Summer is just around the corner – longer days of sunshine, flowers are blooming, city sidewalks are filled with an eclectic mix of people, lunchtime and after-work happy-hours fill patios with a fusion of conversations and laughter. Ahhh – the beloved signs of warmer temperatures. But wait, chances are, amid the chatter are the complaints of cold air-conditioned offices because as the outdoor temperatures rise, simultaneously air conditioning switches are being turned on and the air in offices become more frigid. Layers, whether a sweater, jacket or shawl become the necessary “summer” work accessory.
And there ensues the battle of the thermostat – someone usually has to give in to being too warm or too cold; and in most cases the battle lines are drawn between genders. Women usually prefer the thermostat raised to warmer temperatures. There’s a well-established thought that cooler temperatures make for a productive work environment whereas warmer temperatures make people more sluggish and less productive.
However, over the years there have been studies that disprove this theory. The most recent study was published last month at the University of California by TY Chang, Marshall School of Business’ associate professor of finance and business economics and A Kajackaite a behavioral economics researcher at WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany . It found that women performed better on math and verbal tasks in warmer temperatures and men performed better in cooler temperatures but it wasn’t a dramatic difference as it was for women. The study showed that it wasn’t just the comfort, but performance and the degree of effort put forth that was affected by the temperature.
“It’s been documented that women like warmer indoor temperatures more than men—but the idea until now has been that it’s a matter of personal preference,” said Chang. “What we found is it’s not just whether you feel comfortable or not, but that your performance on things that matter—in math and verbal dimensions, and how hard you try—is affected by temperature.”
The research was conducted in Berlin, it included 543 participants; the rooms were set between 61°F -91°F (16°C – 32°C). They weren’t able to confirm what temperature would be ideal.
However, another study conducted by the University of Sydney, in 2018 shows that 77°F (25° C) was more comfortable and does not lower productivity while being better for energy use and greenhouse emissions.
On a personal note, I know (albeit I’m one of those who gets cold easily and always has a sweater or jean jacket in hand) that when I’m cold, it’s harder to focus on the task at hand because I’m distracted by the discomfort and thoughts of getting warm.
Chang and Kajackaite, suggest, based on their findings that the mixed gender working environments should raise the thermostats in offices. In the end, it’s better for the environment, more comfortable and makes for more productive and efficient employees which equates to a more profitable bottom line : cha-ching!
Study finds warmer temperatures improve women’s performance, by University of Southern California More information: Chang TY, Kajackaite A (2019) Battle for the thermostat: Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216362. journals.plos.org/plosone/arti … journal.pone.0216362
A Slightly Warmer Office Won’t Make it Too Hot to Think, by Dian Tjondronegoro, Christhina Candido, Fan Zhang And Shamila Haddad, The Conversation, April 12, 2018