When discussing dress codes for the office, energy savings is not usually what will be talked about. However, this was the subject matter in Japan this summer. With the recent disaster in Japan and the destruction of one of their main nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan has faced their largest energy shortage throughout the hot summer months. To cope with the shortages, Japan was forced to rethink their usual stringent dress code in offices.
Through the hot months air conditioning was either left at a higher temperature or turned off all together. To allow for a humane work environment, dress codes were implemented that allowed workers to remove jackets and ties and wear short sleeved shirts. Some Japanese are hoping this will lead to more relaxed dress codes, but the majority of Japan businesses will not allow Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and flip flops. The Japanese culture just is not ready for this level of casual dress.
The Science is Solid
Although dress codes were never an issue before, science has proved that altering the temperature of air conditioning can save up to ten percent off energy costs. The problem is that eliminating the use of air conditioning will save money and help lower energy usage but the environment for employees can become uncomfortable. Uncomfortable employees will have a more difficult time focusing on their work. Not focusing on their work, will cause employees to take longer breaks, and make more mistakes. These additional breaks and mistakes can become costly for a business, eliminating the cost savings from having the air conditioning off.
To adjust for this, dress codes that are stringent and usually require a suit and tie have to be changed or relaxed. Allowing employees to avoid suits and wear a short sleeve shirt can help them become more comfortable. Although employees would love to work in shorts and T-shirts, this look would come across as unprofessional to customers and could cause loss of business. Thus, strict policies need to be in place to dictate what the employee could wear. A short sleeved dress shirt can be cool and still professional looking. Polo shirts are also a great alternative, and company logos can be added to create a professional look. Any company allowing more casual dress should be sure to specify if prints are allowed, and what type or color selections are appropriate.
Try the Flipside
Just as letting your summer temperature go up a few degrees can save money, taking your temperature down a few degrees in the winter can save money too. The beauty of saving money with heating and cooling is that you are also helping the environment. The less energy and fuel needed to keep a furnace system working will cause less carbon emissions from your local energy system.
The Department of Energy (DOE) states that your energy costs can be lowered about one percent for every degree that your room temperature is lowered. Thus, if you are used to seventy-two degrees in the winter, lowering the temperature to the recommended sixty-eight degrees can save approximately four to five percent in energy bills. At night, DOE recommends taking the temperature in non-used rooms to sixty-five degrees. Larger ranges will simply cause excessive heat use as the heating system works harder to catch up to daytime levels.
So, if short sleeves and polo shirts work in the summer to keep employees comfortable in the heat, then logic would dictate that suits and ties are back in for the winter months. As the temperatures are lowered in the offices, however, complaints from employees should be kept to a minimum since a jacket might be welcome attire. The balance between energy savings and employee comfort should be closely monitored. And employee that is more sensitive to colder temperatures, mind you even sixty-eight degrees can be considered cold, would eliminate the savings if they plug in a ceramic heater to keep warm. Cold fingers also do not type as fast or accurately, and the reception area needs to be kept warmer to make sure the customer is still kept comfortable with auto transport. Even with these considerations, a savings could be seen.
Keep It Reasonable
Remember to not let cost savings become the number one goal. Employees and customers need to be at the top to keep your business at the top. Lowering temperatures to a point that employees need to keep hats and scarves on would not bode well and will give the impression that the company cannot pay its bills. Keep the temperature changes reasonable, only a couple of degrees in either direction will make a large impact in the year’s costs and energy usage, without impacting comfort too much.