Women dub office an 'ice box', men say it's 'fine.' Are there any winners?

One study suggests that women have 'warmer hearts, but colder hands.' 

Eric Miller/Reuters/File
Ice from her breath forms around a woman's face outside in Minneapolis, January 2014.

Thanks to climate control technology, millions of women now bring a sweater to work in the middle of summer. Whether it’s August in Los Angeles or July in New York City, they bear the frigid temperatures of their workplaces with grace. The men, meanwhile, are oblivious.

At least that’s what a Washington Post “investigation” suggests. Columnist Petula Dvorak hit the streets on a hot, humid July afternoon to talk with women about their experiences.

 “I. Am. Fuh-reezing. Feel my hand, I’m still cold,” said one director of administration at a construction firm. “I have to come out here for 30 minutes at a time just to warm up.” 

The men, for their part, when asked if their offices were too cold, answered with a resounding “No.” 

What’s behind the gender disparity? Slate Magazine tackled the question in 2011. It points out that a 1998 study conducted by researchers in Utah found that women have warmer hearts, but colder hands, literally. This means that if women start off with colder hands than men, as the Lancet article suggests, they’ll feel uncomfortable faster.

It's not just office climates. ABC News talked with parents of a “Good Morning America” producer who both admitted to secretly adjusting the temperature in their home. The father said, “Before we go to bed I will, maybe, tell [my wife] I’ve got to get a glass of water and she’ll have the temp up around 78 degrees.” He added, “I will walk down the hall and I will switch it over to say, 72 or 71 degrees, something like that.”

Both may have a point. A 2004 study by Cornell University linked warmer office temperatures to fewer typing errors and higher productivity. Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis and author of the study, claims to have found the perfect office temperature.

“At 77 degrees Farenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent rate.”

But other academics disagree. A 2006 study from the Helsinki University of Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory argues that performance increases with temperatures around 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit and decreases above about 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

There may not be a clear-cut answer on the issue, but one thing’s for sure: both men and women feel the icy sting of office air.

A public poll by the Washington Post asked readers to vote on their workplace temperature in the hot summer months. The choices were “too cold,” “just right,” and “too warm.” As of Thursday afternoon, 63 percent of 219 responders – made up of both men and women – had voted “too cold.”

Better pack your shawl, or your T-shirt – whichever resolves your war with the thermostat. 

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