While the study hasn’t been completely conclusive, recent findings have suggested that women think better in warmer rooms while men work better in lower temperatures ones.
Such findings may cause workplaces to think more deeply about their room temperatures and the effect it has on employees’ productivity.
The study occurred in Berlin where 542 students were recruited by researchers to take math, cognition, and verbal tests. Forty percent of the participants were female. First, the tests were taken in a room kept at 61.14 F, but then they were taken in another room at 90.63 F.
Overall, the women performed better on math and verbal tests in the warmer room while the men did better on those tests in the colder room. However, the cognitive tests were unaffected by temperature.
“Our findings suggest that gender-mixed workplaces may be able to increase productivity by setting the thermostat higher than current standards,” the authors wrote.
Study co-author Agne Kajackaite, head of the Ethics and Behavioral Economics research group at WZB Berlin Social Science Center, told Newsweek: “There have been many studies showing that women prefer higher indoor temperatures than men. However, nobody looked at the effect of these differences in comfort on performance.
“We show that the battle for the thermostat is not just about comfort. It is much more—in our experiment, women’s cognitive functioning is the best at high temperatures, whereas men’s at low temperatures. Importantly, the positive effect of increased temperatures on women’s performance is much stronger than the negative effect on men.”
Kajackaite continued: “This is just the first study looking at the effects of temperature on cognitive performance by gender. We ran the experiment with a homogeneous sample at a German university. More research looking at different groups—age, educational background, country—and different cognitive tasks is needed.”
Wouter Van Marken Lichtenbelt, a professor of ecological energetics and health at Maastricht University who has also published research on body temperature, told Newsweek that the study was written as if men had an opposite response to that of women, but “there is not one statistically significant effect observed in the data of the men."
Wei Luo, a Ph.D. student at Maastricht University working with van Marken Lichtenbelt, confessed that the methods used were not wholly sufficient as the order of the different tests was fixed and the participants could have simply been tired. “This makes comparison between tests difficult,” said LuoHe.
The paper also lacked any information concerning participants’ clothes or the length of the tests, said van Marken Lichtenbelt, and this information could have had a significant impact on the results.
However, the results still strongly suggest that offices would be more productive if they slightly increased their room temperatures, agreed Van Marken Lichtenbelt, who also did a study in 2015 that found that exposures to temperatures outside our comfort zone could affect things like diabetes and obesity.