With temperatures heating up around the country, many offices are cooling down. If you have to wear a sweater to work all summer long because your workplace keeps the temperature way too low for you, you’re not alone — especially if you’re a woman.
Back in 2016, a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that the temperature at many office buildings is set for the resting metabolic rate for a 154-pound, 40-year-old man. Because women naturally have lower basal metabolic rates than men, they burn off energy more slowly, which in turns makes them give off less heat and feel colder.
Now, a new study published in the journal PLOS One last week says that not only are too-chilly temperatures uncomfortable for female employees, but they actually hamper women’s productivity. It concludes that gender-mixed workplaces may get more work out of women if they simply turn down the air conditioning and turn up the heat.
Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and the Wissenschaftzentrum Berlin Social Science Center found that women perform better on mathematical and verbal tasks when the temperature is higher. Men performed better when the temperature was cooler, although the effect was not as pronounced.
“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,” the study concludes. “Given the relative effect sizes, our results suggest that in gender-balanced workplaces, temperatures should be set significantly higher than current standards.”
The study involved 543 students, who were asked to perform tasks in rooms between 61 and 91 degrees Fahrenheit. In the study’s discussion, the authors noted that the increase for women was shown through more submitted answers that likely resulted from an increase in effort. In men, the decrease was also driven by less effort. Overall, however, the increase in women’s performance was larger and more precisely estimated.
The authors noted in the study that the link between temperature and cognitive performance had not been explored before in terms of gender. In light of that, they say, their results may explain why previous studies on that link have had inconsistent results and suggest future studies on this topic control for gender.
The researchers were struck by the fact that differences in performance were seen even within a range of temperatures that might be considered comfortable by most.
“It’s not like we’re getting to freezing or boiling hot,” Tom Chang, an associate professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business and co-author of the study, told Insider. “Even if you go from 60 to 75 degrees, which is a relatively normal temperature range, you still see a meaningful variation in performance.”
Currently, the average office thermostat is set around 70 degrees. Would you prefer a warmer workplace?