacks and I’m cold. And my girlfriend’s office is even colder – even in the middle of the summer she wears a sweater around the office, and she’s still cold. Honestly I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than this. It’s such a waste of energy! Why do offices have to be that cold? There’s no intrinsic value to it; it’s not like people shivering work more efficiently or something.

Yes, it’s true that some offices don’t get to control their thermostat: rather, it’s set by the building. But that seems equally ridiculous, and the owners of the buildings are at fault for keeping it so cold. And it’s not these are offices that are open to the public, and we’re keeping the doors open to try to lure people in (which, incidentally, is illegal here in New York City.) These are closed offices where the only people around are our teams.

I’m not advocating wearing a T-shirt and board shorts to offices where customers are coming through and you’re trying to sell them products. But in an office where it’s just you and your fellow coworkers all day, I think you should be able to dress down a bit and turn up the thermostats. In doing so, everyone wins: your team is more comfortable and the environment is less damaged.

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