Monday, September 17, 2012


Always Be Closing the Air Conditioning Vents

One of the painful ironies of office life is that we can never quite get the temperature right. We spend our summers shivering in meat lockers and our winters sweating in saunas.

Central air hasn’t made us comfortable, so much as made us uncomfortable in a different way.

The experience isn’t simply unpleasant. It comes with a real financial cost.

It turns out cold offices are unproductive offices. (Also, warmth equals love. Also, there's a thing called the "Misery Index.") Whose door will you be slipping this article under?

83 Comments / Post A Comment


It's true. I don't get anything done if the temperature is not optimal.


@Megano! Yeah, if I'm too cold, I just get sleepy.

fondue with cheddar

@Lucienne The temperature here is hardly ever optimal. The AC runs all year because the copiers get so hot, plus we've got a big window that lets in a lot of sunlight. I'm the only one who sits at my desk most of the day while everyone else runs around and is closer to said copiers. So I freeze unless the AC isn't powerful enough to offset the other stuff, in which case I sweat like everyone else. If I'm lucky I get an hour or two of comfort per day.

So now I can blame the temperature, and not The Hairpin, for my not getting anything done.


@Lucienne I get sleepy if I am too cold OR too hot.


@Lucienne I get irritable and self-pitying, especially when somebody opines that it's better to err on the side of cold workplaces because you can always 'just put on a sweater.'

fondue with cheddar

@datalass You can't put a sweater on your fingers! And you sure as hell can't type with gloves. Not that I haven't tried.


@datalass Ugh, I HATE that argument. I spent the entire first half the summer this year being the girl in my office who turns up the thermostat (and I represented at least 9 or 10 other employees who felt the same way about the frigid temperature). Then I got yelled at, so I resorted to wearing gloves and a blanket, which then caused people to be like, "Why don't you just wear sweaters and jeans?" Well, because it's 97 degrees outside, for one thing, and also - sweaters do not cover my blue fingers.


@datalass Well, I mean, it is better for me to be sleepy and cold than hot and dazed and miserable, probably? For some reason, it's my thighs that get cold, also. Even if nothing else is cold, my thighs will be cold. I don't know.


@datalass Worst argument ever.

Cold offices (and restaurants and bars and...) have taught me the value of key accessories to warmth. For a long time, I was the girl always with the office sweaters, but eventually, someone taught me that a scarf would go a lot farther than a sweater (especially the women's ones with big open necklines). The other revelation: wrist warmers. Most things sold as gloves these days don't actually make it very far past the base of the hand, but a fingerless object that covers all those close-to-the-skin veins going up the inside of your wrist works wonders. (Also useful when playing video games in the poorly-insulated living room.)


@Megano! Me too! Too cold is worse, though, because putting on extra layers is akin enough to pulling on blankets that some part of my lizard brain has this "soft things are covering us! To the sleeps!" Pavlovian response.

(Maybe I just need to find some itchy sweaters?)

Springtime for Voldemort

@datalass Ugh, I hate that argument! I mean, I know sweaters work for some people, but sweaters on me just make my torso hot enough to sweat, while my legs, hands, and feet continue to shiver. Being both too hot and too cold at the same time is not actually a step in the right direction.


@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) Fingerless gloves?

Antarctica or bust for my office temperatures.

fondue with cheddar

@Lucienne My thighs get cold too! I think it's because of the fat. It makes the insides warm, but the skin is cool to the touch.

@Biketastrophy Fingerless gloves work but they still make it hard to type because you've got all this extra fabric between your fingers.

Reginal T. Squirge


I get sleepy if I am awake.


An electronic foot warmer-pad has been a lifesaver in my office.


@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) I have notoriously warm hands, but I also work in DC, where they overheat offices in the winter and over-cool them in the summer, and thus I always have layers. I do have some fingerless gloves I made that would work for typing, but mostly what I do if my hands get annoyingly cold is get something hot to drink and use that to warm my hands up.


@olivebee So, I work in a school, and yesterday we had a typhoon day. As in, there was s typhoon, so all the children didn't come to school, all the teachers came to school, and then they opened all the windows to avoid the "this is a room full of computers and it's humid and sticky because typhoon." Mind you, they opened all the windows, including windows I have never seen open when there was not, in fact, a typhoon outside. I was wrapped in a fleece blanket with a sweatshirt all day.


fondue with cheddar

@sunshinefiasco WHAAAT. That's crazy. Why would they make you work?

More like typhoonfiasco, AMIRITE?


Definitly!. Loved it!.@l


[(Four offices on one circuit + one space heater per office)/next door neighbor's desire to live in tropical paradise] * importance of document I am currently working on = likelihood of power loss

Tuna Surprise

You can pry my space heater out of my warm, dead hands.

Valley Girl

@Tuna Surprise Your dead mummy fingers, even!


@Tuna Surprise We aren't allowed to have any of that. Our office has fire and security who will promptly confiscate that shit if they catch wind of it. Too many people burning their shits down, I guess.


@meganmaria: How would they feel about corporate logo slankets/snuggies?


This is why I work from within a hermetically sealed mobile desk. Imagine a popemobile, but with more computer monitors inside it.

Jane Marie

@deepomega see, but don't the multiple computer monitors make it too hot in there? THERE IS NO SOLUTION.


What it really comes down to is that the only way you're going to get me to be 100% productive is if you just finally go and upload my brain to the Matrix.

*Shivers at her desk in her Lab Cardigan.*


Coffee is for closers of air conditioning vents.

Reginal T. Squirge

You're talking about what? You're talking about... Bitchin' about that vent you forgot to close, some sonofabitch who don't wanna turn the AC off, some broad you're trying to screw, so forth. Let's talk about something important. They all here?

All but one.

I'm goin' anyway. Let's talk about something important.


WHAT YOU'RE HIRED FOR, is to cool us... does that seem clear to you? TO COOL US, not to... HEAT-US-UP... to cool those who are going out there to try to earn a living... You fan. You company fan.

Reginal T. Squirge

Oh, man. That one was so perfect.

I could hear Pacino reading that one.


Just sent to our office manager. Maybe now they'll shell out to heat the office to more than 68F in winter. Haha, just kidding.


Not only is my communal office (me and three others) freezing IN ZONES (my poor coworker has the vent right over her), we've also got massive temperature swings from one part of the building to the other. THIS IS WHY YOU DON'T PUT NEW OFFICES IN OLD SCHOOLS.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Multiple people from the other side of the office--in a fairly new, typical office building--have come over to my side of the office and commented how much colder it seems. I just glare and retighten my blanket.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Ugh, this is exactly what our office is like--the department used to be in a different building, but then they spruced up this ooooold one (which is set to be torn down in a few years anyway) and moved us here, and the temperature can't get regulated for shit. The front of the building gets boiling hot, which kicks on the A/C in my office (at the opposite end) and that's why there's a wrap in my desk drawer. They fixed it a little a couple of months ago so that I'm not shivering all day, but it's still pretty bad.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher YES WE HAVE THIS TOO. Only we have a new-ish building! When I worked upstairs I had a fan. When I moved downstairs I took it with me, only to spend that winter wearing my coat and occasionally gloves. All summer I have been miserable, because apparently we don't heat enough but definitely over air-condition, but if I go to the photo studio or the warehouse I have to remove layers immediately. WHAT.

We had maintenance block the vent above my desk and my neighbor's, and it's kind of tolerable today. I used to have a cold breeze blowing my hair around.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher - Our building is different temperatures everywhere too, but even worse than that is that my office room is inexplicably muggy/damp feeling ALL THE TIME while nowhere else in the building is. I tried leaving the door open so the air would mingle with the air in the next room over, but people keep closing it to keep things quiet for the people on the phones. There is no solution, I just feel gross every day.


@KeLynn AUGH. Gross. Does Damp Rid do anything to help?


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Hmmmmm I actually hadn't thought of trying that! I'm going to Target tonight to see what I can dig up!


I just had to put jeans on. And I'm wearing a scarf. In my officle in Midtown Manhattan. I think it's about 60 degrees in here right now.
I keep a heating pad at my desk so I won't bother others with my temperature preferences, but I'm contemplating snowpants as well.


We spend our summers shivering in meat lockers


Central air hasn’t made us comfortable


we’re programmed to seek out warmth



@queenofbithynia FOR REAL. Put on a sweater. Buck up.


@queenofbithynia Yeah, there has only been one place I've worked where I've been too cold. It was a museum, and my desk was right over the AC and it's not like you can whine about museum air temp control.

Otherwise? BRING. IT. I end up bare armed in winter in my building.

I am a polar bear.


@PistolPackinMama But I'm alllllways so cold. :( Gimme some of your polar-bear-ness.

Judith Slutler

@PistolPackinMama In winter, I'm the same way. But put me in an air conditioned office in the summer and I will end up with the worst summer cold.




@PistolPackinMama Everybody on the train this morning: pants and jackets. Me: pencil skirt and, finally, a shirt with sleeves.


Some like it cold.




@Emmanuelle Cunt I can deal with the too hot in winter. I can wear a coat on the bus. But a too cold summer office? I haaaate it. Everyone else in my office drives to work, so they are dressed only for the office. I bus or bike, so I have to essentially dress for winter AND summer. Except for when the bus is ALSO refridgerated. Bus drivers: if you are wearing pants and a jumper and everyone else is in short shorts, your air con is up too high.


In my last office, I shared a thermostat with a woman going through menopause. I, on the other hand, have lazy circulation and cold hands/feet the year round. Thermo-discontent was pretty much unavoidable.


@datalass Yup.

Except the woman I shared the office with was in complete denial that she was going through menopause, and instead would yell at me that I was NOT COLD! as I shivered under a wrap, with a wheatbag on my lap.


My office is freezing, and I'm commenting here on the Hairpin right now. It's your fault, office!


I just don't understand why this is hard to figure out? It works fine for me at home. You can't just leave the thermostat on one "room temperature" all year. That's too cool in the summer and too warm for the winter because we don't dress the same all year round. You have to set the temperature slightly above that in the summer because your clothes aren't as warm and a couple degrees below in the winter because we're all wearing sweaters and tights. I mean... right?

fondue with cheddar

@Punk-assBookJockey I have one coworker who's hot all the time. I get upset at him when he comes to work in a long-sleeved shirt and complains about being too warm.


@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) But part of this is an issue with the definition of professional clothing, depending on where you work. Men in short sleeve shirts, in my workplace, would be frowned upon. While I absolutely love skirts and dresses year round (though the knee and thigh high socks that can facilitate my comfort have definitely raisee eyebrows when people walk into my office unannounced).


@a whole thing of candy beans (formerly jen325) YES. Dress appropriately people! I mean, I get that not everyone is comfortable at the same temperature all the time, but you need to dress for the weather outside and the temperature inside should correlate somewhat to the weather. And then, since we all know what to expect, we can dress for the office if we have special temperature needs.


In the Patriarchy-Hurts-Men-Too category put: men don't get to dress appropriately, men get to dress in pants and long sleeved shirts with buttoned or tie-ed collars.


@Punk-assBookJockey Or just walk around your home naked all year?

I def. agree about this en re public spaces, though. If I'm dressed appropriately for a 95 degree days, I don't want to risk dying of hypothermia before my fajitas arrive.


@Onymous Yeah that is probably true at some workplaces, but on the hottest days of the year I think most places understand a short sleeve button up. Or at my company anyway and its pretty conservative.
@ThatWench Yeah I meant public places and offices (which I think count as public places, mostly). Works for me at home too though. I hate going to restaurants in the summer because they are so cold. And it's not like I'll bring a sweater with me if it's 98 degrees outside!


I try hard to dress appropriately, but this leads me to wear my entire collection of cardigans and blazers in the summer and still be miserably cold in the office. Then, of course, I can't do anything immediately after work without roasting. The weird thing is that I usually run really hot, and I have never in my life been this cold before. I do get it though - I have a coworker who consistently wears a very small sundress and then complains that she's freezing. I'm sitting there in my pants and jacket going "you should have brought a sweater for our arctic office."

fondue with cheddar

@swirrlygrrl Um...I'm at work right now, and I'm wearing jeans and sandals. I wear t-shirts most of the time, just not today, and I keep a flannel here for warmth. So yeah, we're a pretty casual office. There's no excuse not to dress temperature-appropriate. Fortunately, Warm Guy is wearing a polo shirt today.

It's a shame that short-sleeved shirts on men are considered unprofessional, even when they're practical.

@Onymous But when women wear skirts to work in warm weather they have to wear nylons, which are hot and uncomfortable. And don't get me started on the shoes.

baked bean

@Punk-assBookJockey Yes yes yes to your first point! I am constantly explaining this to people and they give me the most confused look.

Not to mention this plan SAVES YOU MONEY.

My ideal temps: 76 in the summer and 71 in the winter. Temp turned down a couple of degrees at night all year.

Now, obvs it works awesome at home where you can wear shorts and stuff, and does not work as well at work when you have to dress up. But even then, it is always too hot inside in the winter in buildings which means I always have to wear short sleeves under my sweaters and never really end up wearing the sweaters because I have to take them off. And I have CUTE SWEATERS.

fondue with cheddar

@AmandathePanda I'm the same way! I usually am warm, and this is the only place I get cold. Besides the fact that I'm the only one who sits on my ass all day and doesn't run around like everyone else, I also sit near a doorway so I get a bit of a breeze.


@Punk-assBookJockey My office does the opposite of this - in summer people (wearing jackets!!) are constantly turning the thermostat down below 70 "because it's so hot outside" and "it will cool down quicker" (um, no), and now it's fall we have it set to 76 even though we're dressed warmer. It's like people don't understand that the numbers represent a temperature that's consistent no matter how much it contrasts to outside.

baked bean

@nina I work at and attend a university. I sometimes wish we could hold a University-wide meeting about thermostat settings. With charts and stuff explaining how much money we could save, and how comfort levels will go up.

fondue with cheddar

@nina AAAH my coworker who is always hot thinks turning the thermostat low will cool it off more quickly too! He'll set it to something ridiculous like 65 and say he'll adjust it later, but it's near my desk to I just set it to a reasonable temperature while he isn't looking.

@baked bean You should send this to everyone on campus.


We can put people on the moon, rovers on Mars, but can't effectively circulate heated or cooled air in a confined space. This is where I want my R&D dollars to go.


@swirrlygrrl: I dunno. Just think of the wild temperature fluctuations those poor Mars rovers go through during their workdays.


@swirrlygrrl This is why I thought the "HVAC department as cult waiting for their mystical messiah" plot on Community was kind of genius. It was mostly just silly but there was this kernel of truthiness to it.


@swirrlygrrl We should invent time travel for air. Then we could just switch out the winter-air and the summer-air.


Wait, people sweat in their offices in the winter? My office is freezing year-round.


I'm at home today, but I accomplished nothing until I remembered to turn the air off. So... cold...


My problem is that the "good zone" between too cold and too hot is about two degrees wide and I, for one, would much prefer having to keep a sweater at the office just in case than sitting here feeling warm and possibly sweating. I'm unproductive on either end, but if I get overly warm, I start feeling sick, so I'm always the person that errs on the side of "Too cold? Bring a sweater."


@Scandyhoovian Yes. If the room is too warm I feel all sweaty and feverish and gross. Cold people can add infinity layers. Overheated people cannot subtract too many layers without raising eyebrows...and even if it were acceptable to strip down, eventually you reach bare skin, and there's just nowhere more to go from there.


@TheLetterL My problem in this office is that none of the windows open, so if it's warm enough in winter it's horrendously stuffy, and then I feel like I cannot breathe and want to pass out.

Springtime for Voldemort

My school is always, always cold. Even when it's 104 outside, and the window is open, it will be chilly inside. You'd think with all the bitching about state school budgets, they'd wanna turn the AC down a bit.

I once worked in a place where multiple women had personal space heaters under their desk. This seems like a brilliant "solution", as it were.


@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily)
Same here! I can only assume since the administrators are not spending their OWN money, they don't give a damn how much they waste.
I'm pissed that my tuition (which went up $4000+ in the four years I've attended) is partially squandered making enormous buildings into Arctic wastelands, especially when they're 95% empty. At 6:30-9:30 at night you FUCKS.


The problem at the last place I worked was that there was one set of temperature controls for the entire 12-story building. If the 3rd floor (where I worked) was a comfortable temperature, the 12th floor would be an oven. And if the 12th floor was comfortable, the 3rd floor was sub-arctic. There was no way to win! (This was also the story of the drafty old shared houses I lived in during college. Thermostat memories!)

polka dots vs stripes

My office is freezing, all the time (slightly more bearable in summer, but not by much). I'm not even sure why/how, it's a small office, and my building is LEED Gold, so it's supposed to be energy efficient and all that, and this much AC/corresponding personal space heater usage cannot possibly be.

I asked my mother for an electric blanket/heating pad for Christmas.


Last winter, the productivity of my corner of the office was briefly disturbed by a discussion of whether we should all order Snuggies and charge the company for them. This was after we all kept seeing each other wearing coats, and in my case my scarf and gloves, repeatedly.

This summer has been just as bad. One of our salespeople has a fleece blanket she has taken to wearing in her cube. I sweat if it's so much as warm out normally, and I am shivering in my pants and wool blazer. Our productivity must be horrific.


am i crazy? temperatures never bother me, maybe because i grew up without any sort of a/c at home or school. this summer, i was hot for a few weeks until i became used to 30C+ temperatures and anything under 30C felt cool, and then in the winter anything feels better than outside, and we usually keep the house at 16-18C because we're cheap and it feels fine to me. then again, i worked in a bakery where it would push 40C some summer days (sooo not legal) and bike all the way through canadian winters/snowstorms... so maybe i'm an anomaly? when i worked at an office i never could understand the temp complainers though :/


@catparty I had no a/c at home growing up, and in fact I don't now, either. It makes me hate artificial a/c MORE. Unless it's a heat wave all I need is to open the windows at night to cool down, and I'm fine. A/c feels wrong to me - the wrong sort of heat or cool. Maybe I'm just Special (I'm definitely Special).


First world ISSUES.

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