As we quickly advance toward the icy and inhospitable environs of winter, employees in offices across the country will begin to complain about being cold.
Let’s face it: not every building was designed for the comfort of employees. Likewise, employers don’t always have control over the efficiency of the building’s heating system.
Caring employers want to be accommodating, yet as business professionals they understand how conventional personal space heaters brought from home can present unintended consequences. Not only can they increase utility bills, their status as a fire hazard has made them less than welcome in the workplace.
Few employers realize, however, that space heaters have come a long way in the last decade. No longer do space heaters equate to fire hazards. No longer do they translate into a costly utility bill. A host of space heating products now exist that are safe, energy efficient and economical. They also have the added benefit of making cold employees comfortable.
Here are some space heating alternatives to consider for your office:
Flat Panel Heaters
Flat panel space heaters can be easily mounted to the wall next to an employee or used in conjunction with a leg stand beneath the desk itself. Unlike traditional space heaters, flat panel heaters actually reduce fire risks and prevent tripped circuits. Most importantly, these products can be placed against combustible materials without causing a fire. They also save money on energy bills because many use only about one-tenth the amount of electricity as traditional space heaters. Most flat panel heaters have an accessory control option that can regulate the level of warmth the panel heaters emit.
Heated Foot Rests
Chilly employees will definitely thank you for heated foot rests. Ergonomically designed, these products elevate one’s feet comfortably while providing even warmth to one of the first areas of the body to get cold. Heated foot rests use 90 percent less energy than standard space heaters, and they’re safe to the touch. Most have height adjustments and most importantly, they improve circulation and blood flow, which can provide tremendous relief to workers with health problems. Many heated foot rests are sold with an optional fleece foot cover that snaps to the top of the foot rest and directs heat around the entire foot.
Heated Rubber Mats
For offices with hard, cold floors such as cement, stone or other impervious surfaces, heated rubber mats offer an excellent alternative to traditional space heaters. In addition to rolling up for convenient storage, heated rubber mats can reach up to 130 degrees, while still using 95 percent less electricity than conventional space heaters (a standard light bulb requires more energy). Heated rubber mats can actually be used to melt ice and snow off of footwear as well, which means employees do not have to remove their shoes or boots to warm up quickly.
Eco-Friendly Space Heaters
Although they may look like traditional space heaters, newer model space heaters can operate with only half the energy. Most include an adjustable thermostat and variable fan control. Eco-friendly space heaters often feature built-in safety mechanisms that turn the units off should they ever be accidently knocked over. Note that while many offices have banned high-watt space heaters, many eco-friendly space heaters meet all safety standards that make them office-friendly and energy efficient. These products can be used under desks, on desktops, shelves, bathrooms or in corners. An outlet is all one of these heaters requires to add extra warmth to an employee’s personal space.
Heated Shoe Inserts
Although employers may not provide these for their team, heated shoe inserts offer a great from-home alternative to personal space heaters. These ultra-thin foam pads can be inserted into one’s shoes or boots to instantly heat feet to 98 degrees. Employers may want to provide these inserts to employees who must head out into the field for a sales call, make deliveries, work in construction or perform other outdoor work.
When employees must spend a large amount of time outside in cold weather, heated shoe inserts can help keep them happy and warm, and even improve health. Although the market is saturated with disposable inserts, these are often inefficient, wasteful and expensive. Reusable, battery powered inserts are typically water-resistant and shock-proof. They’re also rugged, making them ideal for outdoor use.
Common Objections to Space Heaters in the Workplace
Many employers are understandably nervous about their employees using space heaters in the workplace. Conventional space heaters used over the course of the last several decades were often unsafe, inefficient, and costly. Likewise, employers had good cause to believe personal space heaters located next to a thermostat could destabilize the temperature of the entire building. While it is true that orthodox space heaters can trip circuits or shut down a zone or building heating system prematurely, modern space heaters and space-heating alternatives will not have these adverse effects on your business.
In fact, energy-efficient, low-watt personal heaters that conserve energy, prevent circuit overloads and reduce the risk of fire can even be incorporated into your organization’s sustainability plan.
Another common objection is that if employees are cold, they should dress in layers, bring a blanket or keep their winter boots on. Putting the onus on employees to keep warm is short-sighted, however, because their focus while in the office should be on productivity. An intemperate office can be a constant distraction and severely impact your team’s output.
Modern space heating solutions have all but eliminated the many sound reasons employers have traditionally had for banning space heaters at work. Find out what heating solutions work for your employees and make a small investment in their comfort. As many employers can attest: a comfortable team is a productive team.
Ellen Borza is the content developer for Chicago, Illinois-based Cozy Products.