Why Your Office Is Freezing In The Summer - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
IT Life
News
8/4/2015
05:01 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

Why Your Office Is Freezing In The Summer

Why do you need a sweater in the office in the summer? Because we're cooling it based on a formula that dates back to when the Beatles were still together.

Every office has at least a few people who huddle under a sweater in the middle of summer. I'll wager most of those people are women. Not because I think women are weak and men are strong. But because of a sexist assumption made more than 50 years ago. According to a paper appearing in Nature, we've built office climate controls to favor the metabolism of men.

We've set "room temperature" in our minds as 72 degrees Fahrenheit, because a study done in the 1960s showed the average office worker was a 40-year-old man weighing 154 lbs. In other words, we've been cooling our offices like an episode of Mad Men.

(Image: mezclaconfusa via Flickr)

(Image: mezclaconfusa via Flickr)

Notice something about that picture? Well, for one, men wore suits and ties in the office. They were a tad warmer than business casual today. In real life, working women of the era probably did not wear the miniskirts and low-cut shirts we see on TV. Instead, they wore business attire that had more layers and was made of heavier materials than we're accustomed to today.

Besides that, the average weight in America for men these days isn't 154 lbs but 195 lbs. In other words, we're older, heavier, and most importantly, we actually let women work in an office (gasp!). Why are we still cooling a building based on this formula?

Turns out, because of their metabolism and general size, women prefer rooms at 78 degrees. Men, even if you account for various changes in body types, like it much cooler. By ignoring the needs and desires of women, we are making quite a few mistakes.

For one, we're making half our workforce unhappy because of norms created in a more sexist time.

We're also wasting a lot of energy, and hurting our environment.

It gets much worse in data centers. The average data center temperature is set between 68 and 72 degrees, even colder than the office. I'm only partially joking when I wonder if this is the real reason there are so few women in IT. Despite calls from Sun, Google, and others to allow the data center to get warmer, for the most part we're still chilling our data centers like Santa's workshop.

But the average data center can save 4% on energy costs for every degree of temperature increase. The dollar value of energy savings for offices would be a little lower, depending on size, but the savings would still be very real.

While office temperature has never been a major skirmish in the battle of the sexes, it might be time to call a thermostat truce and meet somewhere in the middle. Raising the thermostat in the office would make half your staff more comfortable without hurting the other half, save your company money, and help the environment. It is time to rethink room temperature for the post-Mad Men generation.

If lowering the thermostat isn't an option, here are some other things to consider. For reasons no one understands, married women don't mind the cold as much. Shorter people also do better because their blood doesn't travel as far to the extremities. Red heads, for some reason, handle discomfort and pain better. So if you can't handle the thermostat change, I suggest hiring only short, married women with red hair. How's that for a Man Men-style solution?

What do you think? Do you tend to be cold in the office? Could everyone stand having the thermostat raised a few degrees during the dog days of summer? Tell me in the comments section below.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
stevew928
50%
50%
stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
8/16/2015 | 11:01:07 PM
Also... beware the 'study'
Apparently this so-called 'study' was a non-scientific survey of like 16 women in Sweden or Denmark.... hidden behind a $100+ pay-wall.

Basically, baloney for news-fodder where few are going to check the original source to see the details.

But, that's pretty much the norm these days for un-checked sources, or outright propaganda we get each day through the main news media streams.
Sacalpha1
100%
0%
Sacalpha1,
User Rank: Moderator
8/6/2015 | 2:05:07 PM
Hot in the Office
The author says that turning up the temparate is not hurting half of the office which is just not true.  So, what are the people who want it cooler supposed to do....sweat in the 78 degree sauna all day long?  You can't do much to get cooler in the office and I could not wear a tshirt and shorts to work anyway.  If you are cold, then you need to wear warm clothes to work and keep a sweater at your desk.  You can get warmer by dressing approrpriately but the reverse is not true.  In addition the heat makes people drowsy and reduces productivity and at least for me, a hot office gives me a headache.  I should not be forced to get a headache every day at work just so someone can wear a sleeveless blouse or dress and short skirt and no hose and be warm.
moarsauce123
100%
0%
moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
8/5/2015 | 8:56:51 PM
Windows
What really is missing in offices are windows that can be opened and real roofs and decent insulation. The flat roof glass fassade boxes that are so common.
stevew928
50%
50%
stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
8/5/2015 | 12:31:42 PM
78?
Maybe it's because I grew-up in Wisconsin and now live in Canada, but that 78F number that women are supposed to be comfortable at doesn't match any empiracle data I've witnessed. I'd say it's more like 70-74 and the problem is that a lot of AC systems in commercial buildings run more like 66-68, often with spots where the AC is far colder than that and blasting on some poor soul.
stevew928
50%
50%
stevew928,
User Rank: Ninja
8/5/2015 | 12:28:17 PM
Re: Big savings
No kidding, our HVAC systems are simply archaic considering the concern for saving energy. I guess they are fairly hard to fix though, once built... but you'd think we'd at least be doing a better job on new construction.
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
8/5/2015 | 8:03:56 AM
Big savings
There are such huge savings  to made from chilling data centres and offices in smarter ways. The use of the spare heat energy to warm our homes is a great initiative, but would require some significant rethinking in the way they are constructed. 

Still it's been good to see Facebook leading the way with its more natural cooling mechanisms. 

More importantly though, with the huge energy demands of cooling in the US, we could go a lot way to improve how green we are as a species if we could simply cut back on that aspect of our energy usage. 
jastroff
50%
50%
jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
8/4/2015 | 7:23:58 PM
There is no heat...
@dave -- thanks, very interesting.

What I'm saying here I learned from experience, and I don't know if it applies to data centers, but perhaps someone does. Probably does?

In many buildings in Manhattan, there is no heat. In many houses in warm climates, there is no heat. Literally, there is no heating mechanism. All people do is turn down the a/c to regulate the temps. There's no such thing as "turning up the heat". So many years freezing in my dentist's office in midtown Manhattan, he finally told me, there is no heat. All he can do is shut off the cold air a bit. This is in January. 

Good to see Mad Men again, anyway.
jastroff
50%
50%
jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
8/4/2015 | 7:19:43 PM
Re: Temperature truce
there was nothing better for me than an ice cold machine room in summer. It took my allergies away. Clean, cold air. I moved my office from the better temp regulated computer center to the machine room for the duration, more or less.
Kelly22
50%
50%
Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
8/4/2015 | 5:44:38 PM
Temperature truce
During one of my internships I sat right under an air vent and used to joke about bringing a Snuggie to work. Now our office is still cold but far from Arctic :) Still wouldn't hate it if we rose the temperature a few degrees...
Commentary
Future IT Teams Will Include More Non-Traditional Members
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/1/2020
News
COVID-19: Using Data to Map Infections, Hospital Beds, and More
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/25/2020
Commentary
Enterprise Guide to Robotic Process Automation
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  3/23/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Video
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
Slideshows
Flash Poll