Women are more productive when they’re warm, a study concludes, confirming the complaints of chilly female employees everywhere.
While women’s gripes about frigid workspaces have long been dismissed as a sign of oversensitivity, a study published in PLOS ONE argues differently. The University of Southern California and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center had 543 students in Berlin perform tasks and steadily raised the temperature of the environment. Temperatures in each session varied in increments from 61 degrees Fahrenheit to 91 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the temperature increased, women’s performance did as well. Although men performed better at lower temperatures and worse at higher temperatures, the disparity was less pronounced than women’s performance across temperatures.
“It’s been documented that women like warmer indoor temperatures than men, but the idea until now has been that it’s a matter of personal preference,” study co-author Tom Chang said in a statement from USC. “What we found is it’s not just whether you feel comfortable or not, but that your performance on things that matter — in math and verbal dimensions, and how hard you try — is affected by temperature.”
Participants had to complete three different tasks and were promised monetary incentives based on their performance. During one portion, they had to add five two-digit numbers without a calculator. During another, they were asked to build as many German words as possible from the scrambled letters ADEHINRSTU, Scrabble-style. In the third task, they had to answer logic problems.
In sessions below 70 degrees, women scored an average of 28.7 (out of 35) while men scored an average of 33.7. Both genders scored around 32.6 (although women scored marginally higher) in sessions between 70 and 80 degrees. Women performed better than men in very warm temperatures, scoring an average of nearly 33 in temperatures above 80 degrees while men scored an average of 31.2.
As the study’s authors note, the relationship between temperature and performance was less pronounced in men than in women.
“One of the most surprising things we learned is this isn’t about the extremes of temperature,” Chang added. “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.”
It’s worth noting that skills didn’t necessarily improve with warmer temperatures, but women were able to complete more work. It’s not like women got chilly and forgot how to do math — it’s that in the colder temperatures, they didn’t complete as many answers, seemingly because the conditions weren’t conducive for their productivity. The same goes for men in higher temperatures.
So what does that mean for real-world applications?
Take the SAT, for example. According to 2016 results released by the College Board, boys scored an average of 524 on the math section (out of 800) while girls scored an average of 494. That’s just under 4 percent higher than girls’ results. As the Atlantic points out, a 1 degree Celsius increase boosted math scores by almost 2 percent.
Chang told the Atlantic that more studies need to happen before we jump to changing up thermostats to “eliminate gender-based performance differences” on standardized tests. But he does note in the study that the results “raise the stakes for the battle of the thermostat.”
No wonder why grown adults — professionals nonetheless — are swaddling themselves in blankets during the workday — if a company wants to ensure a productive workforce, maybe it should consider turning up the thermostat to the mid-70s.
“People invest a lot in making sure their workers are comfortable and highly productive,” Chang concluded. “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.”
Source : Mashable