Is Your Office Too Cold? When It Comes to the Thermostat, Things Are Getting Heated

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Perhaps you’ve heard rumblings about the existence of a season called “women’s winter.” The scenario goes something like this: summer is in full swing and suddenly your office turns into the Arctic Tundra. John arrives to work on a particularly balmy July morning and hears the soft hum of Beth’s personal space heater. A shawl is wrapped snuggly around her shoulders. The men seem unfazed by the air conditioner's sudden resurgence into the workplace, treating it like an old coworker that suddenly returned after a winter sabbatical. The women, on the other hand, tend to be less welcoming towards the A/C’s sudden, and frigid, return.

A parody video on YouTube by CollegeHumor pokes fun at this common occurrence that’s rampant in office parks around America during the summertime – the general consensus from female employees being that “it’s just too damn cold.”

What’s Up with the Freeze Out?

We’ve all heard the rumors that the rule of thumb is to set office temperatures based on research conducted close to 50 years ago – ensuring the temp would be comfortable for the “average male” at the time. It turns out the rumors are true, and according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change many workplaces do in fact set their temperature to a “comfort standard” based on research with the best interests of middle-aged, 154-pound men in thick suits in mind. The reason? Men primarily dominated the corporate office realm during this generation.

Nowadays the problem with sticking to this standard is obvious. Women now make up 46.8% of the labor force in the United States, resulting in a lot of shivering fingers attempting to get work done in an environment many find uncomfortable. And it turns out there is a scientific reason why women feel the need to bundle up more than men.

The Science Behind the Cold

According to a study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, women’s body temperatures are actually higher than men’s. Although this fact seems like it would support an argument that women would be the ones unbothered by cold, the opposite is true. If a body is used to a warmer base, cold air feels that much colder – hence women being more susceptible to chilly offices. Additionally, according to Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, a physiologist at Maastricht University Medical Center, women’s lower metabolism also contributes to women's sensitivity to colder air.

Another factor to consider that isn’t “rocket science” is that women are more likely to wear dresses or skirts in the summertime, resulting in more exposed skin than their male counterparts who tend to stick to pants year-round. Depending on the industry, strict dress codes are also becoming a thing of the past. Men oftentimes aren’t required to wear heavy suits anymore – perhaps contributing to the results of a recent CareerBuilder survey that reported 18% of male respondents agree with their female coworkers that their offices are too cold in the summer months.

There’s also evidence linking temperature to productivity. Research by the New York Times shows that workers make more mistakes and are less productive when the temperature is between 68 and 72 degrees compared to when the environment is set to a toasty 74 to 76 degrees.

Turning Down the A/C can be a Win-Win

Making women (and 18% percent of men!) feel more comfortable at work isn’t the only advantage to laying off the cold air. Using less energy is also a good thing for the environment and a company’s wallet – organizations that reduce their energy consumption not only reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but also their monthly cooling bills.

Until more offices start making changes, “women’s winter” rages on. Good luck out there and may all the throw blankets ordered on Amazon Prime make their way to cubicles across America in a timely fashion.

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