LOS ANGELES - New research has provided some much-needed insight into the “battle of the thermostat,” which has had men and women wrestling for control of the office temperature for years.
The study's findings suggest that gender-mixed workplaces can likely increase productivity by setting the temperature of the office higher than current standards.
Ample survey evidence has shown that women generally prefer higher indoor temperatures than men, but very little research has actually been done to explore and explain the link between gender and temperature response. That's why a team of researchers in Germany set out to find the answers.
More than 500 individuals in Berlin, Germany were asked to perform a range of cognitive tasks in the areas of math, verbal, and cognitive reflection at different indoor temperatures so that researchers could quantify the effects of temperature on productivity in men and women.
The researchers administered tests to the study subjects in sessions, varying the temperature between sessions from 16.19 to 32.57 degrees Celsius, or 61.14 to 90.63 degrees Fahrenheit.
In each session, participants were asked to complete the same set of tasks, and monetary compensation based on performance was used as an incentive for participants to do their best.
Researchers determined that temperature had an effect on performance of both math and verbal tasks for both genders, but it had no effect on performance of cognitive reflection tasks for either gender.
Women performed significantly better at high temperatures than at low temperatures, and they were not only able to solve more tasks correctly at higher temperatures, they attempted to solve more tasks overall.
In contrast, men performed better at lower temperatures.
When researchers performed ordinary least squared regressions to map the relationship between temperature and performance, they found that the differential effect of temperatures on males relative to females was statistically significant as well as economically meaningful.
“The increase in female cognitive performance is larger and more precisely estimated than the decrease in male performance,” the study's authors asserted.
A one-degree Celsius increase in ambient temperature led to a 1.76 percent increase in the number of math questions answered correctly by women.
The same one-degree Celsius increase in temperature led to a .63 percent decrease in the number of math questions answered correctly by men, which the researches called “generally small and statistically insignificant.”