As winter draws ever closer, the annual argument breaks out yet again – what is the perfect office temperature? Some office members will sit huddled under blankets and heaters, shivering, whilst other office members complain that the heating is driving them to distraction. There’s an obvious divide to the preferred office temperature, and it is a gender divide.
Whilst males and females have the same core body temperatures (averaging at around 37 degrees), our perception of how warm or cold we are is based on our skin temperature. Women tend to have a lower skin temperature than men. This is due to a variety of factors, firstly, women have higher oestrogen levels. Oestrogen acts to thicken our blood, reducing the flow to capillaries that supply the body’s extremities. Indeed, a study by Kim et al. (1998), found that the average temperature of women’s hands, when exposed to cold, was almost 3 degrees lower than men.
This is confounded by women having a lower body metabolism than men, which dictates how quickly heat energy is produced.
With these facts, it stands to reason that the standard office temperature would be set at a level comfortable for both men and women, right? Sadly not! Most office buildings are set based on an outdated formula that uses the metabolic rate of men as a baseline.
The Thermal Comfort Model was developed in the 1960s, based on the average 40 year old man, weighing in at 154 pounds. This overlooks the fact that women are comfortable at a temperature that is 2.5 degrees warmer than men, typically between 24 – 25 degrees (Kingma and van Marken Lichtenbelt, 2015).
Setting the thermostat
As well as creating a more gender equal workplace, this temperature increase can boost the office outputs! A study by Hedge (2004), found that people working in warmer conditions make fewer typing mistakes and have increased productivity levels.
So, what is our conclusion from our investigation into the ideal office temperature? Set your thermostat to around 24 degrees and banish those desk heaters!