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Women more productive at warmer temperatures

USA: Not for the first time, a new study has found that men and women require different temperatures to work effectively. 

New research published by the University of Southern California finds women are more productive at warmer temperatures, while men perform slightly better at a lower temperature.

The study of students found that women performed better on math and verbal tasks at higher temperatures, while the opposite was true for men. As temperatures increased, so did womens’ performance on tasks. When temperatures were lowered, men performed better, although the relationship between temperature and mens’ performance was less pronounced.

Previous studies have reached similar conclusions.

This latest study — authored by Tom Chang, associate professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business, and Agne Kajackaite of WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany — was published in the May 22 edition of PLOS ONE.

A total of 543 students participated in the laboratory experiment, which was conducted in Berlin. For each session, room temperatures were set at various increments ranging from about 61ºF (16ºC) to about 91ºF (33ºC).

In each session, participants were required to complete three different tasks — monetarily incentivised based on performance — within a given amount of time. In the math test, participants were asked to add up five two-digit numbers without using a calculator. For the verbal task, participants were asked to build as many German words as possible given a set of 10 letters. In the last task, the cognitive reflection test, participants were given a set of questions framed so that the intuitive answer was the wrong answer.

The authors found a meaningful relationship between room temperature and how well participants scored on the math and verbal tasks, while temperature had no effect for men and women on the cognitive reflection test.

“One of the most surprising things we learned is this isn’t about the extremes of temperature,” Chang said. “It’s not like we’re getting to freezing or boiling hot. Even if you go from 60 to 75 degrees, which is a relatively normal temperature range, you still see a meaningful variation in performance.”

The authors claim that the results “raise the stakes for the battle of the thermostat,” noting that where to set the temperature is not just about comfort. They say their findings suggest that, in mixed gender workplaces, the temperatures should be set significantly higher than current standards to increase productivity.

“People invest a lot in making sure their workers are comfortable and highly productive,” Chang said. “This study is saying, even if you care only about money or the performance of your workers, you may want to crank up the temperature in your office buildings.”

Related stories:

Hours lost from poor work temperatures27 March 2014
UK: A new survey suggests around 2% of office hours are wasted due to the temperature alone, potentially costing the UK economy an estimated £13bn annually. Read more…

Productivity suffers with poor climate control26 January 2016
UK: According to a new survey, 61% of women find the office too cold for their liking, while 40% of men would describe the office as chilly. Read more…

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