Baby, It’s Cold Inside: Why We’re All Freezing at Work

By: Kathleena O’Connell, Marketing Specialist, ACA Talent

If you work in an office you might find yourself bundling into an extra sweater, blowing on your freezing fingers, or, to the consternation of building managers, turning up a space heater.cold at work

So what gives? Why are offices so cold? Believe it or not, there’s a method to this madness, and with it a little bit of science.

1. Women and men experience external temperatures differently.

This New York Times article analyzing a study by Boris Kingma and Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt in the Nature Climate Change journal reveals that modern office temperatures were calculated with resting metabolic rates in mind, particularly those of men:

[R]esting metabolic rate (how fast we generate heat), is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds.

Maybe that man once represented most people in offices. But women now constitute half of the work force and usually have slower metabolic rates than men, mostly because they are smaller and have more body fat, which has lower metabolic rates than muscle. Indeed, the study says, the current model “may overestimate resting heat production of women by up to 35 percent.”

Which is why many women tend to be cold in the office, regardless of the temperature outside.

The article goes on to say:

[S]cientists (two men, for the record) are urging an end to the Great Arctic Office Conspiracy. […] The study concludes that buildings should ‘reduce gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort’ because setting temperatures at slightly warmer levels can help combat global warming.

So, by turning the AC up a notch, we may actually be helping the environment.

2. Cold temperatures keep us cranking (and less cranky).

Naturally, in warmer climates people feel like taking naps and relaxing more. Warm and cozy means comfortable, and when you’re comfortable, you become sleepy.

In that sense, Inc. explains how warmer temperatures decrease productivity levels and impacts decision-making. Moreover, increased temperatures correlate with hotter temperaments—and conflict, according to TIME.

3. Fight germs—and the sniffles.

Save your PTO days for something better than being sick. According to WIRED, warmer temperatures encourage bacterial growth, while cooler temperatures keep this growth to a minimum. And while we can’t entirely avoid the common cold, cooler workspaces can help keep germ production from getting out of hand, and workers healthy.

4. Keeping the bugs at bay.

Naturally, pests and bugs are more prevalent in warmer climates and during the spring and summer months. When cold weather arrives, the bugs hide away and lay eggs for their new arrivals in the summer as TERRO and Insect Control explains. The same notion applies to your average office pests, so keep the AC blowing to discourage insect production.