It’s hot out and you’re probably freezing at your desk

You shouldn’t need a space heater by your desk in May.
You shouldn’t need a space heater by your desk in May. –The Boston Globe

Rather than putting boxes of winter clothes in the attic for the warm weather, you may want to move them to your office.

Articles, studies, and personal memory all indicate that summer makes it really difficult to dress weather-appropriately. Not because of the outdoor climate, but because of the indoor one.

In 2009, the GSA’s Public Building Services produced a survey of over 6,000 federal workers to ascertain the conditions of the American workplace. It noted that “average ambient indoor temperature conditions in the federal workplace should be adjusted to avoid overcooling.’’

In plainspeak: offices can be way too cold.

The GSA recommended adjusting workplace temperature for summer months because (who knew?) “overcool indoor air in summer is uncomfortable.’’


At that time, 61 percent of respondents reported feeling too cold, and it wasn’t all in their minds: 40 percent of the offices surveyed were colder than advised by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

Based upon the abundance of articles written in the time since this study, office climates haven’t changed too much.

Though the Occupational Safety & Health Administration recommends an indoor temperature between 68-76 degrees, the GSA study suggested upping that range to 74-78, due to lighter summer clothing.

The summertime emergence of hot tea and space heaters is not just due to those wearing skirts or light-weight shirts to work.

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Context also impacts how we perceive temperature, according to Alan Hedge of the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis program at Cornell University. While 72 degrees may feel warm in the winter, when we enter the office from an outdoor temperature of 85 degrees, it feels downright frosty.

Human bodies constantly regulate and adapt to their environments, but there’s a drop-off at which the cold becomes distracting.

Despite some research that cold stimulates the mind, a study by Hedge’s team linked warm offices with fewer typing errors and greater output. Their data indicated that people reached peak productivity at 77 degrees, an improvement of 150 percent from the previous temperature of 68 degrees.


The take-away? Raising the office thermostat will likely improve worker (not to mention economic) efficiency.

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