Looking for hot issues? Forget about Afghanistan, the Olympic boycott, Soviet troops in Cuba or who will run with Ronald Reagan. This week the official eyes of Washington are turned to the thermostat on the wall.

Mother nature (and President Carter's federal energy conservation policies) have teamed up to make Washington even more of a hotbox than normal. p

Big chunks of the bureaucracy, working in buildings where the air-conditioning isn't working, are wilting.

In the past five days this column has logged more than 100 calls from panting civil servants, from Texas, Oklahoma, Camp Lejune, N.C., and Washington.

Please, the callers say, run the "roasting chart" one more time. They want to be able to show it to bosses in hopes that bosses will use the official discomfort index guidelines to let workers go home, when office condtions become to sultry.

Since the Eisenhower Adminsitration, Uncle Sam has used the Indoor Discomfort Index as a guide to managers. Under the federal heat-humidity guildeline -- approved by the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Adminstration -- personnel can be sent home from work if INDOOR temperature and humidity levels reach U.S.-approved standards for misery.

It is equally important to understand what the guildelines are not. They are not gospel, in that federal officials do not have to release workers even if the temperature-humidity readings in the chart are reached. The guidelines are just that, guide-lines that managers can use if working conditions become difficult and uncomfortable.

The official federal government Indoor Discomfort Index is illustrated with this column.