In a small study, Cornell University psychological scientist Alan Hedge found that employees are more efficient when they’re warm.
The researchers tracked the productivity of nine women working at an insurance office in Orlando, Florida. This was achieved by using air samplers that recorded the temperature around their work area every 15 minutes. Productivity was tracked by software that measured their typing speed and errors for 20 days.
The results showed the subjects were significantly more productive when the office was kept at a warmer temperature. At 25° C, the women were typing 100% of the time with a 10% error rate. But, when the temperature dipped to a cool 20° C, typing rates dropped and error rates rose to 25%.
“The results of our study also suggest raising the temperature to a more comfortable thermal zone saves employers about $2 per worker, per hour,” says Hedge. Overall, their report indicates that workplaces could save up to 12.5% of their wage costs per worker by raising the temperature a few degrees.
Of course, a workplace that is too hot can also affect productivity. Several other small studies have found that higher temperatures can also adversely impact people’s productivity, particularly once the temperature starts creeping above 25° C. It seems as though the ’Goldilocks’ zone has a very narrow margin.
However, as reported before by Executive PA Media, the formula currently used to determine standard office temperatures is calibrated based only on men’s body heat production. A study published in Nature Climate Change, suggests that women’s average metabolic rate is 20 to 32 percent lower than this, which might explain why there’s so much debate about office temperature.
Reference: Hedge, A., Sakr, W., & Agarwal, A. Thermal effects on office productivity. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting (Vol. 49, No. 8, pp. 823-827). SAGE Publications.