'Mindful Monday': How is the temp in your office?

Sep 14, 2015


Nancy Fredericks

Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.CareerStretchZone.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.

Seriously, how is the temperature in your office? In all probability as a woman, you find yourself cold in the one place you spend the majority of your time—your office!

I remember working in environments that required brief pauses in my activities to blow hot breath across my fingers as a way to revive them to nimbleness. It was the only way I could re-engage myself because it wasn’t simply numb fingers—the action itself somehow revitalized my frozen brain as well.

I took it for granted that I would freeze at work—as did the other women in the office. You should have seen us stashing warm sweaters and smuggling in space heaters made illegal by the male building superintendents. The temperature was no joking matter for us, though I must admit my complaints, as well as those of my female co-workers, never seemed to achieve a warmer environment. Even today, as I produce women’s events around the country, the first item on my to-do list is to request the hotel raise the room temperature. The bottom-line is that women are cold in offices and at events.

Research on the “Great Arctic Office Conspiracy” by two colleagues, Dr. Boris Kingma and Dr. Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, has shaken up the office thermostat world.

What they’ve revealed…. Well, let me just say: No wonder women have been cold for years!

It is hard to believe and yet true. In the 1960s, the thermal comfort model still used in our offices today was established. The formula for “the resting metabolic rate (how fast we generate heat), is based on a 40-year-old man weighing around 154 pounds.”[i] The study also says this calculation “may overestimate resting heat production for women by up to 35 percent.”[ii]

Additionally, these two gentlemen found: “as much as a five-degree difference in women and men’s preferences. Dr. Kingman said a woman might prefer a 75-degree room, while a man might prefer about 70 degrees, which … is a common current office temperature.”[iii]

What’s a woman to do? Especially, when it appears men’s comfort zone still rules even though women make up 57 percent of the workforce today—whereas they made up only about 38 percent in 1963 when the formula was determined.

I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t mean to hang you out to dry. The room temperature is no longer an issue for me as I control the thermostat in my office!

Perhaps the CBS This Morning show where I first became aware of the temperature conspiracy may offer you a solution. As Charlie Rose, Gayle King, and Norah McDonnell wrapped up the segment—with Norah snuggly cocooned in a red, pashmina shawl—they looked straight into the camera imploring, Help us find that little man in control of the thermostat!

[i] Chilly at Work? Office Formula Was Devised for Men, Pam Belluck, The New York Time, August 3, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/science/chilly-at-work-a-decades-old-formula-may-be-to-blame.html?_r=0

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid