Healthy Computing: Keep It Warm

Now is the season for cooler weather and shorter days and for ensuring
that your room is the appropriate temperature for working safely. Do you
have an office with drafty windows and/or poor heating? Our body
prioritizes heat distribution, with the extremities at the bottom of
the list. When we work in colder rooms, we may be at risk of injury
because the cold can contribute to vasoconstriction of the wrists, hands
and fingers, which can result in cold hands, increased muscle tension and
limited range of motion. Take time now to ensure that when you work, you


If you are in the same office as last winter, take a moment to reflect on
whether you were cold or comfortably warm when working. If you are in a
new office, ask coworkers about the temperature. Winter room temperature
is best for work when it ranges between 67 and 76 Fahrenheit.* If your
office is colder than recommended, explore some of the following options:

  • Increase room temperature if the room is too cold for you (e.g., turning
    the thermostat up or request a portable heater). Ask your supervisor for
    help in resolving the situation.

  • Block drafts when sitting at your desk or computer by adjusting air
    vents or by changing the location of the workstation (e.g., rearrange
    the desk so that you are not sitting next to a cold window).

  • Wear a turtleneck, scarf or hat (40% to 60% of body heat is lost through
    your head and neck).

  • Wear warmer clothing with long sleeves to cover your wrists (fingerless
    gloves can also help). However, if you must resort to wearing hats or
    coats, your room is too cold for working safely. Notify your supervisor
    or plant manager and ask them to address the situation immediately.
    Wearing heavy clothing, such as coats, can restrict movement when
    working and can contribute to discomfort and injury.

  • Increase active movements and reduce sitting still for extended time

  • Decrease caffeine intake, since it constricts peripheral blood vessels.
  • Reduce or stop smoking cigarettes or cigars (nicotine decreases blood
    flow in the extremities).

  • Practice hand warming by exhaling very slowly with diaphragmatic
    breathing. Imagine the air flowing down and through your arms and out
    your hands with each exhalation.

* Recommended guidelines issued by the American Society of Heating,
Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Copyright 2002 Erik Peper, Ph.D. and Katherine Hughes Gibney

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Written by Erik Peper PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021