Working This Winter with the Windows Open – For Real?

Working This Winter with the Windows Open – For Real?


The COVID pandemic has changed the way we think about almost everything. Some of our new thoughts seem fairly reasonable. Others have left some of us wondering what on earth is going on. A case in point is a recent building study out of the UK that suggests, among other things, leaving office windows open this winter. After all, team members can just wear hoodies and woolly jumpers.

This is for real. It’s not made up. The people behind the study think it is vitally important to continue flooding buildings with fresh air for the foreseeable future. They don’t believe current ventilation systems are capable of doing the trick. So their solution is to leave the windows open year-round.

That would facilitate wearing T-shirts and shorts to work in the summer, hooded sweatshirts and heavy sweaters during the winter, and something between the two extremes during spring and fall. If you think that makes sense, think again.

Cold Slows You Down

It’s a lovely thought to suggest that leaving the windows open and wearing hooded sweatshirts will help mitigate infectious diseases. Doing so might even be good for companies like Plurawl, a New York City LatinX brand that sells Latino hoodies and T-shirts. But it is neither practical nor doable for a variety of reasons.

Leaving the windows open on a cold January day could easily lead to office temperatures in the 60s. No big deal, right? Wrong. Try sitting at your desk and typing on the computer at that temperature. A couple of hours of general physical inactivity and your teeth will be chattering. Your fingers will be stiff and inflexible. You will be less productive because, no matter how many sweatshirts you put on, the cold slows you down.

If you need evidence of this reality, just watch a couple football games this winter. Go ahead and chuckle at Miami residents donning winter coats and hats when the temperature in South Florida dips into the high fifties. To a Northerner, that’s pretty warm for mid-December. But to a Southerner, it’s downright cold. You don’t stay warm sitting in a stadium and doing nothing but watching a football game for three hours. That’s why you see the winter coats and hats.

Heat Makes You Lethargic

The other side of the coin is leaving the office windows open during the summer. Go ahead and wear your T-shirts and shorts to work. Just know that leaving the windows open isn’t likely to result in a cool breeze flowing across the office. It is still going to be stiflingly hot at your workstation.

Guess what happens when people are exposed to excessive heat for hours on end? They become lethargic. You know it from personal experience. After a couple of hours of scorching summer temperatures, you are ready for a cold drink and a nap. If nothing else, all you want to do is sit down in the shade. The last thing you want to do is work.

There is a reason modern offices are temperature controlled. Years of research have proved that comfortable employees are more productive employees. In addition, modern electronic devices don’t do very well in temperature extremes. Leaving the windows open year-round would inevitably harm computers, computer peripherals, etc.

You can wear a hooded sweatshirt in the winter, but your computer cannot. You can wear a tank top or T-shirt all summer long. The office peripherals have no way to escape the heat. In the end, the idea being proposed by the UK study just isn’t workable. Hopefully, the powers that be will ignore it.