By Brooke Chaplan

Cold workers are unproductive workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends 68 degrees Fahrenheit as the lowest temperature for an office building, and a study by Cornell University found cold office temperatures led to more employee errors and a 10 percent increase in labor costs. If your office is in an older building, the challenges of keeping the place warm might be greater given the poor insulation (if there’s any at all) and outdated heating systems typical in older structures. Below are tips on how to winterize your working space and optimize employee productivity by keeping things toasty this year.

Service the Heating System
This first tip is an obvious one, but remember to check with building maintenance to ensure the heating system is serviced prior to the start of winter, and the furnace filters have been changed. Older systems are prone to malfunctioning, and a failed system at the height of the season can lead to other issues like frozen pipes.

Windows are the biggest culprits for heat loss. In an old building, the glass panes and window frames do a poor job of keeping out any drafts. An employee seated near a window will certainly require a thicker sweater and perhaps a pair of gloves. Applying new weather-stripping is an inexpensive, yet quick fix to combat any draft issues.

Space Heaters
Many are wary of space heaters as a potential fire hazard, but if used properly they can be the perfect solution for keeping the office warm. According to the Department of Energy, when purchasing a space heater, select the latest model that meets the current safety standards, position the heater on the floor, away from wires and foot traffic, and plug it directly into a wall outlet. Make sure all employees turn them off at the end of the day.

Close Doors and Vents
Air circulation is great in the summer, but in winter, especially if you’re using space heaters, it’s better to trap the warm air wherever the employees are. Make sure all doors and vents in empty rooms are closed, including in high-traffic areas like the break room.

Rearrange the Layout
If possible, rearrange the office layout to move employees away from windows and closer together. This will help maximize the efficiency of space heaters and address the issue of cold air blowing through a rogue overhead vent, which is common in old buildings. A service like Sullivan Engineering might be able to help you rework the space and update the layout and heating systems without having to completely overhaul the exterior. See if you can get a walk through and find areas where you can update and rearrange easily.

Stock up on Cups!
Nothing warms the soul better than a cup of hot chocolate in the winter. While it might not go a long way in raising the office temperature, employees will be grateful for an endless supply of their favorite warm beverage and you can keep productivity up when employees are warm and happy.

Short of completely overhauling the heating and cooling system in an old building, these tips should help keep your employees warm and productive as this winter approaches.

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.