Hey Lifehacker, It is going to be a hot few days in Melbourne and that means war over the office air-con. We have been told it is not allowed to be on all day because of the cost. Is this legal? Or even sensible? And any hints on how to stay cool? Thanks, Drenched Cubicle Slave
Hot office picture from Shutterstock
This doesn't sound sensible at all. It has been proven time and time again that a hot, unhappy workforce tends to be lethargic and unmotivated. This means that any savings on the electricity bill will almost certainly be wiped out by a drop in productivity. If your employer is looking to cut costs, he's going about it the wrong way.
In terms of the legalities of the situation, occupational health and safety rules in Australia require all working environments to be safe with a minimal risk to employees' health, including heat-related illnesses. Some states also require business offices to maintain a specific temperature range that is comfortable and suitable to work in; typically between 20°C and 26°C. (If you want to get really pedantic, this article explains the exact optimal temperature for office environments.)
In other words, your boss definitely shouldn't be switching off the AC if this causes people to sweat buckets. Depending on the layout of the building, he may also be breaking additional health and safety laws relating to ventilation, humidity and airflow.
A quick internet search should bring up the relevant legislation and guidelines for your state. It might be worth sending these to your boss as an unsubtle hint. (If you prefer the coward's approach, leave them anonymously on his desk.)
Just be aware that if the business is really struggling, management is going to have to cut costs somewhere -- would you rather be hot and bothered, or out of a job?
If you'd prefer not to go to war, there are plenty of DIY office hacks you can employ to make the summer heat more bearable. Some examples include building your own portable air conditioner or desk fan, cultivating a taste for water, treating your computer for excessive temperature and occasionally misting yourself with a spray bottle of cold water. Failing that, you could always ask to work from home!
If any readers have additional suggestions or OH&S factoids to share, let DCS know in the comments section below.
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