It’s a common scene in offices around the globe — women complain they are freezing, while men say they are comfortable in the cool air-conditioned environment.
If this is true of your workplace, a new study may help settle your long-fought “thermostat war.”
Researchers Tom Chang of USC’s Marshall School of Business and Agne Kajackaite at Germany’s WZB Berlin Social Science Center designed an experiment to test the effect of room temperatures on world tasks.
Their study had more than 500 subjects — mostly German university students — take verbal, logic and math tests in different rooms set to varying temperatures between 16.19 C and 32.5 C.
According to the study, 41 per cent of the participants identified as female.
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The study, published by PLOS ONE on May 22, found the effects of room temperature varied significantly between men and women.
The researchers found women performed best on math and verbal tests, submitting more correct responses as well as more responses overall, at higher temperatures.
In math specifically, the study revealed the number of questions women answered correctly increased by 1.76 per cent for every 1.8 degree C increase in room temperature.
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Conversely, researchers found male students generally performed better on the tests at lower temperatures.
At the warmer end of the temperature distribution, the study’s authors say male students submitted fewer responses and fewer correct responses.
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However, the study revealed the increase in female performance in response to higher temperatures was “significantly larger and more precisely estimated,” than the corresponding decrease in male performance.
In contrast to math and verbal tasks, researchers found room temperature had no impact on measurements of cognitive reflection for either gender.
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While the study’s authors say the effects of temperature could vary depending on the demographic of the group, they suggest that ambient temperature might impact more than just comfort, saying it is possible that “ordinary variations in room temperature can affect cognitive performance significantly and differently for men and women.”
Additionally, they suggest increasing the temperature in co-ed workplaces may be beneficial.
“Our findings suggest that gender mixed workplaces may be able to increase productivity by setting the thermostat higher than current standards,” the study reads.