How to get 1°C cooler in just 6 minutes



Yesterday I cycled my bike across London. And it occurred to me that to many people that would seem like an absolutely mad thing to do. But if you ride a bike often you’ll know that on hot days. All you need to do is take it really slow. If you expend as little energy as possible, then you don’t overheat through exertion and while you’re coasting down hills the gentle breeze over the surface of your skin keeps you nice and cool.

So if the trick to staying cool on a bike is primarily behavioural, then I wonder: if when we find ourselves struggling with heat in general, should we first look to our own behaviour?

Apparently the outside temperature is 25° C and all morning I’ve been working in our two-bedroom flat in Crystal Palace. As usual I chose to work in our south facing living/dining room. It is a very Large open plan area which makes up about 50% of our flat. So usually it is the nicest place to work.

My Twitter stream was begrudging the temperature and a few people mentioned that they happen to work from home without air conditioning.

Unfortunately I find it almost impossible to resist an opportunity to be a know it all, even when I am making exactly the same mistake. So I’ve just told someone to do what people did before we had air conditioning and moved to a different part of the building.

I think the reason we have fallen out of the habit of changing rooms when the temperatures become uncomfortable is because of the existence of air conditioning, but more importantly because we’ve become used to working at desks in a fixed location. But if like me you are working on a laptop in a Wi-Fi area then staying put doesn’t make any sense.

I think the reason we have got out of the habit of moving to a more comfortable place when the temperature goes up is because over the last hundred years or so the majority of us have become desk bound. We’ve got so used to having to stay in the same place to do our work that we now don’t even see the opportunity that these new technologies are providing us with. The advantage of mobile working is that it is mobile, even if you happen to be in your usual place of work. So unless you’re in a large office and there is no other rooms where you can move to, to do your work, have you thought about moving to the north side of your building?


In order for me to change the room I was working in, I had to unplug my printer and remove all the papers from my desk, carry my laptop through to the other room. Take the legs off the table, carry the table through to the other room, screw the legs back on and set up a seat by the new desk. In total that entire process took me six minutes. In return, I’ve moved from a room with a temperature of 25.5° C to a room with a temperature of 24.4° C. So I’ve lost a degrees C in temperature and am now sat in a pleasant breeze. Hopefully this move will have increased my productivity today.


It’s amazing how we’ve lost the skills that presumably came naturally to people in the past. It seems like our recent industrial history has turned us into fully domesticated animals. Through no fault of our own, we sit here like battery chickens overheating, when if we just thought a little bit more like our wild ancestors, I’m sure many of these issues would be easily overcome.

If you don’t work from home, and your office is currently sweltering, then how do you think your boss would feel about you working from home over the coming days, which are set to be scorchers?

If this week your office is particularly uncomfortable, then there really doesn’t seem to be any advantage in travelling across London to sit in a room which is reducing your productivity. How do you think they’d feel if you asked to work from home and be logged in to Google hangout so that they can keep track of you and make sure you’re still doing your work, and that you’d still be easily contactable, but you could place yourself in an environment which made you more comfortable happy and productive. Working from home every day is not ideal. It’s great to have that face-to-face contact, but are we all being absolutely mental, by travelling into work during a period when it’s hampering our progress?

Is this hot weather a good time to reassess how we work? Who knows what your team could learn by experimenting with Google hangout’s homeworking and moving location to be more comfortable in the heat? You might find some really useful new tools that you can use for the rest of the year.