We are working with a client with a large office in London and, as with most large city offices, it operates an air conditioning system to manage the comfort of the working environment. The problem is that, in our experience, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and in reality, is it really worth trying to?
In many large offices staff will raise concerns from time to time and someone will be charged with responding to these and trying to manage the best response available. In the case of our client, a small number of staff have raised issues over the working environment having an impact on their health and we are helping to investigate the connections. The client has already taken steps to try to improve the conditions for the individuals by changing the temperature settings across the office and by turning fan units down to the lowest level available. These actions appear to have had a positive impact on the staff who raised the concerns. Would you be prepared to go the extra steps this client has?
Add to this the fact that what is not known at this time is what impact these changes will have on the rest of the office and the other 300 staff in the office. The problem with large offices and air conditioning is that the system balance can be affected by trying to appease a few. It would perhaps be easier if everyone had access to windows where comfort levels can be managed locally; but in such a large office this is not likely to be effective.
As it happens, in this office there are windows that open and some staff have taken to opening them even though requested not to; as it impacts on the overall environment controls. Those close to the window are happy but are not considering the rest of their colleagues. As a business, would you take the decision the prevent the windows being opened?
Clearly, when staff health is being affected then it’s important to show a positive response but sometimes this can require a lot of effort and sometimes the solutions are not obtainable. What do you do then? We think that it’s about making reasonable adjustments where you can but in the context of considering the impact on the rest of your staff.
It always amazes me how differently we perceive what is comfortable and what is not. In fact we are trying to help a new client appease a member of who has been complaining bitterly of nuisance noise in her work area. The noise levels are clearly well below the threshold of what is potentially unsafe yet this person cannot stand to be in the building during certain operations. The management are struggling with what can be done and legally whether anything has to be done.
Sometimes what appears to be simple solutions such as moving the place where someone sits or works is either not possible or is not acceptable to the people involved. It amazes me that where you have two members of staff, one complaining it’s to cold/draughty and another that it’s too hot, that they rarely agree to swapping where they sit. As I’ve already noted, you can’t please everybody and sometimes you must think is it worth trying! However remember that it’s all about reasonable adjustments.