It's that time of year again — the cold weather is starting to set in. Before we know it, winter will be here, which can mean a drop in productivity for many businesses, as employees start to feel uncomfortable working in a cold office space.
A recent study found that office temperatures can significantly impact workers' moods, with cooler temperatures leading to more negative emotions and poorer job satisfaction.
In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 42,480 workers suffered injuries from sleet, ice, or snow that forced workers to take one or more days away from work.
Your office should be a place where employees can be productive and comfortable, so taking steps to winter-proof your workplace is important.
Here are some tips for winter-proofing your office space and keeping your workplace warm and cozy!
Tip #1 - Create a Safety Plan
If your office is in an area that is prone to winter-weather-related emergencies, it's important to have a safety plan in place.
Ensure that all employees know the emergency plan and what to do in a power outage, blizzard, or other extreme weather events. Have a designated space for employees to gather in case of an evacuation, and make sure all exit routes are clear and marked.
It is also a good idea to have a list of emergency contact numbers in case of any problems.
Tip #2 - Reduce Slippery Surfaces
Reducing slippery surfaces should be a top priority in any workplace, but it's especially important in the winter when ice and snow can make floors extra slippery.
Be sure to keep walkways and entrances clear of snow and ice and remind your employees to be cautious when walking in the winter. Ensure that any rugs or mats you have in your office are non-slip.
There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of slips and falls in your office:
● Mop up any water build-up on office tiles or flooring;
● Place doormats at building entrances;
● Spread salt or magnesium chloride on parking lots, sidewalks, entrances, and other essential outdoor areas.
Tip #3 - Keep Things Well-Ventilated
One way to keep your office space warm and comfortable is to ensure it is well-ventilated.
In the winter, it's important to keep air circulating to avoid stuffy and uncomfortable environments. Keep doors and windows open when possible, and use fans to circulate the air.
If there is a fireplace in your office, be sure to use it sparingly; too much heat can make an office space feel stuffy.
Tip #4 - Clarify Which Entrance to Use
If you have multiple entrances to your office, make it clear which entrance employees should use during the winter to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. You can do this by putting up signs or sending out an email to all staff members.
Tip #5 - Bring in Some Plants
Plants are aesthetically pleasing; they also improve air quality. When we're all cooped up indoors, the air can start to feel stale in the winter. Adding some plants to your office will help to freshen things up and make the space feel more inviting.
Further, plants can help boost productivity. A recent study from the University of Exeter revealed that employees working in a room with plants had 15% higher productivity levels than those working in a room without plants.
Tip #6 - Upgrade Your Heating System
If your office is still using an old, outdated heating system, it might be time to upgrade. A newer heating system will help keep your office warm and comfortable during the winter months. You can also save money on your energy bill by upgrading to a more energy-efficient system.
Many newer heating systems come with features like zone heating, which allows you to target specific areas of your office. The zone heating feature is especially helpful if you have employees who are always cold or certain areas of your office tend to be cooler than others.
Tip #7 - Bring in Some Extra Blankets
Extra blankets are a great way to make your employees feel more comfortable in the office. They can also be utilized as a makeshift zone heater by placing them underneath desks or on chairs.
If you do not have enough space to store extra blankets, you can always keep a few in the break room for employees to grab when they need them.
Tip #8 - Encourage Employees to Dress in Layers
In the winter, it's important to dress in layers to stay warm when the temperature starts to drop. Employees should dress in light, comfortable clothing that they can easily layer. This way, they can take off or add on clothing as needed to stay comfortable throughout the day.
Also, encourage employees to wear comfortable shoes to prevent slips and falls on icy sidewalks and parking lots.
Tip #9 - Get Some Thermal Curtains
Thermal curtains are an excellent way to keep the heat in your office by trapping the warm air inside and preventing it from escaping. They can be especially helpful if you have large windows or your office is in a drafty area.
Thermal curtains can also help reduce energy costs. By keeping the heat in, you'll be able to lower your thermostat settings and save money on your energy bill.
Tip #10 - Provide Workers with the Correct Equipment
If your employees will be working in the cold, it's important to provide them with the correct equipment, like hats, gloves, and scarves. Employees who are properly dressed will work more comfortably and efficiently in the winter weather.
Also, keep a stock of winter weather gear for emergencies, such as snow shovels, ice scrapers, and salt. If an employee gets stranded at work because of bad weather, you'll be prepared to help them get home safely.
Tip #11 - Offer Flexible Working Arrangements
It's often difficult to get to and from work in the winter, which can be especially challenging if you live in a rural area and the weather is bad. Offering flexible working arrangements like working from home, working different hours, or taking time off during bad weather can help make things easier for your employees.
Keep your employees informed of any changes in the weather so they can make arrangements for traveling to or from work if needed.
Tip #12 - Make Sure the Roof Is in Good Condition
The last thing you want is for your office to start leaking during a winter storm. Ensure that the roof is in good condition and that there are no weak spots. If repairs are needed, make sure to do them before the winter weather hits.
A leaking roof can bring all kinds of problems in the winter, including mold, water damage, and increased heating bills. If you are not sure how to fix a leaky roof, you can always hire a professional.
Tip #13 - Check the Furnace and HVAC System
Before the winter, you should have a professional come and check your furnace and HVAC system to ascertain that they are in good working condition and can properly heat your office space.
Change the filters of your furnace and HVAC system if necessary to keep them running efficiently and prevent them from malfunctioning during the winter. If you are unsure how to change your furnace or HVAC filters, you can find instructions online or in your owner's manual.
Winter Safety Tips for Employees
Employees play an important role in preventing falls and slips by being cautious of their surroundings and making good decisions. Ensure that they are ready for any changes in weather conditions by reminding them of the following:
1. Take their time when walking – especially on icy surfaces.
Remind your employees to take their time when walking in winter weather. Slow down when navigating icy surfaces and avoid running or playing in the snow. Slips and falls can easily happen when people are not paying attention to their surroundings.
2. Use handrails on stairways and don't rush.
Handrails are there for a reason. Use them! In winter, stairways can be icy and slippery. Employees should take their time going up and down stairs, holding on to the handrail for support.
Rushing can lead to falls and injuries, so it's important to take your time in winter weather.
3. Wear appropriate footwear.
It is always wise to wear appropriate footwear in winter, like boots with good traction and non-slip soles. Employees should also avoid wearing high heels or other shoes that are not suitable for icy conditions.
Wearing the appropriate footwear will help employees stay safe.
4. Use only authorized paths.
Don't take the area with uncleared snow. No shortcuts. Snow can cover up potentially dangerous areas like potholes and ice. Employees should only use authorized paths when walking to and from work. They should also avoid taking shortcuts, as these can be very hazardous in the winter.
5. Free up your hands.
Use a carrying case with a shoulder strap for laptops and files. It isn't easy to keep your balance when your hands are full, especially when navigating snow or icy pavements. Free up your hands by carrying a laptop or file in a case with a shoulder strap to stay safe and avoid falls.
Further, avoid using your cell phone while walking – this can lead to falls and injuries.
6. Be aware of changes in walking surfaces.
Being aware of changes in walking surfaces in winter weather like icy patches, snow-covered areas, and puddles helps greatly. Remind your employees to watch out for such and take extra care when walking on these surfaces, especially if they are not wearing the appropriate footwear.
7. Report unsafe conditions to a supervisor or maintenance person.
If an employee notices an unsafe condition, like broken handrails, icy walkways, or loose floor tiles, they should report it to a supervisor or maintenance person.
Reporting unsafe conditions is important because it helps prevent accidents and injuries.
Winter can be a difficult time for office workers. The cold weather and bad weather can make it hard to get to and from work. Implementing the tips we've listed, like providing employees with the correct equipment, offering flexible working arrangements, and checking the furnace and HVAC system, will make things easier for them.
It's always a good idea to remember that the winter season is when many people are more prone to slipping and falling. Apart from making sure to take their time in the snow, there are other things employees can do to be safer while on the job.
Winter safety tips include using handrails, taking your time going up and down stairs, wearing appropriate footwear, staying away from either snow-covered areas that have not been cleared or shortcuts, using proper carrying cases with shoulder straps, and freeing up your hands, so you're not juggling too much weight as well.
These steps should help keep employees safe during this busy wintry season. If any of these seem daunting or you're not sure where to start, talk to your supervisor or safety department for more information on how you can winterproof your office space.