Cold Offices Are Conclusively Bad for Productivity

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There's a strong possibility your employer is wasting money on climate control. In an age of semi-Arctic air conditioning in most commercial and professional spaces, this might sound controversial to some and straightforward to others. But new research confirms what women in the workplace have been saying for decades: It is too cold to get anything done.

The Atlantic's Olga Khazan writes up a study published this week showing pretty clearly that indoor temperatures affect men's and women's ability to think and perform on intellectual tasks. Study participants completed (or tried to complete) math problems, logic puzzles, and verbal tests at a range of temperatures between about 61 degrees and 91 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures helped men, but single-degree increases in temperature correlated with significant leaps in women's performance. While men did flag a little under warmer temperatures, they didn't falter as much as women in deep freeze.

Research has already shown that colder temperatures indoors can make people more emotional, which could also mean something about crying at work. Cooler temperatures, in the 60s, are also best for sleep — another counterindication for the workplace. In fact, we've got pretty solid evidence for what the ideal indoor temperature is, and it takes us way back down the evolutionary tree. Summer, of course, can be pretty hard on anyone's brain, but if employers (and office managers) want the best out of their employees, they should get comfortable with nudging the thermostat just a little bit higher, for half their workers' sakes.