The Complete Guide To Working In A Heat Wave
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.
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.
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 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.
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