In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal the thermostat battle continues and asks the question: Why are women colder than men? This is an issue close to the hearts of many Frosties who suffer through air conditioning in warm weather months with frozen fingers and toes (and maybe a few noses, too!).
Several articles have covered this issue over the years. They talk about scientific evidence that suggests women in general have a lower tolerance to the pain of cold than men, yet office temperatures are historically set for the comfort of male workers dressed in traditional long-sleeve shirts, jackets and ties – even now that office dress codes have been relaxed. We’ve also seen articles reporting how cold temperatures lower people’s productivity and have a negative impact on our office relationships and co-worker trust.
So it’s no surprise to see the Wall Street Journal article titled “Men vs. Women: The Thermostat Battle” on the subject, but it did include one surprising fact: It states that thermal comfort is a function of skin temperature, and that the average skin temperature for men and women shows no significant difference at 92 degrees, according to Dutch thermophysiology expert Boris Kingma.
There’s no further discussion on the issue of skin temperatures, but they do confirm that women prefer higher room temperatures than men. And whether or not there’s a scientific explanation for this preference, they confirm what we’ve seen in earlier studies, that women’s productivity improves at higher temperatures.
In a study of students at both the University of Southern California and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany, women performed better on math and verbal tasks at higher room temperatures. Female performance improved in both their speed (answered more questions) and accuracy (answered more correctly) when the room was warmer. While men performed better at lower room temperatures, the effect was not statistically significant.
The researchers concluded that because the increase in female performance more than offset the decrease in male productivity as temperatures rose, gender-mixed workplaces would benefit from higher thermostat levels. The recommended temperature range is stated as 73.4 to 78.8 degrees. Certainly a more comfortable level for Frosties who freeze at offices set in the 60s! And at least 80% of both genders appear satisfied with temperatures set at the recommended range. Guess the guys in this study were more open-minded than most of the ones in offices we tend to work with…
So if skin temperatures are generally equal for men and women, why the difference in response to warmer temperatures? The article quotes information we’ve seen published elsewhere: Women have lower metabolic rates, resulting in less heat production. That, combined with a larger ratio of surface to body mass, results in greater heat loss, and hence a greater sensitivity to cold.
Given there’s so much published on the subject, plus the fact that lowering air conditioning levels saves the boss money, you’d think this would be a no brainer issue, but the thermostat battle continues…
Here’s the full article in the Wall Street Journal:
Below are more articles from our blog on the subject: