The Complete Guide To Working In A Heat Wave

In the coming days, workers from Maine to Ohio will have to adjust between their chilled inside work zones and the wild outside heat wave. Many of them will be uncomfortable. In fact, one survey found that almost half of employees consider their workplaces either too hot or too cold.

But is your sweaty brow or goose-bumped calf actually affecting your work? Science says yes, and here's how:

Making tons of mistakes? Your air-conditioning is too high: A too air-conditioned workplace is a sloppy workplace. That's what researchers at Cornell University found when they set up camp at an insurance office in Orlando, Fla. Their equipment sampled the air temperature every 15 minutes, and the amount of time workers spent fixing typing errors. At 77 degrees, the workers made 44 percent fewer mistakes than when the office was 68 degrees.

More: 9 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Be More Productive


For peak productivity, turn the thermostat to 77 degrees, or 72?: If you want your employees to be maximally productive, err on the balmy side. That same Cornell University study found that at 77 degrees, employee output was a whopping 150 percent higher than when the office was 9 degrees cooler.

"Our major take-away, and we've done this study three times now, is the warmer the office -- up to a limit of comfort -- the more productive you are," says Alan Hedge, an ergonomics professor at Cornell and one of the study's authors.

One study was a little more tempered. Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Helsinki University of Technology found that productivity reached its peak at 71 or 72 degrees, and then slowly declined. Workers roasting in a 95-degree office were 17 percent less in the zone.

If you want to like your job, stay bundled up. A little warmth doesn't just make you work better, it makes you feel better about work. In an an upcoming UCLA study, participants were asked to rate the efficacy of heating pads or ice packs and then answer questions about their employer. Those who warmed their hands actually reported liking their jobs more. So keep the air conditioning low to keep morale up high, or maybe invest in some seat warmers.

More: The Best Way To Boost Your Productivity

Don't work on a project with a co-worker who drinks iced coffee. This physical and emotional cross-wiring in our brains has another big impact for workers. Warmth in the temperature sense actually makes people feel warmth in the nice-person sense -- so if your job involves collaboration or customer service it's best to stay toasty.

In a 2008 study, researchers from Yale University and the University of Colorado Boulder found that people who incidentally touched an iced cup of coffee perceived others as less warm and caring, and also acted less altruistically, compared to those who touched a hot cup. Those same researchers (plus a few others) conducted another study in 2010 and found that participants who touched a warm (as opposed to a cold) pack were more trusting during a game.

If you need to get work done, hole up in a windowless conference room: But no matter how carefully your bosses calibrate the thermostat, they can't turn down the blue skies and beach-heat out your window. Worker performance simply slides on beautiful days, according to a research team from Harvard and the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The researchers looked at employee productivity over a 2½-year period at a midsize bank in Tokyo, and then matched it to weather data during that day. On rainy days, it turns out, the workers processed far more loan applications. (They repeated these results in the lab too.) But that's not an excuse for employees on the sweltering East Coast right now. Extreme temperatures were also a productivity boost.


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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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liondog96

I drive an ice cream truck 144 hours a week and take home $700----in South Florida heat...Yep! Economy is looking up, dude! F*** Obama!

July 24 2013 at 9:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rockymtnhikerCo

ok,i'll chug down cold beer,any designated drivers wish to volunteer for the task. Chugging ice water,which i don't do,i take sips,to make the ice water last longer. and that chugging thing,arenadood,that suggestion of your might just apply to lazy folks already in terribly bad shape because they refuse to take better care of themselves,like better nutrition,staying active,doing harmful things to their bodies,,,do it in moderation. Never take up an exercise program w/o your doctors consent. Oh Debby,when i feel like a poor little flower,i look for that shade tree outdoors,it pays to work as blue collar,to some extent,depending on your personal health,you get somewhat acclimated to it,like the native americans have,through evolution. Drink ice water slowly,,don't chug,and ppls,obummer health care might have a chance of working if we get more proactive in taking better care of ourselves. To many ppls depend on the doctor to save them with a silver bullet,,which is not the answer,take more responsibility for your own health,we create our personal diseases(sometimes) by making terrible lifestyle choices2 much smoking,or 2 much drinking. Better health is a personal choice that should be comprised of more common sense,,,,ok,off my soap box.

July 24 2013 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rockymtnhikerCo

more cold Becks Beer please!! i'm not seeing double just yet,being German/Irish,have built in tolerance,but still keep it real,sane,and safe. Heard cold beer also has electrolytes,,hope i wasn't being lied to. lol. Don't drink and drive,or text,or sext,,,and put your damned 'smart' phone down while you're driving,i have seen/heard to many foolish people distracted constantly by their damn phones.Have missed the left turn green signal because some moron in front of me was playing with there 'smart' phone,that makes me lose my cool fast

July 24 2013 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rockymtnhikerCo

hey folks,i'm blue collar,currently working Denver area remodeling jobs outdoors.I make sure to have plenty of ice(cubed)water every morning in my cooler when i head out the door.And gatorade,don't need the sugar,but could use the electrolytes.And i always look for a large,cool shade tree to set under for a few minutes,while the boss isn't looking,so please don't tell him,i'm a new hire still under review,but i keep very busy while away from the shade tree if you care to tell my boss that.I also wear a full,wide brimmed hat to cover my upper neck since i don't use sunscreen as i should,as we all should. I have no idea what its like to be spoiled by AC working indoors.Don't turn on my AC at home to save on utility bills,my AC is all natural,up in the Colorado high country

July 24 2013 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
arenadood

Never chug down Ice water if you are truly over heated. A Doctor once told me that the sudden shock of the ice water possibly could cause a heart attack from the shock of the sudden temperature change. I do not know if this is a proven fact but it sounds like it could happen.

July 24 2013 at 10:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lu Ann

Bull.

July 24 2013 at 8:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lthrnck68

I left work early - noon - to be home in the A/C during the hotest part of the day - 2 to 4 pm.

July 24 2013 at 7:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
davidjohnwerner

dediicated to real love 4 u unsigned.com/kmarwolfhalen

July 20 2013 at 1:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
davidjohnwerner

dedicated to real love unsigned.com/kmarwolfhalen

July 20 2013 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RouteUS66Busload

Heat wave scares buyers away from ebay. Ebay's CEO just bragged that ebay got 3.5 million new users, I think these are new sellers and some are same seller's multi-accounts that causes "seller glut" where everyone's a seller and not buying on ebay? I'm glad I did not fall into ebay's "Bill Me Later" trap, now I can live debt free with almost no sales in July, Cheers, my life's better than ebay's CEO; he's becoming weary and cranky lately.

July 19 2013 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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