How to cope with the office air con wars

Summer is just around the corner and the weather is already starting to heat up. Rising temperatures and sunny weather mean that offices and workplaces up and down the country will begin to make good use of their air conditioning systems to keep employees cool. However, you could walk into any office in the country and you’d be guaranteed to find several people, typically women, wrapped up in scarves and coats to combat the icy cold air that fills their workspace.

Many offices set their air conditioning temperatures according to a piece of research that was carried out in the 1960s. The study took the standard metabolic rate, aka the speed at which heat is generated by the body, of an average middle aged, 150lb man, and used this to determine the optimal temperature for an air con unit. In the 1960s the workforce was still dominated by men, so this setting made sense in many offices.

In a study published in August 2015, researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that women do indeed fare better in warmer temperatures than men; 25°C and 22°C respectively.

So with that in mind, how can men and women both work comfortably in the same office?

If the office is too cold for you…

  • Wear extra layers: If the air con is sending chills down your spine, you could try wearing a few extra layers in the office. On a warm, sunny day it can be tempting to leave home without a coat, forgetting that your office is like the Arctic. Try bringing vest top to slip on underneath your outfit if the environment gets too chilly for you. Wearing a vest or a close-fitting top helps to trap warm air next to your skin and keeps your core body temperature higher, helping you to feel warmer. It can also be a good idea to change out of your sandals and into some boots or full shoes once you’re in the office to keep you feet warm.
  • Wear a scarf: You lose a significant amount of your body heat through your neck, so wearing a scarf in the office can help you to feel considerably warmer. If you don’t want to draw attention to yourself by wearing your thick woolly winter scarf, a simple silk or cotton scarf will keep the chill off your neck whilst blending seamlessly with your outfit.


  • Drink hot drinks: Drinking hot drinks regularly throughout the day helps to keep your core body temperature up, and holding the hot cup also helps to keep your hands warm too! Most workplaces provide tea and coffee-making facilities or a vending machine; but if this is not provided consider taking a flask of tea to work with you to sip throughout the day.
  • Eat hot food: During the summer many people tend enjoy eating lighter evening meals and salads; however, in a cold office a salad is the last thing you want to eat. Try something like soup or last night’s leftovers that you can heat up in the microwave. Eating warm foods helps to raise your core body temperature and keep you feeling warm for longer.
  • Keep a pashmina or cardigan at work: If you regularly feel cold at work it’s a good idea to keep some extra emergency layers at your desk. If the cold air gets too much for you, you can slip your cardigan on and drape the pashmina over your lap for extra warmth.


  • Wear fingerless gloves: Keep a pair of fingerless gloves at your desk or in your bag for those days when the air con is so cold you can barely type. Whilst full gloves would keep your hands much warmer, fingerless gloves will still allow you to do your job properly.
  • Go for a walk at lunchtime: If the air conditioning is blaring away in your office, it’s likely that the temperature outside is much warmer! Get outside on your lunch break and go for a walk. Not only will the warmer air temperature help to warm you up, but the exercise will also raise your core body temperature and help to keep you warm for a while once you return to the office.


If the office is too warm for you…

  • Wear fewer layers: If the office is too warm for you, you could try losing any unnecessary layers. It’s not always essential to wear a suit jacket, and if your workplace has a smart-casual dress code you can often get away without wearing a tie too. For women who may be too warm, consider wearing skirts and dresses without tights to cut down on the amount of layers you are wearing.
  • Wear natural fibres: Clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton or linen will help the heat to escape from your body, whereas manmade fibres like polyester and viscose typically keep heat in. Make sure your shirts and trousers are made from natural fibres, and choose 100% cotton underwear where possible too.


  • Get a desk fan: You can keep your cool in the office when things heat up by getting a fan for your desk. Rather than turning down the temperature on the air conditioning to cool yourself down, and freezing your colleagues in the process, a desk fan provides a concentrated breeze just for you.
  • Drink cold drinks: When you are too warm your body will try to cool itself down by sweating, so it’s important to stay well hydrated. Drinking cold drinks will also help to cool down your core body temperature and reduce the need for sweating. Have a bottle of chilled water on your desk and sip it throughout the day to stay constantly cool and hydrated.


  • Eat cold food: If you’re trying to stay cool in a warm office, it’s best to eat cold lunches like sandwiches and salads. Warm foods will raise your core body temperature so they are best avoided when you are already feeling the heat. Snack on chilled foods throughout the day, such as crudités and hummus, or sliced melon; these will help to cool you down and keep you hydrated.
  • Cool your wrists down: The skin on your wrists is fairly thin, and your veins run close to the surface, so it’s easy to cool yourself down by cooling your wrists down. Run your wrists under cold water for a few seconds and you should start to feel much cooler instantly. You could also keep an ice pack on your desk and regularly run it over your wrists when you are feeling too warm.

Don’t let the air con wars get out of hand in your office, follow some of our tips to take a proactive approach to keeping yourself cool or warm at work! Do you have any more tips? Let us know via our social media channels!