A new study has proven once and for all what women have always known: we work so much better when the office isn’t freezing cold. Men might prefer colder temperatures, but that just doesn’t work for us. Something has to change!
Temperature affects men and women differently. The study, conducted by the University of Southern California and published in the journal PLOS One, looked at 543 students at a German laboratory and discovered that higher office temperatures led to improved performance of female workers in certain cases.
The tests speak for themselves. Participants in the study took three tasks, one in math, one in verbal, and one in cognitive reflection which judges intuition. The researchers set the temperature anywhere between 16C and 32C (60F and 90F) for each of the tasks, and women across the map performed way higher in verbal and math tasks when the temperature in the room was higher.
Weirdly enough, the opposite was true for men. The higher the temperature, the worse men performed on the math and verbal tasks. When the thermostat came down, their performances improved. That being said, the decrease in performance was way less dramatic in the cooler temps for men, showing that women are way more sensitive to these changes.
People used to think temperature was a matter of personal preference. If you work in an office, you’ve probably overheard or been part of an argument over the temperature. Now you have data to back you up! “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,” said Tom Chang, associate professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business and co-author of the study. “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 temperature changes don’t even have to be dramatic. Chang was surprised that the drastic changes in women’s performances weren’t caused by extreme temperature differences but that even relatively minor shifts could have a big effect. “It’s not like we’re getting to freezing or boiling hot,” he said. “Even if you go from 60 to 75 degrees [Fahrenheit], which is a relatively normal temperature range, you still see a meaningful variation in performance.”
How can we find a happy medium when it comes to office temperature? No one should have to wear their jacket and a pair of mittens just to get work done, nor should anyone be sweating and have to have three desk fans on them just to keep cool. There must be a happy medium here, but where is it and will we ever find it?
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