It’s time to turn down the air con and ditch the emergency office jumper.
It’s a familiar situation — outside it’s a hot summer’s day, in the office you’re sitting in your fluffiest jumper, trying to keep yourself from freezing while you work.
The gender battle over air conditioning in the office has been on since air conditioning was first installed in an office, we imagine, and if experience is anything to go by, women are losing.
Researchers have previously found that most office temperatures are set according to a decades-old algorithm that is based on male resting metabolic rates, which is puzzling in a world where many offices are now very mixed, or even female-dominated depending on the industry.
Given that our discomfort levels haven’t yet led to an office culture change that allows us to give up our scarves, fingerless gloves and jumpers, something more is needed.
And that something more is a new scientific study which backs our desire to have the air con turned down.
A new study has shown that women’s brains actually work better in warmer temperatures, and the increase in female cognitive performance is larger than any decrease in male cognitive performance that comes with working somewhere slightly warmer.
The study in Germany involved giving people a set of tasks which were monetarily incentivised based on performance: adding up two five-digit numbers without using a calculator making as many German words as possible from a set of 10 letters, and answering three cognitive reflection questions in five minutes. The temperature during the sessions varied between 16.19 degrees and 32.57 degrees celsius.
The authors of the study, published in the journal PLOS One, said the results showed that “females generally exhibit better cognitive performance at the warmer end of the temperature distribution while men do better at colder temperatures”.
They continued: “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.
“Given the relative effect sizes, our results suggest that in gender-balanced workplaces, temperatures should be set significantly higher than current standards.”
This article was originally published in May 2019.