Women Feel Cold and Don’t Perform as Well. Heat Things Up.

January 22, 2020 | 923 views

Women Feel Cold and Don’t Perform as Well. Heat Things Up.
Women Feel Cold and Don’t Perform as Well. Heat Things Up.

I admit it. I’m the guy whose car requires that everyone wear an extra layer because I crank up the air conditioner. It’s downright Arctic in there 12 months out of the year. Anyone who travels with me often knows to wear layers. And I’ve learned to keep a blanket in the back for the poor wimps who are shivering when it’s 70 degrees inside the car. This causes all sorts of conversations about temperature preferences, but everyone is different.

In the workplace, the same discussions occur. Some colleagues have heaters under their desks for warmth because the office is too cold, or blankets on their chairs (usually women). If the thermostat is set higher, others are sweating and getting drowsy in their balmy offices (usually men). The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends employers maintain workplace temperatures in the range of 68-76 degrees, and the world has generally followed this guideline. But no one ever seems comfortable. 

Warm Up to the Facts

Since no one can agree, office managers may find this research helpful. A business economics professor and a cognitive scientist joined forces to measure the impact of environmental temperature on cognitive performance. In other words, do people (employees) work better in warmer or cooler conditions?  Using over 500 subjects, the researchers evaluated performance in math and verbal tasks and found the effects of temperatures from 61 – 91 degrees are significantly different between men and women.

The research concluded that at higher temperatures, women perform better on math and verbal tasks while the reverse effect is observed for men. In addition, the increase in female performance in response to higher temperatures is significantly larger and more precisely estimated than the corresponding decrease in male performance.  The researchers’ suggestion for business offices with mixed-gender: increase productivity by setting the thermostat higher than current standards. In short, women’s productivity is generally lower in offices within standard temperature ranges.

It is time to raise the thermostat! A Cornell University study backs this up, too. It found that when the temperature within an office was raised to 77 degrees (outside OSHA’s suggested range) from 68 degrees, keyboarding errors fell 44%, and output increased by nearly 150%.

Raise the Temp and Lower Costs

The office debate will continue because we all have different preferences for our work environment. But there are clear indications that productivity increases with the temperature. Cornell’s director of its Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory expressed the value of temperature increases in dollars by pointing out that the study’s results suggest that businesses could save about $2 per worker, per hour, if office temperatures were raised to higher levels. If you have a large payroll base, this is a significant number.

The power bill might vary, but if higher productivity is a management goal, warming things up in the office will also heat up the bottom line. Those are good objectives, and I know our office will be better for it, but I’ll still be blasting the air conditioner on the way home.

Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007, and 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

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