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You Probably Didn't Know Air Conditioning Reduces Productivity, Did You?

Most people would agree they prefer a cooler office to a warmer one. I mean, no one wants to work in a meat locker of course. But working in the heat makes you sweaty and tired and that's just not okay. Does anyone want to sweat through their shirt in the office? Not a chance.

But according to Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University, there is a link between the temperature of the office and the productivity of the workers.

"Given that we're warm-blooded animals, there is an optimal range of temperatures for us inside buildings to allow us to be comfortable," says Hedge. "The problem is that in most buildings, the temperature doesn't really match what would be comfortable for human beings or an effective one to promote productivity."

Basically, the colder the office, the less productive the employees.

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A study conducted by Hedge and his colleagues took two groups of people and put them in offices with different temperatures. They measured productivity through key strokes as well as computer activity in general. Hedge found that employees in the colder office (69F) had more errant keystrokes than those in the warmer office (77F). In fact, those in the warmer office were twice as productive as those in the colder office.

"When people are feeling cold, they will spend time trying to make themselves feel warmer by doing things like rubbing their hands or moving around the office," Hedge says. "These aren't bad things to do, but you're not focusing on work. The cold is distracting."

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The current temperature model is actually rather ridiculous. Most offices hover between 69-73F which stems from the 1960s. The temperature was chosen so that men wearing suits would be optimally comfortable. That's a little outdated for our liking.

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Hedge suggests that if your office is too cold, make sure your neck, feet, and ankles are covered. Also using an upholstered chair as opposed to a mesh-style one can help your body maintain heat. Of course, the ideal solution would be for offices to start adjusting their standard temperatures.  

A campaign called "Cool Biz" has started in Japan, which is calling for offices to run at 82F. It would save money, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and increase productivity. If their research is right, it could be a game-changer for office environments everywhere.

What do you think? Do you believe there's a correlation between office temperature and employee productivity? Let us know!

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