If you're a woman who works in an office environment of any kind, chances are you've complained about the temperature in that office more than once. Regardless of the temperature outside many women often find that their workplaces are too cold, requiring them to have a stash of cardigans and hot tea on hand to help warm them up.
A new study is showing that not only is a colder work environment less comfortable for women, but it may also be affecting their productivity. A new study published in the journal PLOS One titled, "Battle for the thermostat: Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance," suggests that raising the temperature in office buildings may result in an increase in productivity as well as comfort.
The study of 543 students found that women typically performed better with regards to math and verbal tasks when the temperature was higher, indicating that as the temperature rose, so did the women's performance. Unfortunately, the opposite was the case for men. Men performed better as the temperature was lowered, although the effect of temperature on men's performance wasn't as pronounced as it was for women.
“It’s been documented that women like warmer indoor temperatures than men, but the idea until now has been that it’s a matter of personal preference,” Tom Chang, associate professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business and author of the study told USC News. “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 study required both the male and female subjects to complete tasks in defined amount time. For each session, the room temperature varied, typically going as low as 61 degrees Fahrenheit to a high of about 91 degrees. The results showed that temperature impacted both math and verbal tests while those that tested cognitive reflection weren't affected by temperature.
“One of the most surprising things we learned is this isn’t about the extremes of temperature,” Chang said. “It’s not like we’re getting to freezing or boiling hot. Even if you go from 60 to 75 degrees, which is a relatively normal temperature range, you still see a meaningful variation in performance.”
The study shows that wanting a workplace that is a warmer temperature isn't just about comfort, but about performance as well. If employers are truly invested in maximizing the performance of their whole workforce perhaps slight temperature adjustments need to be made.
“People invest a lot in making sure their workers are comfortable and highly productive,” Chang said. “This study is saying, even if you care only about money or the performance of your workers, you may want to crank up the temperature in your office buildings.”