What to Do When Your Office Temperature is Never Right

Office temperature controlIs there a single solution to making an office’s temperature more comfortable if big windows make it too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer? Reader A wonders…

I just started as an associate attorney and it’s my first time with my very own office! It’s so great to have my own four walls. My issue is that one of those walls is actually windows leading to outside, which is great except it makes temperature control a nightmare. Right now, it lets in tons of sun, which makes my office far too hot. I’ve been told by the person who previously occupied my office that in the winter, she froze because of the massive windows. I’m considering looking into an air conditioner for now, but when winter hits, I’ll need a heater. Any idea of a combo unit that I can just switch over when the weather changes? I’d really like to just have one unit, preferably not one that’s massive or noisy.

First, congrats on your own office, Reader A! I’m curious to hear what the readers say. We’ve talked about cold offices and hot offices and how to dress professionally in hot weather and cold weather, but not for dealing with wide temperature discrepancies within a private office like this. Here are my thoughts:

  • Layer, layer, layer as you figure out the temperatures. (But please don’t get a Snuggy or do this.) When your office is chilly, don’t overlook things like lap blankets (one of my favorite uses for wraps!) and — if your office is private enough — I’ve even worked in my freezing office while wearing a hat and fingerless gloves or USB heated gloves. (I’ve never tried it, but there is also a USB heated lap blanket!)
  • Get a heating pad. Readers have sung the praises of heating pads for years now, either to sit on like a heated car seat, or put beneath your desk to toast your feet. As one commenter noted: “Warmer than a space heater, safer than a space heater, quieter than a space heater, and no one will walk by and wonder why you have a blanket on (…which I’ve done, I get it).” (Any favorite specific brands or products for heating pads, ladies?)
  • Check with the building before you buy anything. You can get great deals on air conditioners this late in the season, to be sure, but I wouldn’t install anything until you talk to the building. If I did buy something for the room, though, I would probably buy a personal heater like a $40ish Vornado, which also has a fan built in so you can use it year round.
  • Look into window treatments. Again, before an air conditioner, I would look into hanging some different window treatments to deal with the sunlight and the cold from the windows. Now, when we previously talked about office decor and window treatments, a lot of people thought it was a pretty bold move to get drapes for your office — but in this case where you need to insulate the room, I think it can be one of the cheapest and easiest things to do, without the downsides of personal heaters (which may be banned at your office anyway). For example, these $24 Thermalogic drapes at Wayfair only need a curtain rod and then they filter sunlight, help with thermal insulation, and dampen sound. Wayfair, JC Penney, Amazon, and a zillion other places have a ton of these.
  • If all else fails: get yourself on a waitlist for a new office, and during inhospitable days in your office, try to be one of those people who works in a conference room, library, or other space at the law firm. After all: not every office is a winner — some have sun problems, some have issues stemming from their placement in the building, such as the smelly office near the kitchen, or one that gets too much noise from a nearby lounge, or even one that gets too many people dropping in with questions because you’re near a printer or some other public resource. The most problematic offices inevitably go to the newest hires, such as Reader A. So: possibly just view it as a temporary office, and do what you can in the meantime.

Readers, what are your thoughts — have you had success with regulating temperatures when you’re up against a full wall of windows in your private office? Any clever products that I’m forgetting that are likely approved by the Powers That Be?  

Pictured at top: Night at the office, originally uploaded to Flickr by K. Latham.



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  1. Threadjack: I will be in SF on a November Tuesday afternoon/night before a conference I’m attending. I’ll be in the Embarcadero area. Any suggestions for a great massage/facial experience and good place for dinner on my own? Thanks in advance!!

  2. Anonymous :

    I love a heating pad on my chair in winter so much.

    • I use mine year round, b/c the air conditioning is always running full force in the summer. I get cold easily so I always prepare accordingly.

  3. Assuming you’re in biglaw, why no mention of the obvious – contact office services and make them deal with it?

    • Anonymous :


    • Anonymous :

      Does this actually work? I’ve been in my office two years and we’ve had building services come over a dozen times and the temperature is still off–currently, freezing in the morning and a sweat lodge in the afternoon, but it’s been all over the place. The problem is that many of these high rises aren’t designed that well, and multiple offices with different energy profiles (e.g. one in the morning sun and one in the afternoon sun) will inexplicably be linked to the same thermostat, and they can’t make both people happy. And the other office is usually a partner, so you can guess who wins.

      • Anonymous :

        We have a green building, so we can’t control the thermostats. And the building (huge, largely glass) is so inertia central in terms of moving any particular office in any direction of comfort. All of the cold air sinks to the bottom floor in the summer, so they crank up the A/C everywhere else. So, 67 in the summer? And in the winter, it is hard to heat. Which means, maybe 68?

        I am cold by nature, so if it is 80 degrees inside, I am fine (so in the summer, if I work past 7, I request late lights, but no AC and it is finally tolerable; not an option in the winter).

        And I’m a partner. If I want to be comfortable, I am high up enough to pack up my things and work from home.

        • Anonymous :

          Oh yes, we don’t actually have control over our thermostats either. It’s a LEED certified building (not sure how considering how much is wasted on A/C that is then counteracted with space heaters, but I digress) and the “thermostat” is just a panel that sends info to building management. They can make adjustments to aim for a specific temperature within their guidelines, but we don’t have any ability to control it and their adjustments are rarely successful.

    • I have control over the thermostat for my own office (within a 5-10 degree window, but it has always been sufficient). I also have a heated ceiling tile above my desk that helps when it is really cold. Basically the greatest office set up ever.

  4. lawsuited :

    I have this exact problem. I have a wonderful office with one wall of floor to ceiling windows. In the summer I use a sleek vertical fan, and give myself permission to be sleeveless and pile my hair on top of my head if need be when working in my office.

    In the winter, I use a black or grey cashmere wrap to cover my legs or shoulders (and occasionally wear a pair of Ugg booties) while sitting at my desk. It’s so warm that I don’t need a separate heater unit.

    I will add that closing the blinds is very effective at keeping heat out during summer and in during the winter, but I usually elect to keep them open because looking outside during the day really de-stresses me.

    • Glass office :

      Glass floor to ceiling on 2.25 sides of my office.

      I have a portable heater that also has a fan. It helps somewhat, but often my feet and legs are the right temperature and the rest of me is cold/hot. I draw some of my blinds in the summer and give myself permission to be sleeveless in my own office. In the winter I wear dresses or bloues with sleeves under my jackets (or even a thin cashmere sweater) and tights. I also have a cashmere shawl, but as I try to stand part of the day, this is not always ideal.

  5. My office is freezing. I share a thermostat with two guys who “run hot” who are freezing in their offices.

    I don’t like space heaters–they heat up the area around them to super hot and there is no heat beyond three feet away.

    I gave in. I have a fleece blanket and a pashmina in my office.

    • Anonymous :

      I have a space heater out of desperation, but I agree with your assessment. Mine is a few inches off the floor, so my legs are usually burning hot and my upper body is still freezing. I stand though, so short of a snuggie, blanket isn’t an option.

      • Diana Barry :

        +1. I do have a space heater too, but my upper body is always cold. Sometimes the guy next to me isn’t in, so I go into his office and reset the temp. :)

    • Anonymous :

      Ya my feet are nice and warm because of my space heater but the rest of me is cold. And yet the male partners always complain about how hot my office is (the 30 seconds that they’re in my office – apparently I’m supposed to be freezing so they’ll be comfortable every time they decide to pop their head in.)

    • Anonymous :

      Yup I had a space heater but my feet and lower legs would always get burned (seriously, burned to the point of being red for hours after I turned off the heater) while my body above my knees was freezing cold.

    • At my office, you can have facilities block off the vents in your office (completely or partially) – several women have done this if they share the thermostat with men who “run hot”.

  6. Jennifer FP :

    What about a small space heater/fan? As someone that’s perpetually cold, I got this: http://www.lowes.com/pd_485217-28803-H-1322_1z0zq50__?productId=999917829&pl=1

    Sometimes when it gets too hot, I just switch it over to the fan. In the winter, I turn the heater on. I keep it at my feet.

    • Anonymous :

      Read your lease (if you don’t, your office admin will). Ours are not allowed and get taken as fire / safety / electrical hazards.

  7. Anonymous :

    I used to have the Vornado at work. It was cute and effective and lasted me 4+ years, well worth the price. Now I’m in an office with an individual thermostat, but turning it way up (I currently have it set on…um…85) doesn’t seem to do anything. Perhaps the building doesn’t turn the heat on until later in the year. If the individual thermostat control doesn’t start working soon, I’m bringing back the Vornado, although now I have a weird open desk so I’m not sure where I could put it that wouldn’t make it obvious I have a space heater.

  8. LW here! The Vornado looks great, and pretty much exactly what I was thinking of. We aren’t biglaw, we’re probably more midlaw here, there are about 20 attorneys in my office, 30 statewide.

    The heating pad on your seat also sounds great, especially as I’m writing this while shivering in my office with my suit jacket in my lap (unexpected cold snap around here, I’ve also got a scarf and thermotights on and I’m still so cold). Has anybody had any issue with your office and having a heating pad like others might have with a space heater? And like Kat said, any recommendations for brands?

    Apparently they offered all of the senior attorneys on the floor my office before they decided to give it to me. My understanding is that they a) didn’t feel like moving all of their things and b) were worried about the noise from the hallway next to me where we have legal assistants on the phone all day. I don’t think the temperature fluctuations were as much of an issue for them, though they are all men who “run hot” as several of you have noted.

  9. Kat- One of the options from Sites We Love involves p*bic hair, which isn’t really SFW. I’ve had a few questionable suggestions from that portion. Any chance you can review what pops up there?

    • Anonymous :

      I’m getting that one too now, and for days I’ve been getting the photo of two girls in underwear with the subject line about how young girls are saying no to thongs.

      • Wildkitten :

        That is an article from the New York Times and so many people objected to the photo they had the ombudsman do a column on it: http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/02/thongs-vs-grannies-behind-the-underwear-story/ So, maybe it’s smut, but it’s Gray Lady smut.

      • Wildkitten :

        My comment is awaiting moderation but the under wear story is from the Times.

        • Wildkitten :


        • Anonymous :

          Yes, I’ve seen the article before but the photo is still not exactly what I want on my screen if someone comes in while I’m taking a this-page break. Also, I know the “thing” on the internet these days is to recycle old articles as topical new stories, but wasn’t that story from some time ago? Can they not get some fresher suggested stories?

  10. My office is a lot like the one described by Reader A. So I wanted to mention that in my office we are not allowed to hang curtains. The mini-blinds are configured so that they must be all the way up or all the way down – no in between. And they do not twist all the way closed. Absurd. Anyway, I have one of those thin vertical fans on my desk for the summer afternoons, and it works quite well. For the winter, I think I’ll try the heating pad suggestion.