Thermostat Wars

Anita,

The women in my office are at odds with the men over the temperature. If we dress appropriately for the warm weather outside, we freeze to death in the office. It’s hard to concentrate on your work when your fingers turn into blue Popsicles! Can you help us find a happy medium?

Dear “In a Cold Sweat,”

Adjusting the heating thermostatAfrican american man push button digital climate control

 

It’s a tale as old as… well, the invention of modern air conditioning, circa 1902. The gender divide is apparent when it comes to the preferred thermostat setting. I’ve known women who keep a polar fleece jacket or blanket at their desks, or who sneak a space heater next to their feet (Smokey the Bear would definitely not approve). While I won’t go so far as to call it a sexist conspiracy, the predicament does seem to affect women more than men – except for those unfortunate males who work for a female supervisor in the sweltering throes of a hot flash, jealously guarding the key to the AC.

Clothing, age, even your weight can affect how you experience temperatures. If your office has a suit and tie policy for the men, the extra layer of clothing is going to make the guys hotter under the proverbial collar. To be fair, guys can’t really strip down to the sleeveless tops that are acceptable for women to wear at work. It is easier to add a clothing layer to warm yourself up than it is to cool off when you can disrobe no further!

If Team Cold and Team Hot can’t keep their hands off the thermostat, your company may have to institute a climate control policy. OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) recommends indoor temperatures between 68-76° F, which is a pretty broad range. Most building thermostats follow a thermal comfort formula that was developed in the 1960s. Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands claim the formula is based on a 40-year-old, 154-pound male, not an average female office worker with a lower metabolic rate. Women and men generally have a five degree difference in temperature preference, the researchers found. But, alas, “personal environmental modules” with individualized temperature controls in office buildings haven’t gone mainstream yet.

Over a decade ago, Cornell University put the thermostat wars to another scientific test, finding that warmer office temperatures improve productivity. Researchers increased office temperature from 68° to 77° F, and found that typing errors decreased by 44% and output jumped 150%.

Finnish counterparts at Helsinki University of Technology ran their own study. Their findings: The highest office productivity occurs at temperatures around 22° Celsius or 71.6° Fahrenheit. Hmm, those test subjects closer to the Arctic Circle seem a bit more tolerant of lower temperatures.

If the productivity arguments don’t convince your facilities manager to set the temperature above polar levels, hit ‘em in the pocketbook. Most energy companies recommend keeping the AC set no lower than 78° in summer. According to MyEnergy.com, your company can save 1-3% in energy costs for each degree the air conditioning is set above 72.

Readers: Are you “hot and bothered” at work, or given the “cold shoulder”?

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. john dow
    Sep 19, 2015 @ 17:24:08

    It seems women in general want equal rights, equal treatment, equal recognition, equal pay and equal respect which is okay; however, they usually duck out when it comes to sharing equal burdens. Doesn’t seem very equal to me.

    Reply

  2. Tiffany Lieu
    Sep 04, 2015 @ 15:56:18

    The boss needs to decide. Many workers have varying health standings. I know for sure I do not type at the keyboards as fast when my fingers are colder. The boss is willing to put up slower performance I do not complain. Otherwise, I can last longer in colder as well as hotter weather conditions before needing to find a warm corner or a sip of liquid.

    Reply

  3. Andrew John Cheadle
    Sep 02, 2015 @ 15:47:11

    Indoor temperature should reflect the season. The energy saving motto of 68F during the winter and 78F during the summer also makes going outside more bearable. If you have thick blood during the winter and thin in the summer the transition from out to in will be less painful as well as cheaper on the utility bill. I’m sure many are doing this in their home lives so doing the same in the office will make both workers and customers feel right at home.

    Reply

  4. Candice Catlett
    Sep 02, 2015 @ 08:46:23

    First of all is it possible to change rooms and let them have a room to themselves? Second, If they are freezing you out that is harassment and you can legally sue them for endangerment. You can say it is a danger to your health or a health hazard specially if someone has really frozen to death. you could also store a coat under your desks so that you can where the cloths you want outside and be warm in the office at will and don’t forget the ear muffs and hats and gloves!!!

    Reply

  5. Nancy
    Sep 01, 2015 @ 09:11:08

    I keep a couple of sweaters in my office for the cold summer months. (one black, one purple) I would much rather add a layer than be hot and sweaty at my desk. BTW it’s all women in my polar temperature building.

    Reply

  6. Kharlton Anderson
    Sep 01, 2015 @ 08:31:15

    Install ceiling fans in all rooms and set temperature on a steady 75°.. Problem solved

    Reply

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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