Gone with the Wind

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I went home early from work today because I wasn't feeling good. We've been having a problem with the air at work since before I started. Heat will come on in the summer time and air conditioning in the winter. It seems to be the case in a lot of offices I've worked in. Some companies will go so far as to put locked covers over the thermostats to prevent employees from changing the temps (and apparently screwing up the heating systems). I realize that you can't make ever employee happy temperature wise so I have a heater, a cold air humidifier AND a fan at my desk (oh yeah, no empty wall sockets near me!). While I normally don't complain about the overall office temperature (because I have my lovely appliances), the past few days have been an exception. Even I have had issues with the the room temp in our office. It's been about 24 - 26C. WAY too hot for inside.

One of the traits I've inherited from my mother is a problem with heat. Not just from the sun but indoor or what I like to call artificial heat. Often I will jump at the chance to sit in the backseat of a car (unless, naturally, I'm driving) because (1) I don't have to make conversation as much as the person in the passenger seat, and (2) I'm out of the way of direct air from the vents. This second fact is a killer for me in the winter. Both my mother and I have been known to drive with the windows open in the middle of the coldest winter. Some days, I'll even open my apartment window at home to get fresh air, even if it's -30C. For some reason, fire (candles, fireplaces, campfires) doesn't bother me in this way.

As a result of my heat aversion, the temperature in our office, even WITH the assistance of my fan and humidifier, has been unbearable. While it wasn't blowing directly onto my face, it was enough to make me feel as though I was going to puke and pass out (not necessarily in that order). I left (don't worry...I told people I was leaving and why). Is anyone else bothered by the fact that offices no longer make buildings with windows that can open?

I also have a serious problem with air conditioning. Not quite the same reaction but more of an ethical (?) issue. We don't need air conditioning. Open a freaking window. Oh wait. They no longer open. Personally, I'd much rather feel the wind on my face cooling me off naturally than having some chemical filled machine blowing artificially cooled air (which is often WAY too cold) down my back. Not only are the machines ugly, but they're bad for the environment (whether thru water usage or chemicals or broken down machines filling land fills). Get a fan, open a window, take your clothes off. If you allowed office windows to open (even those small little windows that you CAN'T fit a human body through), you could create cross breezes in the summer that will cool off your employees naturally. Sure papers will blow a bit but it's a small price to pay.

An added bonus? Fresh air...................................................... many of you are probably sitting there scratching your head. What's fresh air? Ha ha ha. I'm a firm believer that a reason so many office workers get sick so often is the recycled fake tasting air that is constantly circulating throughout highrises. With windows that don't open you don't get any fresh air circulating in the office. And, god forbid, Betty in accounting on the 19th floor sneezes and her germs get sucked into one of the air vents, Ken on three in communications is going to be home with a wicked cold in about 2 days. I had read/heard (can't remember...) something about a year ago where large companies in Australia or New Zealand had started adding drops of tea tree oil to their air systems. As it is a natural disenfectant, it cut down on the number of illnesses their employees experienced. I put a few drops every couple of days into the humidifier by my desk and I've been doing quite well thank you very much (other than the heat induced urge to vomit).

What are your healthy work tips/habits?


Barbara Bruederlin said...

That's a really interesting piece you've written. It's true about how the air in most offices is sick. We don't even have a window in our place, let alone one that opens.

I am a firm believer in opening the window. I often open them at home right through the winter, and in the summer I never close them. Of course when we lived in Ontario I would have killed for AC as the humidity there is a killer, you sure don't need it in Alberta.

Another thing that bugs me is people spraying "air freshener" instead of opening a window. That shit'll kill you.

Adam said...

People observe my behaviour towards weather and believe me to be a strange person. I too have a problem with heat, except perhaps its so extreme it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Up until this last year, when I was basically forced to, I didn't own a pair of pants. I wore shorts all year long. Also I never owned a heavy coat, only hoodies. Thus in winter I'd be walking around campus with Khaki shorts some Vans slip-ons on my feet.

I sleep with a fan on, on top of the AC that runs (we don't use the heat ever in our apt). I imagine someday this will wear off, but I doubt it.

Tanya said...

I agree with what you've said. I work in an office with no air con. When it's hot, we open the door and the windows.

My boss is quite conservative when it comes to spending money on heating and will only heat the office when absolutely necessary. Which isn't that great for me because I really feel the cold.

I do think that the environment is suffering because we've allowed ourselves to become so dependent on air con. Ring in the revolution!

Red said...

I really feel the cold too, but I find it much easier to work in a cold office than in a hot one. I figure I'll just put on an extra jumper, or a blanket on my knees (I'm lucky that mostly I get to work from home!).

If it's too hot, what do you do? Opening the window on a hot summer's day often just brings more hot air in and a fan just circulates it around. Unfortch, we haven't gotten round to an A/C system, but I would gladly invest in one...

The heating in our bedroom is always off. I believe in sleeping in a cold environment, under a warm duvet!

Anonymous said...

Living without AC is a horrifying thought to me. Why? Because I live in North Carolina and people freaking die from the heat sometimes. I should move to Canada.

Tea tree oil. Got it. That's a really good idea.

Staving off office germs. What a constant joy. I take this stuff called Wellness Formula the second I feel any symptoms. It's all vitamins and herby stuff. It has definitely stopped/knocked out colds for me before, one just last week. Good stuff.

Candy Minx said...

The secret to survivng summer heat and humidity is stop moving so fast. People don't need air conditioners we need a redefined sense of work and speed.

I am a very hyper person and am able to stay warm easily, I love windowns open all year. I love being outside in freezing weather, to be at a fire outside is the best.

I love the summer too...as long as one is allowed to move at a regular pace and skip noon time heat...siesta make sense and help the air quality of a city. Air conditioners contribute to the smog and heat in urban streets.

More trees, more grass, they recyle the air and cool us down.

I can sleep with the window opne in Feb.

Sniffy said...

I hate being cold and in summer, I quite like the way the office temperature gradually raises from slightly uncomfortable to unbearable without you noticing that you're about to faint. Then you look at the thermometer and realise that it's reached 35°C. It's weird.

This is the public sector in the UK, we don't have air conditioning and crime problems mean that our windows only open six inches.

My sister works for a private healthcare company in an airconditioned office. She swears that the recycled air is to blame for her constantly being ill. Personally, I think the fact that she's 18weeks pregnant has something to do with it.

In summary, a comfortable office temperature is about 23°C. I prefer to be warmer at home, probs about 25.

Alun said...

I used to work a cold store between -18 and -23 degrees centrigrade which is fine if it's a dry cold. The company did provide coats and so on, but often I used to gloves but no coat because it's so warm. I don't know if it's had a long term effect but I do find anything above plus fifteen is too hot.

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