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AC a must as workers return to the office

UK: With more hybrid workers set to spend more time in the office, comfort conditions will be increasingly important, according to a new survey. 

The survey conducted on behalf of air conditioning manufacturer Samsung reveals that although almost two-thirds (64%) of workers in the UK with hybrid working patterns are planning to spend more time in the office in 2023 than in 2022, 66% would be deterred from heading to the office if the air conditioning wasn’t working or was, in their opinion, of low quality.

Among those putting in more days in the office, the average was 9.2 extra days per month in 2023 compared to 2022. This was particularly marked amongst 18 to 24-year-olds, with 81% of that age group planning more face-to-face days with their co-workers.

Almost half (46%) of those surveyed planned to take advantage of office air conditioning if there is a repeat heatwave this summer.  In addition, 35% of workers said they go in to the office when the weather is hot to make use of the air conditioning.

Despite this return to the office, 24% of hybrid workers were not satisfied with their office air conditioning, and of those 40% reported that it is often not functioning properly. Interestingly, almost a third (31%) of hybrid workers who have experienced problems with air conditioning say the problem is cold draughts.

Control systems

Samsung insists that control systems have a key role in office comfort. Just under half (42%) of respondents admitted to a dispute about the air conditioning. A third of respondents (34%) had argued with colleagues about what temperature the room should be set at and just under a quarter (24%) have complained about the temperature going up and down due to people constantly altering it.

The most common trigger for the dispute is individuals setting the thermostat to suit themselves (37%). Over half (55%) of hybrid workers say that their offices have a single control system to manage the temperature for the whole working space. Only a third (36%) have systems that allow them to control the temperature by office area and only a quarter of offices have a democratic approach to controlling the temperature in their workspace, allowing each employee to cast an equal vote. However, this progressive approach doesn’t apply everywhere. 15% of respondents stated that in their offices, the boss will be in charge of setting the temperature.

Samsung maintains that workers’ changing lifestyles is changing expectations of public spaces, from offices to gyms. More than half (57%) of hybrid workers in the UK (rising to almost two thirds (62%) among women) would avoid a gym where the air conditioning wasn’t up to their standard. Almost a half (45%) say they’d avoid a restaurant or pub with a similar problem and almost a quarter (24%) would side-step a shop.

The survey was compiled from a relatively small sample of 500 hybrid working adults in the UK, from a mix of sources and ages and nationally representative of gender and region. 

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