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,”
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”?