Brrr: The Freezing Office

The Freezing Office | CorporetteReader K has an interesting question about cold offices…

Now that the weather is changing, my office has a tendency to get pretty cold. I am wondering if you have any ideas on something to keep in the office for when it gets a little chilly. If the answer is a shawl or a wrap, I’d also love some advice on how to pull it off. Also, should I keep two pieces – one for days I am wearing black and another for days I am wearing navy or brown? My dingy cardigan has to go…

Great question, as the cold office seems to be a real problem for so many women I know.  (Pictured: So I broke down and pulled out the heated, fingerless gloves that the CA folks gave me, originally uploaded to Flickr by cindiann.) First, let’s make an important distinction: there’s the cold office as a whole (cold hallways, cold meeting rooms, etc), and then there’s the cold “I’m sitting in my office working by myself and I’m freezing” office. If your office as a whole is just generally freezing, I think your “outfit” for the day should keep that in mind. In other words — don’t keep one cardigan at the office that you’re going to have to change into every day; actually dress warmly enough for the office. Cashmere and wool sweaters, tweed and corduroy blazers… you get the picture.

It’s the “I’m sitting alone in my office and freezing” problem that I tend to have more frequently, though. You have a number of options:
a) the wrap — I tend to keep a plain black one as well as a colorful one in my office that works with most of my outfits. I think I mentioned it in this post, but I frequently use the wrap as a lap blanket if I’m wearing a skirt
b) a cardigan (or two) for the office — in theory, if you’re only wearing it in your office it doesn’t matter if it matches your outfit or not so you can just keep a black one in your office — beige or cream is another versatile color.  (A hint: don’t forget to take these cardigans and other items of clothing home every now and again for laundering!)
c) the space heater — you may want to check with your office manager before you bring in one of these, but I love my little Vornado space heater.  You do have to be a smart about using it, though — I turn mine off if I leave my office to go to lunch or a meeting, and I don’t let any papers, shoes, boxes, or other stuff anywhere near the space heater. (I have a fantastically messy office.)
d) gloves – yes, seriously!  Depending on your job, you may even want to consider keeping a pair of gloves in your office — I remember them particularly coming in handy while doing computerized document review, where you’re just staring at the screen and using your mouse to go from doc to doc. (Oh, the glamorous lives we lead!)

In fact, a quick search on Amazon turns up an impressive number of USB-heated accessories, including USB-heated slippers, gloves, lap blankets, wrist warmers, and more.

Readers, what are your tips for staying warm in the office?  Anyone with a pair of USB-heated gloves or slippers willing to report in?

Comments

  1. Corporate Tool :

    Be careful with a space heater, I’ve seen those blow out an office fuse!

    I keep a bathrobe-sized grey cardigan at my desk. It looks fine sitting down, I just have to remember to take it off whenever I get up.

    • Indeed, I once blew out half of the regional DOJ office I worked in with my space heater on (in the summer, boo to a/c-happy buildings)!

    • your freezing 2 death sue :

      I thought I had a cardigan back at the office,but I dont.now the AC is full boar and im left dieing of cold,your freezing 2 death sue’ one of the girls said as she put a cardigan around.I didnt know how to thank her for the thick mohair cardigan ,I was freezing to death and couldnt stop shaking with cold.I buttoned up the cardigan but the AC was too much and I froze all day,thank god I had that mohair cardigan or I would have frozen to death at my desk.

      • Anonymous :

        you will freeze to death sue if you sit all day under the AC,keep a warm chunky knit cardigan at the office or wear a couple of mohair cardigans buttoned up with a puffy vest and turtle neck to keep off the cold chill,your lucky your friend gave you a cardigan sue or you would have froze to death.I always keep two thick mohair cardigans at work, and my long down coat in the car so I dont freeze to death’ after having to wear both cardigans and the down coat in the office last winter when it was like a deep freezer,even when I put on a chunky cardigan over my down coat.people at work laughed at me and I did feel silly’but I was freezing to death in an office with no heat and outside is 10 below.

  2. Whiskey?

  3. Instead of traditional gloves, I have several pairs of fingerless gloves that I keep at home and the various offices. Makes it a bit easier for typing and using the touchscreen phones, but still helps with warmth! You can find lots of cute ones on etsy, including some that are cashmere/blends that are dressier

  4. Anonymous :

    Fuzzy socks! Sometimes my toes are cold in pumps so I keep a pair of slipper/socks in my drawer. But, isn’t it ridiculous that we have to freeze?

  5. I have a pair of the USB-heated gloves. They are effective but itchy, and run small. But the heat plus fingerless status is awesome. I am now in the market for additional fingerless gloves that don’t itch. Also swear by the space heater, but would encourage everyone to be wise about it, check the cord regularly, etc.

  6. I love these suggestions. However, does anyone have a suggestion for how to store all these scarves, cardis, jackets, shoes, etc. that we always talk about? I don’t have a closet in my office, just a single lonely (and annoyingly short) hook on the back of my door that works for one or two hangers.

    I just don’t want my office to look like a closet, and I don’t want to waste too much desk space 0n non-w0rk stuff (my filing options are limited, too).

    Thanks!

    • Can you keep a zippered tote in your office?

    • I’d say zippered bag under the desk or if you have a bookshelf, you can get those closed boxes Ikea and other stores have for knick-nacks (think slightly bigger than photo boxes, though those would work as well) and store them there.

    • Great question; I’ll be curious to see what people say. I tend to keep stuff in filing cabinets/drawers — failing that you may want to get a banker’s box and keep the cardigans/wraps folded in there. It looks like office supplies… but it’s not.

    • I suggest Command Adhesive hooks (the kind that stick to the wall with adhesive and pull off cleanly. If you don’t want to use a coat tree you can put one on your door so you have a second hook there. One of my co-workers stuck one on the side underneath her desk for hanging her purse.

      • I have been using these since college and currently have a line of them down the back of my office door for keeping sweaters and sweatshirts (for weekends :)). They’re great and really do pull off cleanly.

    • Anonymous :

      I just ordered a bigger, multi-pronged hook from my office’s supply catalog and our maintenance guy installed it for me.

    • I had a coat tree in my old office that coordinated with my office furniture. Now, I often keep two sweaters or jackets over the back of my desk chair – a small colorful piece under a big black shawl or sweater. It’s not unusual for both women and men at my office to leave a jacket on the back of their chair, and the bigger item completely covers the smaller sweater, so nobody knows I’ve got multiples.

    • My cardigan is draped over my chair and my shawl is neatly folded on my filing cabinet. My office ballet flats sit under my desk.

    • I am in cubicle and use an over the door style hook – with an upper and lower hook. It has a brushed nickel finish and was less than $10 at my local hardware store.

    • I keep my pashmina neatly folded over the back of my chair. It adds a nice pop of color to the room.

  7. I think a large wool or cashmere shawl solves most problems. I also make tea a lot & if my hands are cold, keeping my hands around a warm mug seems to help.

    I also have the maintenance guys come in around this time of year & seal up my window AC (no central) so that I don’t get breezes in the winter. I am not sure how some offices would feel about a space heater, but if I was really called, I would not be above bringing in a electric heat pad to keep under my desk to place my feet on top. But really, I find that dressing warm to begin with & keeping a shawl for extra cold days takes care of most issues.

    • “I find that dressing warm to begin with…”

      This.

      Obviously it won’t work if your office is chilly due to overly aggressive a/c in the warmer months, but for cold weather, I find layering tights under my pants, undershirt, jacket etc. is key to staying warm.

      • Anonymous K :

        See, that doesn’t work so well for me because I have no idea how warm or cold it will be on a given day in my office. All throughout the year, on some days I’m freezing and on some days I’m sweating. I figure it’s generally easier to add a sweater than to take off layers that may be an integral part of my outfit. My space heater works wonders, too!

  8. I keep a very light colored pashmina in my office. It is actually the lightest shade of lilac you can imagine. I find that it is a very versatile color – or at least it is for me – most of my wardrobe goes with it. It never looks sloppy of unkempt – perfect for the office. You can wrap up or use it as a lap blanket as you mentioned.

  9. Our building services people actually will bring you a space heater if you ask one – I guess I’m lucky! My particular office is famously cold for no explicable reason – i.e., everyone walks in and says “wow, your office is really cold” so I don’t think I would survive without my space heater. If I didn’t have that, I think I’d go for the shawl-in-lap route.

  10. Anonymous :

    My office is so cold I am thinking of getting a snuggie!

    I often wear a pashmina I keep in my office but older male partners don’t get it, they think I am wearing a blanket.

  11. L from Oz :

    I have a black and brown cardigan in my office, along with a pair of very thin gloves (they’re actually liner gloves which I wear on their own). I agree that a hot drink can really help – holding a mug of hot tea was my saviour last week when we had a viciously cold day and due to renovations, every single window was open. (Brrrrrrr)

    Dressing warmly is really the main thing, though – I’m in and out a lot in my job, and I’ve learnt the hard way that there’s no point in looking stylish if you’re freezing. My winter wardrobe may be slightly repetitive (look, v-neck jumper and collared shirt, now in a different colour!), but I’m a lot more comfortable than when I thought a thin cardigan could solve all my problems!

    • Also, check the vents in your office to see if there is a way to close them or at least block the airflow (e.g., I have stacks of paper sitting on top of my vents along my window sill to block the freezing cold air. Obviously, be careful when doing this so there is no fire hazard).

      Or, you can move your office to the waiting room in protest (which I just saw a partner doing this afternoon. So funny!)

  12. Super-Anon :

    Sorry to threadjack, but I could really use some advice from Corporettes more experienced in organizational politics than I am…

    Here’s the situation. I am a member of a non-profit org that recently took on a large fundraising project. I was actually brought into the organization because no one in the group had experience with fundraising on this scale and I have several years of experience in soliciting major donations on behalf of organizations (although this is my first time “running the show” on a fundraising project). I was asked to join the group and run the project.

    The problem I have been running into is with the (male) president of the organization. Since I came on board, I have had numerous problems with him deciding that he will take certain actions on behalf of this project without consulting me. I am usually informed that he has decided to do these things after the fact and as kind of an afterthought. This has led to several embarrassing situations for the group because he seems to fail to understand that I am in the process of laying groundwork and coordinating things with outside individuals whose support we need. At first I thought that perhaps he was just very excited about the project and trying to be helpful by getting the ball rolling, but after I tried to explain to him that he was jumping ahead to Step 3 while I’m still working on Steps 1 & 2 (if that makes sense) the behavior continued. In addition, he has begun scheduling meetings to “update” several outside contacts on the progress of the project without talking to me first. This has been problematic because he goes into the meeting without first receiving an update from me and as a result is often poorly informed or misinformed. Also, for some reason, whenever he sends out communications regarding this project, I am not included on the list of people he sends the communication to.

    His behavior, in the aggregate, is making me begin to suspect that one of the following must be true:

    1. I am paranoid, over-reacting, and possibly a bit of a control freak. I should wash a Xanax down with a glass of red wine and chill out.
    2. He is such a disorganized, impulsive, and thoughtless individual that he acts on things as they enter his mind without considering the consequences or giving any thought whatsoever to the bases that need to be covered before he can do such a thing. Or….
    3. He wishes that he were heading up this project and is trying to grab for control where ever he can and to take credit for my legwork whenever possible.

    Hopefully folks will let me know honestly whether any of my concerns seem valid. Also, if you do think that I have a valid reason to be upset/frustrated—what do I do about it? I’m getting very frustrated with having to clean up all of his half-baked messes. I’ve got enough on my plate right now without that. I’ve tried more diplomatic solutions–such as pointing out that something is problematic kindly and as if he didn’t realize that he was creating a major problem but these have all been brushed off with “No. I understand that.” And then there is no change in his behavior. Yeesh.

    • Corporate Tool :

      It sounds like 2 or 3 to me. Is there a way to schedule a meeting with him, and give him discrete tasks to help, so that he won’t be in your way? Also, if you can gently point out that he is actually hurting the project rather than helping…

      As a last resort, I’d go to the board of your non-profit, as you will ultimately be held responsible for the success or failure of this project.

    • How long has the president been involved in the organization? How long have you? Its quite possible that he sees it as ‘his’ organization and doesn’t trust that you are going to get done what you promise to get done — that if he lets things drop, nothing will get done. If that could be the situation (look around and see if his support have really been support in the past) the best thing to do is probably to keep him very informed and to update him frequently with progress made until he trusts you.

      • FWIW, this is really good advice. I’m a lawyer who frequently works with representatives of nonprofits on big fundraising projects, and they are often used to being “resourceful” – getting things done independently, without a lot of help or resources. But they also tend to be very receptive to others adding structure to their actions, so don’t write him off until you’ve tried really hard to bring him into your plan! Make sure to cc: him on all e-mails you send, include him on conference calls, and try to set up regular status meetings. You literally might need to have daily status meetings to provide him the level of comfort he needs to know that things are happening.

    • It might eventually be time to get blunter.

      I’m sorry, I don’t understand, why are you doing that?
      Can you please stop doing x and y?
      What can I do so that you don’t contact x y without first talking to me?
      I’m having a really hard time because of you doing z, can you explain to me why that’s necessary? If he responds with sorry follow up with, I’ve noticed this happens an awful lot, what can I do so that it doesn’t happen again?
      Can we talk about what you see as my role with this project?
      I’m finding this job impossible because of your actions.

      Obviously a lot of that is rude and should not be said without adjustments! But sometimes you really have to press someone to figure out what is going on. Repetitive questions and silence are your friends in this.

      If possible talking to someone who knows him and works well with him might enlighten you.

    • Sounds like #3 to me. Go to the Board directly, as it’s obvious that talking to him does nothing. Does he have a bad reputation for doing this with other people? If not, then it’s likely a dose of good old fashioned sexism, in which case, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing you can do to make him treat you with respect short of bringing the wrath of the Board down on his head. Good luck.

      • Yikes. Be VERY VERY VERY careful before you go over the president’s head to the board. That could backfire horribly and end up with you being whisked right off the fundraising project. Presidents/Boards are often very close in the nonprofit world – I wouldn’t play that card unless he is truly actively undermining you out of nefarious motivations, and you have the evidence to back it up.

        It doesn’t sound like you are overreacting – he sounds like a horrible, terrible, no-good boss. But he is your boss – and in many ways that means you have to figure out how to work with him, not the other way around.

        Have you had a real sit-down with him? It sounds like you have tried the subtle hint route, but he may not be good at picking up those clues. Schedule a meeting, lay out everything calmly, and explain what you need from him in order to do the job they hired you to do. Be blunt, but polite, and try not to make it sound like you are the outside know-it-all coming in to mess up “his” organization. Then be consistent with your reminders.

        • THIS!

          Great advice. I would think long and hard before going over the president’s head. A frank, mature conversation is in order.

        • Ballerina girl :

          Oh my God, do NOT go to the Board unless you want to lose your job. I’ve worked for NGOs in the past and they flip out when people go to the Board. Especially with minor stuff like this (sorry, it’s relatively minor–I’d consider major to be fraud).

          • Another Laura :

            My questions for you are more basic, and unless we know (or unless you understand) the germination of this situation, the answer(s) may be unclear.

            Did the Board hire you? Did the president have any part in the hiring process? Did the Board have his buy-in? Did he interview you or were you a “surprise?” If the Board thought no-one (including the president) had the skills, they may have ruffled his feathers or made him feel out of control. Do you report to him or to the Board? If not the Board, who do you report to and what is his/her relationship to the president? Relationship meaning who has the power and what is the status of the relationship?

            If that is true that the president opposed your hiring or feels threatened by it, my advice would be to: 1) Start making weekly or twice weekly check-ins with him (email or meeting…meeting preferred, at least in the beginning). Open the lines of communication. Couch it that you want to make sure he’s in the loop with your project and learn of your success(es); 2) Document these meetings to your superior(s) and make sure that the folks that need to know know that you’re driving the process and don’t owe your sucess to the president; 3) Enlist the support of an insider, either the person(s) who hired you or a (near) peer of the president, or a long-time staffer who has power/connections; 4) Do not go to the Board unless you directly report to the Board. I would do this informally if you have a “check-in” session with a Board member or sub-committee.

            I may be totally off-base, but your post indicates that you feel it’s “beneath” you to deal with him messing up “your” efforts. I do feel that you aren’t doing anything wrong but he may feel like “Who is this newcomer/woman? Who is she to tell me how to run “my” company?” Improving communication can’t hurt and if it doesn’t help, you can at least point out that you tried to meet him more than half-way.

            Wishing you success. I hope you come back and let us know what worked.

          • Super-Anon :

            Thanks everyone for your thoughtful responses. And don’t worry, I had never considered going to the Board with something like this. (A great piece of office politics advice I once read: Don’t attack the King unless you’re going to kill him. You’ll just make him mad!) My goal is really just to find a way for us to work together that best serves the project. To answer some of the questions that have been posed (without giving too much away)—I have asked a trusted colleague about her experience with him. She said that she basically thinks he’s not so much committed to the organization’s mission as he is excited by the prestige of being President of Said Organization. Up until this conversation, I had assumed that he was just taking ill-considered actions. After this conversation, I began to question whether it was possible that he saw this project as a potential shiny bullet point on his resume. I think someone asked if I was hired by the Board–I was. And although he did approve my hiring, I’m not sure if it was with enthusiasm or if there was some arm twisting involved. I don’t think I feel like it’s beneath me to fix the problems he creates–fixing the problems that crop up is part of my job. It’s just that some days it feels like it’s one step forward, two steps back. And the “mistakes” have not been minor. So far he’s suggested that we engage in fraud (not intentionally though–I think this was just another example of a poorly thought out plan), nearly violated numerous regulations, and almost cost us a major donor.

            My plan: I’m going to follow the advice of the many many posters who suggested I make sure that I’m updating him super frequently. Also, I’m going to try asking him to do smaller, but reasonably high profile tasks so that he can feel like he’s contributing and hopefully satisfy any vanities that might be in play here. Wish me luck!

  13. My office actually has an adjustable thermostat now (!!! – the wonders of small buildings!!!), thank goodness, but in Biglaw (big building), I found a space heater to be the best solution. I would be wearing wool pants, thick socks, tshirt with sweater over, and still be freezing. Space heaters were illegal as per the firm, but I think about every other woman attorney (the men don’t get as cold for whatever reason) had one.

  14. Anonymous :

    I have the opposite problem. I am sweltering in my office today. I wore a really cute sweater, too, that no one has gotten a chance to see because it’s on the back of my chair. Grass is always greener…

  15. I have a heating pad that I keep at my desk, and I sit on it or put it behind my back to keep me toasty warm.

    • Yes! The heating pad is great. It works on the same priciple as heated car seat… if your bottom is warm, then so are you!

    • Such a good idea!!!! Thanks! I am going to do this! A hot water bottle might be a way to not blow the office fuses when I’ve also got the space heater running though…

    • This is a great idea! I know someone who has been having back issues attributed to hunching so much from a cold work environment. I’m going to suggest a heating pad- good for the back pain and the chills! Two birds, one stone!

  16. Forestgirl :

    What I think is the worst is my office, which can be both very cold or very warm, randomly depending on the day. Horrible. You have to make sure to dress in layers .

  17. My perenially very cold friend has a USB-heated jacket — I think it’s this one — http://www.amazon.com/Brookstone-Womens-Softshell-Heated-Jackets/dp/B002GE68NQ/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1288040607&sr=8-7 . She’s been ecstatic with it. It’s more than I’d spend (I love dingy cardians :-)

  18. Oh please don’t bring space heaters to work if your desk is anywhere near co-workers! I’m one of those people who LOOOVE the cold, hates being hot, and doesn’t mind a chilly office so much. I used to work next to a woman that had a space heater and it was so obnoxious!

    I think it’s safer to bring a sweater because there’s no risk of it bothering anyone else.

  19. Nevadamtnbear :

    I have a pretty casual office, so take my suggestions for what they are, merely suggestions. My office building prohibits the use of space heaters and my receptionist likes it bloody cold (the reception area is close to my office and the ventilation system has got to be connected somehow). I have an “el cheapo” Ikea fleece blanket I keep in my office. Yes, I wear a blanket and I don’t care. A couple of the partners will make cracks at me on occasion, to which I merely respond that if they don’t like it, I’ll expense a “Snuggie.” Like I said, I’m in a relatively small office and I have a good working relationship/friendship with my bosses.

    I also definitely layer. As a friend from San Fransisco once said to me “dress like an onion, not a banana” and come cold weather, that’s what I do. So, if it’s a sunny day and the warmth of the sun streaming into my windows warms my space up adequately, I can take off a layer.

    I also keep a pair of slippers at my desk. They are black and look a lot like a pair of ballet slippers, so with slacks, it’s no big deal to walk to the copy room/kitchen/secretary with them on. Much better than being barefoot, which during the summer would be my preference.

    But, seriously, my blanket is by best friend in the office. And it serves double duty to have a carpet picnic with my son if I need to watch him for a little while, was awesome when I was on maternity leave but ran into the office occasionally to catch up on things to let my daughter do tummy time.

    I’ve tried looking for other alternatives, but honestly, my trusty blanket that I can leave at the office and occasionally swap out with a freshly laundered one, is the best bet for me. No coordinating outfits, so worry about fuzz transfer, nada. But, I’m fortunate to work in an environment that doesn’t care one way or the other.

  20. my problem is being stuck in day long meetings in a frigidly cold conference room — it tends to be a male heavy environment, with maybe one or two other woman, and they seem to be less sensitive to the cold than i am. last winter i stooped to wearing silk long johns underneath my suits, but really, who needs the extra bulk? this year, i’ve laid in a couple of lafayette wool turtlenecks, but i really need help. any advice for me (and don’t suggest i ask them to turn the heat up, btdt).

    as for fingerless mitts, go to etsy.com or hyenacart.com and search for fingerless mitts in yarns like cashmere, alpaca, and blue faced leicester.

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