Grab Your Sweater: Freezing Office Temps Affect Women's Productivity, Study Shows

Office settings are often calibrated for men's bodies—not women's.

By: Amanda Mushro
Young businesswoman suffering with flu having hot drink at work


Young businesswoman suffering with flu having hot drink at work

Photo by: hoozone


The battle over the thermostat is one that many men and women face at home. What’s your ideal temperature in the summer? How about the winter? Ask most men and women and you’ll probably get very different answers. One professor, who admits to having the same argument with his wife, wanted to see how different temperatures in the workplace affect men, women and their job performance. What he found will probably explain why so many women often keep sweaters in the office, even when the outside temperature is sweltering.

For the study, Thomas Chang, an associate professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California, put 543 German college students into a room and gave them different tests. As students began, the temperature in the room was changed. The thermostat was set at different levels, ranging from as low as 61 degrees to as high as 91 degrees.

The results? Men and women work very differently based on temperature. According to Chang and his colleagues, women in the warmer room did better on their tests overall.

"As the temp went up, women did better on math and verbal tasks, and men did worse," Chang told NPR. "And the increase for women in math and verbal tasks was much larger and more pronounced than the decrease in performance of men."

For many women, it can feel like their bosses are giving them the cold shoulder by keeping their workplace so icy. Studies have proven that men have a higher body temperature than women, so the fact that most office building temperatures are set for the metabolic rates of men leaves women feeling the chill. Shout out to all the ladies who carry a cardigan to work all year long! We are right there with you.

However, this study isn’t about feeling comfortable with the temperature in your office—it’s about how well you can actually perform your job.

Chang says this study can be quite insightful for business owners. His advice is simple: If you see half your workers keeping blankets at their desks, consider changing the temperature. While you may be saving a few bucks on the air conditioning bill, you are probably losing money in productivity. Warm things up and you could see higher levels of performance.