I went to a high school that had no air conditioning.
If I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was really just in the first three or four weeks of school that the heat really got to me. The third floor of the school was particularly warm in early September, and conveniently that’s the floor on which the majority of my classes were located. As fall came and went, I noticed how much of a difference the moderate weather made in my ability to focus and therefore be productive.
Regarding temperature, I am most productive when I am not thinking about the temperature at all. If it’s too cold in the room where I’m working, I tend to be more on edge. On the other hand, if it is too warm when I’m trying to finish an assignment, I feel like I can’t focus my attention on anything. This is why September at O’Neill High School was a struggle for me.
This might sound like a first-world problem, but in a country where it is possible to control temperature in the workplace, it’s surprisingly more prevalent than I would have initially guessed. A great deal of the American workforce spends their workday in office spaces. What I am curious to find is whether or not having the ability to control temperature in spaces like these is beneficial to overall worker productivity.
In a study that I found from the Association for Psychological Science, researcher and psychological scientist Alan Hedge was curious to know the same thing. He included nine women in his study, and tracked their productivity levels by means of equipping their individual work spaces with air samplers. These air samplers measured air temperature every 15 minutes. He was able to track their productivity through software that measured their typing speed and errors over the course of a 20 day period.
This study concluded that warmer office temperature resulted in a greater level of productivity. At the temperature of 77° F, women were recorded typing 100% of the time and with an error rate of 10%. When the office space was cooled down to 68° F, typing rates decreased dramatically and error rates jumped to 25%.
Interestingly enough, this study also found that once temperature rates raise above 77° F, productivity levels start to drop again.
In a separate study that I found from the Journal of Building and Environment, a similar trial was conducted. Unlike the first study, however, this study did not find a clear correlation between X and Y, or rather, temperature and office productivity. What it did find though, is that there are several confounding or third variables that need to be taken into account when looking at these two variables. One of the most prominent confounding variables is gender. This is something that first study failed to account for as it only tested the productivity of women. Men and women have different metabolic rates, which means that they are not going to reach a point of peak productivity at the same temperature.
So is there a link between air temperature and office productivity? I would argue that there is. The problem lies in personal preference. In an office space of say, 25 people, not everyone is going to agree on an ideal temperature to set the space at. This is where human adaptability kicks in. Humans are capable of unbelievable amounts of adaptation, so within the magic range of acceptable work space temperatures, people are going to be able to adjust. Maybe it means that not everyone will be able to type 90 words per minute, but hey– at least we have air conditioning.
“Cold Offices Linked to Lower Productivity.” Association for Psychological Science. APS, 7 Aug. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.
Tanabe, Shin-ichi. “Workplace Productivity and Individual Thermal Satisfaction.” Building and Environment 91 (2015): 42-50. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.