Dublin: 17 °C Monday 24 June, 2024
the air con

Here's why nobody can ever agree on how warm the office should be

The debate that rages across the country.

16/365: Warming my hands by the fire. Mr.Thomas Mr.Thomas

AS LONG AS offices have existed, workers within them have been engaged in an epic battle over the air conditioning and the all important temperature it stays at.

The HSA here in Ireland says that the minimum office temperature should be 17.5 degrees and that there is no maximum.

But that doesn’t solve the core issue that no two people will ever be happy with the heat. Spread that out over a whole office of people and that’s where the controversy begins.

It’s a never ending debate

The Washington Post wrote an article last week that put it down to a straight gender divide in the workplace. Men don’t feel the cold as a general rule, according to this anecdotal evidence and they apparently control the air conditioning temperature in most offices:

officehot1 Washington Post Washington Post

They say that men tend to be none the wiser that there is even an issue:

It’s the time of year desperate women rely on cardigans, pashminas and space heaters to make it through the workweek in their frigid offices. And their male colleagues barely notice.

But their main point was this: never mind the genders, it’s always better to have the temperature on the hot side for productivity:

Researchers had their hands on the controls at an insurance office for a month. And when they warmed the place from 68 to 77 degrees, typos went down by 44 percent and productivity went up by 150 percent.

shutterstock_83154130 Shutterstock / Minerva Studio Shutterstock / Minerva Studio / Minerva Studio

But do women naturally feel the cold more than men?

heartibnsert Slate Slate

In an interesting study on this important scientific/office issue, Slate looked into what data is out there. Their main finding, derived from a University study in Utah, was that women had warmer core body temperatures, but colder hand temperatures:

They reported that for women, core temperature was on average 0.4 degrees higher than for men (97.8 degrees instead of 97.4 degrees). But hand temperature was 2.8 degrees lower (87.2 degrees instead of 90.0 degrees).

According to those findings, those with colder extremities will feel the cold faster – even if their actual core body temperature is warmer. This can be linked to body fat (those with a lot of it will retain core heat but lose heat on the outer parts of their bodies – ie their hands – and get colder quicker).

So, that’s a genderless issue and one that potentially provides the best answer as to why there is such a difference in offices around the world that causes debate and frustration from anyone that isn’t happy.

shutterstock_165623477 Shutterstock / Dean Drobot Shutterstock / Dean Drobot / Dean Drobot

Other issues, of course, have to be taken into account:

How cold you feel, and whether it bothers you, researchers say, also depends on factors like how tired you are, whether you’re hungry, or whether you’ve come from a cold place—making it idiosyncratic and variable, even in a single day.

Of course, nobody will ever agree on the right temperature, so NASA scientist Kenneth Diller has even gone to the length of putting together these painfully obvious tips on how to manage it:

advice EAB EAB

There is just no perfect temperature that will keep everyone happy, this much we know.

In offices the length and breadth of the country, we’ll all just have to try and get along.

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