06Jun

With summer promising to be a hot one and workers returning to offices, the perennial battle over the thermostat is about to heat up. (Yes, the pun is intended.)

It’s a battle office managers are all too familiar with. Their struggle to reach the perfect Goldilocks temperature is never-ending. Some like it hot; some like it cold, and there’s rarely agreement on the “just right” office temperature.

BusinessNewsDaily attempted to help out in an ambitiously headlined article, “How to Resolve the Office Temperature Debate.” But does it? Of course not.

The article mentions that OSHA, which has no specific requirement, recommends an office temperature setting between 68 and 76 F. The article then cites a study by Helsinki University of Technology’s Laboratory for Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning declaring the ideal office temperature to be exactly 71.6 F. But then, the annual average temperature in southern Finland is only 43.7 F.

A study the article doesn’t mention puts the ideal temperature at 77 F. That study measured typing output and errors in an insurance company headquarters, so don’t expect to convince the men in your office to bump up the thermostat.

Men prefer cooler temperatures. This 2019 study from the University of Southern California has men doing better when the temperature is at or below 70 F. Women, on the other hand, did much better as the temperature went up.

Concluded the authors of the study, “Our findings suggest that gender mixed workplaces may be able to increase productivity by setting the thermostat higher than current standards.” Obviously, the authors were never office managers, otherwise they would be keenly aware of the loss of productivity to bickering, surreptitious thermostat resetting, and formal complaining caused by those finding the office too hot.

Because it’s easier to warm up by wearing a sweater – or a Snuggie as one interviewee told BusinessNewsDaily – office managers tend to dial down the thermostat.

Jared Weitz, CEO and founder of United Capital Source, told the publication he keeps his office at 73 F. “We encourage people to bring in sweaters or jackets if needed, and desktop fans are allowed.”

No matter what you do, you’ll never please everyone. CareerBuilder found that out years ago when it surveyed office workers on the issue only to discover half of them thought their workplace too hot or too cold.

So how does BusinessNewsDaily resolve the issue and justify its headline? The article makes two suggestions. Consult an HVAC professional to set the temperature, then you can blame them. We added that last part.

Or, says the article, “You may be better off enforcing one temperature and requiring your employees to stick to it.”

Photo by gryffyn m on Unsplash

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You May Be Surprised How Long You Need to Keep Records

When the paper files build up and the cabinets start bulging, it’s time to do some purging. It’s a task that in small offices often gets delegated to whoever looks the least busy.

Is that a good idea? Maybe not. In those files may be the personnel records of long gone employees, making them likely candidates for disposal. Then a week later or a month later or a year from now the government comes to do an audit or you hear from the former employee or, uh oh, from their lawyer and the records are gone.

Office managers and office assistants may know that hiring documents should be kept for for at least a year after the job is filled and that onboarding records like the I-9 need to be retained longer, for three years after hiring or a year after the employee leaves, whichever is longer.

But what about drug test results? Or time cards and payroll records? A year for drug tests unless you’re in the transportation business, and no less than three years for payroll. But even that may not be long enough in some instances should the specter of misclassification of an employee arise. This is especially critical now that the overtime rules have changed.

Those rules may be easy to follow. Where the save or toss decision gets trickier is with employee medical records, FMLA leave, ADA accommodations, ERISA and benefits records. Some sources say saving employee medical records for three years is sufficient. That’s generally correct, however if the employee sustained an on the job injury, OSHA requires the record to be kept for five years. That’s five years after the end of the calendar year in which the injury occurred and NOT five years from the injury. That rule may not apply to you if there are fewer than 11 employees, but it might.

Is your head spinning? Do you still think it wise to delegate the file clean-up to just anyone?

Let Green Key Resources help. Call us to discuss bringing in an HR or office compliance professional who knows the retention and recordkeeping rules. No matter where in the country you are, one call to 212.683.1988 and help will soon be on the way.

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Your Post-Virus Office Will Be Very Different

As the number of new COVID-19 cases shows signs the growth curve might be flattening, there’s hope some businesses may reopen sooner than many health experts worried just a week or two ago.

Whether that happens at the end of the month, when many closure orders expire, or later, workers will find a changed workplace. At a minimum, they can expect hand sanitizers in lobbies and disinfectant wipes available in restrooms and break rooms. Hugging and handshaking will be discouraged, replaced by elbow bumps or nothing. There may be limits on the number of people allowed in an elevator; meeting attendance will be restricted to maintain social distance.

Already where bunched desking was the rule, office designers and company leaders are discussing what to do to increase the separation between workers.

The New York Times interviewed commercial leasing agents, design professionals and others to learn how the coronavirus is influencing office design and practices and what we can expect as we return to the office.

In the beginning, workers will see familiar signs reminding them to keep their distance and wash their hands. They’ll find maintenance workers wiping down handles and other places often touched. Some companies may stagger workers, having groups alternate days in the office and at home in order to reduce contact.

Remote work will be the most enduring change. Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, told The Times she anticipates as many as 25% of workers will continue to work remotely at least a few days a week.

“I don’t think that genie is going back into the bottle,” she said.

If she’s right – and an early survey shows 34% of previously commuting workers are now working from home – it will have profound effects on commercial real estate and office layout. Common areas like lounges, in-house cafes and the like will become more important features as remote workers come in for meetings.

“There will be a higher value around spaces where we come together,” the head of a Seattle architecture firm said.

The virus is also likely to influence how commercial building are constructed. Elevators, lights and even doors may be designed to respond to motion rather than touch. Metals like copper, brass and bronze that have antimicrobial properties may become more common. Ventilation systems will be upgraded to improve their ability to filter building air.

Says The Times, “Those in the midst of planning suggest that the post-pandemic office might look radically different.”

Photo by Cengiz SARI on Unsplash

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