This article was first published on January 23 in 2023. It was republished on April 29, 2024.

If you’re a woman who works in an office and constantly feels cold, you’re not alone. 

It turns out the temperature in office buildings is based on the metabolic rates of men - who naturally run warmer than women. 

Just another fun aspect of living in the patriarchy.

So why do women run colder than men?

Studies have found women prefer a noticeably warmer environment (25 degrees Celsius) compared to their male counterparts (22C).

This is partly because women naturally produce less heat than men. They are on average smaller and tend to have less muscle and more fat - and muscle produces more heat than fat.

Buildings all over the world adhere to an indoor temperature standard from a model developed in the 1960s by an American association of engineers

The model factors in things like outside air temperature, airspeed, relative humidity, clothing, and the rate at which our bodies make heat, which is known as our metabolism.

The only problem is it’s set for the average man’s metabolism - not a woman’s metabolism.

When researchers re-calculated the model according to the average woman’s metabolism, they found the standard temperatures were measurably lower. 

They estimate that the current standards, that are over 60 years old, may overestimate a woman’s metabolic rate by up to 35%.

This explains why women are more likely to complain about being too cold at work and layer up with an extra jumper or scarf - even in the middle of summer.

Women bear the brunt of cold offices

A US survey of 38,851 people from 435 office buildings in 168 cities found 38% were dissatisfied with the temperatures in their offices, and almost two-thirds of them were women.

The vast majority of respondents said office temperatures were ‘too cold’ in both summer and winter. 

Women were most impacted by this year-round cold, with 76% of the reports coming from women - and now science is saying it's affecting how they work.

Cold offices are a productivity issue for women

Despite the common misconception that being cold makes you more productive, science has found the complete opposite.

A Cornell University study found that when the temperature of an office was 20C, employees made 44% more errors and were half as productive than they were when they were warmer at 25C. 

The research found when employees are cold, the body expends more energy to try and keep warm. This can distract people and make it more difficult to focus and maintain energy throughout a long shift. 

As a result, the researchers estimated this lack of productivity is costing employers 10% more per hour, per employee, and raising the temperature to a more comfortable temperature would save employers about $2 per worker, per hour.

Another study found that while men can be more productive at warmer temperatures, this difference is small and the loss in productivity is nowhere near as great as for women in colder temperatures. 

Cold offices are a climate problem too

The authors of the United States office study argue that office overcooling isn’t just a productivity issue, it’s also a huge waste of energy.

Blasting air conditioning contributes to more greenhouse gasses being emitted into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming. It also unnecessarily costs companies a bunch of money each year. 

That’s why they say it’s time to turn up the heat in offices to save money, the planet, and women from freezing at work.

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