Creating a comfortable environment in the dental office is important not only for patients but also for staff members who work there every day. You spend a lot of time at work, so naturally, you want to be as comfortable as possible. There are some things you can control, such as wearing comfortable shoes. But other factors, such as the temperature in your dental office, aren’t entirely up to you.
Some people prefer warmer environments, while others like colder indoor temperatures, which may lead to disagreements among staff. How can you find the sweet spot with your office thermostat, especially during summer heat waves?
The expert recommendations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not mandate that offices keep temperature or humidity at a certain level. OSHA does, however, recommend keeping indoor temperatures between 68 and 76 degrees and humidity levels between 20% and 60%. A 2006 study by Helsinki University of Technology and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed that office workers were most productive with an indoor temperature around 71-72 degrees.
Dental staff needs
Team members may have different needs based on where they work in the office. For example, the front office staff may have different preferences than the clinical staff.
“The clinical team is always roasting, and the front desk staff is always cold!” shares Dani.
Dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants are active throughout the day, moving from room to room, standing, and working in sometimes-uncomfortable positions to help treat patients. Plus, they’re required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves, and goggles. All of this can combine to make the office a bit toasty for clinical staff! These team members may prefer cooler temperatures to stay comfortable while working.
On the other hand, office managers typically don’t need to wear PPE and may wear scrubs or professional attire. They often spend extended periods sitting as they greet patients at the front desk, update records, schedule appointments, and more. As a result, they may prefer the office temperature to be a bit warmer than the clinical staff.
“We leave our AC on 72 in the back offices, and the front is always hot at 78,” says Juanita.
Finding a happy medium
No dental team wants to have patients complaining about the temperature or staff members sneaking over to adjust the thermostat throughout the day. How can you find a balance to make everyone as comfortable as possible in the dental office?
If your dental office has multiple heating and cooling units or a zone-controlled system, you can adjust the temperature in different areas of the office separately.
“We have two HVAC units — one for the front, and one for the back office,” says Jessica. “The difference is hilarious when I walk a patient up. The air conditioning is always on in the back!”
However, not every office has this option. In those cases, communication is a good first step to prevent complaints or disputes over the temperature. As a team, discuss each person’s needs and come to an agreement on the best solution for everyone to stay comfortable.
You should consider patients in these discussions. Sometimes, they’ll just tell you when they’re too cold or warm. But for those patients who don’t speak up, some dental offices send out post-appointment surveys that include questions about patient comfort during visits. If you find patients are uncomfortable, consider making a temperature adjustment or reaching out to them before their appointments to recommend that they wear proper attire, such as a jacket. Some offices may even offer blankets for patients to use during appointments.
If the dental office is still too warm or cold for your liking, you have a few options. For those who are cold, consider bringing a fleece jacket, shawl, or blanket to work or purchasing scrubs with special linings designed to keep you warm. You can also use a space heater if it’s safe to do so and permitted by your office.
On the flip side, you may be able to purchase lighter scrubs or clothing to stay cool in a hot office. Staying hydrated can also help regulate your body temperature and keep you cool. Using a fan in your workspace is another option, if it is permitted in your office.
No matter your temperature preferences in the dental office, strong communication and compromise can help keep everyone comfortable.