Research from the University of Southern California (USC) suggests that women really may prefer Venus over Mars - at least temperature-wise. The study, published in the scientific journal Plos One, assessed the performance of men and women on cognitive tasks, at room temperatures ranging from 16 to 32 degrees Celsius.
The research determined that women performed far better on math and verbal tasks when the thermostat was turned up. Meanwhile, men did better when the room was cooler.
If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ve undoubtedly taken part in battles over the thermostat settings, never finding the temperature quite right. This isn’t the first time that we’ve learned that women prefer warmer indoor environments to men. It is, however, the first time that it has been demonstrated that the difference is not just a matter of personal preference, but may also influence people’s productivity.
So, armed with this surprising evidence, what can you, as an employer, do to help both male and female employees to stay at peak performance levels? Needless to say, a room can’t be two different temperatures at once, but here are a few ideas of what you can do to help your team stay comfortable and productive.
1. Provide hoodies
It seems obvious, but the best way for individuals to regulate their temperature levels is to control how many layers they have on. Many people like to keep a sweater or hoodie at their desk to throw on when they get chilly. Why not make it official and print some hoodies branded with your company’s logo? Your employees will appreciate the thoughtful gift, and rep the company both in the office and outside.
2. Flexible workspaces
Office air-conditioning can have a funny way of causing pockets of the office to be hot and dry as the Sahara, at the very same time as others feel cold as the Arctic. Being flexible with where people can sit with their work in the office allows everyone to find their sweet spot.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get rid of personal desks altogether - although hot-desking is becoming an increasingly popular choice. Dot various types of workstations around the office and encourage your teammates to move around if they’d like to. That way, people can decide for themselves whether it suits them better to sit under an air-conditioning vent or pressed up against a radiator.
3. Remote working
It may be a somewhat extreme solution, but allowing employees to work remotely would certainly solve the temperature issue. Working from home, each team member can crank the heat or air-conditioning to their heart’s content. This might help explain why working from home has been found to boost productivity by the equivalent of an extra day’s work each week!
When all is said and done, the core lesson to be learned from the USC research is that different people thrive in different conditions. A one-size-fits-all approach is rarely the best solution - even when it comes down to something as simple as the temperature of a room.
As employers, it’s important to recognise the varying needs of our team members, and do our best to adapt our practices to help them be at their happiest and most productive.