Although it’d be nice, there’s no written rule that says you have to be friends with your co-workers. Many would agree the office environment is not the friendliest of places. There’s underhanded competition for the same promotions and nasty inter-office gossip you couldn’t care less about.
Colleagues working in such close quarters can almost always find something to bicker about, but new CareerBuilder data suggests only one issue leads to literal fights. Read on for the No.1 office worker issue sparking controversy (page 4) and a couple potential solutions to the problem (page 7). But first, we’ll review a few issues that can cause serious tension between co-workers.
4. Untidiness at your desk
Clutter, messiness, and disorganization are all ways you can ruin a positive relationship with your co-workers. Not only is a messy desk a major turn off for people and a source of discomfort, research shows untidiness also produces less productive employees. Therefore, hoarding tendencies should remain confined to your home office if keeping the peace among colleagues is important to you.
Next: Noisy neighbors
3. Making loud phone calls or playing loud music
The loudness of phone calls, music, or TV at the office is also cause for frustration. But unlike our No.1 issue, many employees don’t feel comfortable mentioning this issue to one another, and instead, allow the issue to fester inside them for months. However, a quick inter-office memo about the noise level could be beneficial in thwarting potential disagreements down the line.
Next: Almost everyone hates when people do this
2. Eating smelly food around co-workers
Microwave one bag of popcorn or leftover fish dinner at work and the office will reek for eternity. This is something that aggravates many employees — and rightfully so. Strong smells can be distracting. Employers have long struggled to create an office food policy that doesn’t discriminate against a particular ethnicity or national origin, whose foods might smell different than what the rest of your employees are used to. So, at the risk of infuriating everyone you work with, keep the stinky foods at home.
Next: Office conflicts boil down to this one issue
1. The battle over office temperature heats up
Smelly office kitchens and noisy colleagues are irritating, but it’s not what sends workers into a fit of rage. CareerBuilder’s survey found that employees are most commonly at odds — or shall we say wars — over office temperature. Fifteen percent of employees report arguing over where to set the thermostat and 19% confessed to changing the temperature on the D.L. without asking others.
The number of visibly aggravated employees rises for women, 22%, most of whom indicated their offices are too cold for comfort. It also varies by industry. Survey results say retail has the hottest employees, and health care has the coldest.
Next: A gender bias that provokes war to new heights
Your office may have a temperature-related gender bias
CareerBuilder results demonstrate a stark divide between men and women on this issue. But a 2015 article from Wired suggests the disagreements may not be your fault. A research paper from the Nature Climate of Change found that the standards engineers must follow when insulating buildings for temperature and efficiency have a noticeable bias toward men.
The equation that calculates “comfortable” climates only uses the standard metabolic rate of men, not women. Given that men tend to burn hotter than women, this oversight is a natural recipe for in-office arguments and disputes. Women typically have lower metabolisms, so they tend to be cold at a temperature men find comfortable, fostering greater hostility among colleagues.
Next: Another key issue at stake
Too cold to type, too hot to care
Almost half of respondents said they’re unhappy with their workplace’s temperature, and that agreeing to a degree is tough in a work environment. Additional studies suggest wars over office temperature should not be ignored for multiple reasons. Over half (51%) of CareerBuilder respondents said a cold office makes them less productive, but 67% said an office that’s too hot is just as damaging.
A 2011 study suggested a system that regulates office temperatures can save an economy up to $26 billion per year the US, while researchers at Concordia University touted employee productivity improvement by up to $1,000 per year per person, assuming a productivity rate of $20 per hour, should offices correctly regulate climate.
Next: New technology could be the solution
Technology may be the solution
Wars over office temperature may be starting to thaw (sorry) thanks to new technology that aims to squelch this issue once and for all. The Wall Street Journal highlights a possible solution: an app allowing each worker to regulate their own climate-controlled zone, or “thermal bubble,” using heating and cooling units located in the ceiling that are activated by their phones.
Comfy, another app born from thermostat wars allows employees to order a 10-minute blast of cool air or heat on command using one of three messages: Warm My Space,” “Cool My Space” or “I’m Comfy.”
Of course, when technology fails to thwart fights, Career Builder data revealed people resort to extreme tactics like relocating offices, using space heaters, and eating spicy foods, which science says can help elevate body temperature.
Next: What workers are really saying when they complain
Office workers are really arguing about something else entirely
Temperature isn’t life and death, but research shows office workers perform best when they have control over their physical environments. This is the very thought process behind “dummy” thermostats some offices install to make workers feel happier by assuming they have “control”.
HR Dive suggests workplace communication is already very fragile and that employees embarking on war tactics and arguments over office temp are really fighting for something else: Flexibility. Summer season has employees craving for more flexibility in both hours worked and vacation days and says employers could head damaging arguments by allowing more flexibility in other ways, like office climate. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers guidelines on keeping work areas comfortable year-round on its website.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!