Industry News

Too Cold to Handle

cold at her desk

Well into September, women frustratingly joke about their freezing offices. They plug in space heaters, cocoon themselves in blankets and pour cup after cup of steaming-hot coffee. Men, though, seem fine. An article published in Nature Climate Change offers an explanation: Most office buildings’ temperatures are set using a 1960s formula based on men’s metabolic rates – not women’s, and not the average of the two. The result is an office that feels thermally comfortable for men but freezing for women.

The problem extends beyond comfort. A well-regarded study on office temperatures found that uncomfortable workers were 150 percent less productive. The same study said lower temperatures also meant workers made 44 percent more errors. And we all know that milder temperature settings mean lower utility bills and less demand on the grid. So why are we still dialing down the temperature?

This is an interesting question to ask, but it can be touchy to bring up thermal comfort given how sensitive of a subject it’s become. A recent article in The Washington Post, for example, claims that “air conditioning is another big, sexist plot.” If you can find a way to talk about it, though, the potential riches are numerous: more comfort, increased productivity and lower bills.

Or just a wait a few more weeks until it’s too cold outside and too warm inside.