According to the survey carried out by Dr Rebecca Whittle of Lancaster University, a light being left on in an unoccupied office or a recyclable item put in the wrong bin can provoke emotions as strong as guilt, rage or despair.

She told the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society in London that the rise of environmentalism is making the workplace brimful of emotion, with seemingly small matters like people leaving computers on overnight, driving rather than cycling to work, or not turning off office lights at the end of the day, provoking strong reactions.

The survey found that particular causes of anger in shared offices were people altering the temperature of a room without consulting others, listening to loud music through headphones, or having private conversations without considering those who were trying to concentrate.

However, Dr Whittle said the anger is rarely – if ever – expressed or translated into action because challenging someone openly or taking responsibility for another person’s equipment such as a computer would be “unthinkable”.

“Being a good employee today is a very emotional experience”, she says. “In addition to trying to be productive, you must also strive to do your bit for the environment – a task which made still more difficult by the fact that being productive doesn’t necessarily equate with being environmental,” she added.

Whittle urged management to take a more active role by integrating environmental concerns into the workplace and removing the emotional pressure on those who feel strongly about the issues.

In August, scientists warned that the world is set to become more violent as global temperatures rise, adding that this could lead to a “collapse in civilisation”.

An exhaustive study of a wide range of conflicts over thousands of years has found that rising temperatures are inevitably linked to an increase in violence.

Leigh Stringer

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