Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Coping with Air Conditioning

Hi Belle,

Like most DC offices, my workplace insists on keeping the average temperature around 55 degrees in the summer months. I’m loving all of the spring/summer trends, but am struggling to find some cute sweaters and/or jackets that are fashionable and will also keep me warm in the office (while not completely stifling me the second I step out of the office into the DC heat). I realize this is a lot to ask of an article of clothing – but I hope you can offer some advice! I would hate to have to resort to an “office sweater”.

– C

I’ve posted before about chilly D.C. offices.  In fact, I am aware of no other city that is quite as enamored with air conditioning.  And I’ve always wondered if the bureaucracies and massive office buildings would even be able to exist had AC never been invented.  But I digress…

AC can be a relief or it can be Chinese water torture.  I get cold easily, so a well air-conditioned building is my own personal version of Hell.  So how do I keep warm?

First, I keep a heating pad in my desk.  I know, it sounds totally weird, but stay with me for a moment. 

The House Office Buildings (and probably, most gov’t offices) frown upon the use of space heaters.  (As do male co-workers who ALWAYS love AC.)  So instead, you plug in a heating pad and lay it across the seat of your chair.  It gently warms the blood as it passes through your femoral artery (this is my hypothesis, anyway) keeping you warm even in the frigid indoor air.

Secondly, instead of an office sweater, I keep an office wrap.  I prefer the wrap because if I’m just a little chilly, I can wear it as a scarf.  If I’m bare-armed, I can wrap it around my shoulders.  And if I’m wearing a suit, I can use it to cover my exposed legs. 

A word of caution though, you will want to send the wrap to the dry cleaner from time to time.  You’ll be shocked at how dirty it becomes after a few months of use.

A cold employee is not a productive employee.  Sadly, as long as men wear wool suits and ties, they will bitch about being hot.  And for me, it’s just easier to keep myself warm than it is to listen to their endless griping about the office temperature.  You have to pick your battles, and for the cost of a $15 heating pad, the thermostat does not have to be one of them.



  1. TA says:

    I think it's coincidence that the WaPo printed an article about this problem:

    I agree with the space heater 100%!

    June 6, 2012/Reply
  2. Monika says:

    I have a tiny space heater essentially disguised as a speaker atop my desk- It's only about 4 in by 6 in, but it gets the job done, and building maintenance hasn't caught on yet!

    June 6, 2012/Reply
  3. ThePoeLog says:

    I second the use of a heating pad. I use mine at work year-round. Just remember to turn it off at night.

    June 6, 2012/Reply
  4. Ann says:

    I am a big fan of wraps and have several in my rotation – the Metro can also be waaay too cold some days

    June 6, 2012/Reply
  5. JKR says:

    How I feel:

    June 6, 2012/Reply
  6. Sarah says:

    That little teeny heater looks amazing! Thanks, Monika!

    June 6, 2012/Reply
  7. BN says:

    I am so glad Im not the only one who uses a heating pad at work!! I also use it year-round, and it's a life saver. As Belle said, I shut down when I'm cold, so I am definitely the unproductive cold worker.

    June 6, 2012/Reply
  8. Sarah says:

    Belle, can you provide an example or a sample link as to what a desk wrap/scarf would be appropriate? Currently I keep a Columbia fleece jacket at my desk and I know it is not okay but I just get so chilly as well.

    June 7, 2012/Reply
  9. Katrin says:

    I love my heating pad – though I use mine in the winter (we don't have A/C here, not that we wouldn't need it though). But please please don't sit on it! My doctor warned me that this would be a straight route to hemmorhoids (due to increased blood flow in your nether regions). Rather, put the pad in your back. Not as comfy, but still better than the other option!

    June 13, 2012/Reply