Office culture comes in for its fair share of criticism these days: open or closed plan? dedicate seating or hotdesking? warm or cold environment?
The last one is about more than just comfort, according to a new study. Turns out, the temperature in the workplace can also affect productivity and having the room cooler isn’t helping women.
Researchers gave a collective test to 543 students that included logic problems, letter scrambles and maths questions. They were placed either in a heated room or a cooler one, and given a cash reward for each question they answered correctly.
The temperature varied between 16 and 32 degrees Celcius and the results showed that solving the logic problems remained consistent across the temperature range. But when it came to the maths and the letter tests, on average the female students performed better when the room was warmer.
Amazingly, just nudging the thermostat up by 1 degree led to a 2% boost in female scores in the maths tests.
‘Overall, our results suggest that gender is an important factor not only in determining the impact of temperature on comfort but also on productivity and cognitive performance,’ explain the researchers.
‘Additionally, given the lack of attention to gender in mediating the impact of temperature on performance, our results may explain in part the inconsistent results of previous studies on the relationship between temperature and cognitive performance.’
Ok, so given this information, why is the office environment stacked against women? Because, with men traditionally wearing shirts, suits and ties to the office, they need the temperature to be a bit cooler to offset the extra layers.
Generally speaking, air conditioning is set to around 25 degrees Celsius, based off the ‘metabolic equivalent’ of a 70kg, 40-year-old bloke wearing a suit and tie that was calculated back in the 1930s.
Now, obviously every office and every employee is different and you can’t apply the same rules universally. But going on the evidence of this study, it may be worth turning the thermostat up ever so slightly and telling the men to dress down.
‘Ultimately, our results potentially raise the stakes for the battle of the thermostat, suggesting that it is not just about comfort, but also about cognitive performance and productivity,’ conclude the researchers.
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