Is 'Sexist' Air Conditioning Making You Worse At Your Job?

New research suggests women perform better in warmer environments.

It’s the age-old debate in offices throughout the land: what is the optimal temperature for air conditioning.

It’s long been reported that women often prefer warmer temperatures than men, due to the fact women tend to have a lower metabolic rate, meaning we need more warmth.

But a new study suggests it’s not just our comfort that suffers when the air con is whacked up, but also our performance at work.

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To gauge the impact of temperatures on our ability to work, more than 500 participants were asked to complete a number of tasks designed to test cognitive function. These included adding up five two-digit numbers without using a calculator and making as many words as possible out of a set of letters.

The participants completed the tests in rooms heated to various temperatures, from a cool 16.2ºC to a balmy 32.6ºC.

Women performed better in warmer conditions, while men thrived in cooler environments, the researchers found.

Previous research from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found women prefer a warmer temperature of around 25ºC, but men prefer temperatures to be around 3ºC lower. However, most offices favour cooler climes.

The researchers of the latest study, published in the journal Plos One, suggest that should change.

“Ultimately, our results potentially raise the stakes for the battle of the thermostat, suggesting that it is not just about comfort, but also about cognitive performance and productivity,” the researchers said. “Given the relative effect sizes, our results suggest that in gender-balanced workplaces, temperatures should be set significantly higher than current standards.”