Cold Office Temperatures, Productivity Enters An Ice Age:
In the past, we’ve all been told that changes in seasons bring on various types of sickness.
Well, in addition to all the old wives’ tales about cold being bad for you, esp. going outside without a hat on in the winter, etc.
It turns out a few studies have found that cold can have a real economic impact. Especially in the workplace.
And it all starts out with something Ron Friedman found out about the Campbell Soup Company’s “Misery Index”…
Misery Loves Comfort Food:
So, in-addition to the beautiful landscape that the world becomes when it’s covered in snow and Casey Niestat snowboards through Times Square,
Another thing happens that’s completely-overlooked by anyone except the poetry-reading navel-gazing introvert crowd who lives on this stuff.
Our psychology changes in-response to the Seasons, Weather, and also…Temperature.
Of-course it starts with our natural core-temperature, and cardiovascular quirkiness.
-BUT it also comes from our cat-like connection to the sensation of Warmth as survival; -because babies who evolved the urge to be closer to their mothers had lower early-mortality rates.
Warmth & Shelter, The Wisdom Of Cats:
Well as Ron points out, warmth is a source of real comfort in many life-situations; and weather conditions.
-So much so, that the people at the forefront of the most quintessential comfort-food developed an index to measure the opposite for sales reasons: Thermostatic Misery.
Any time it’s cold, damp, windy, rainy, or grey out, Campbell’s Soup is raking it in.
And this effect isn’t just limited to the soup business.
It affects every business.
Turn Up The Heat On Productivity:
Not that everyone in an office should go nuts and start a soup-based wet t-shirt contest, because that would be weird; -and sticky.
But according to a Cornell study, Temperature affects Psychology, physical comfort, Productivity, and ultimately: Profitability!
With a small group of test subjects, the researchers studied the productivity of several workers at 15-minute intervals for a little more than 2 weeks.
And what they found is that when the temperature gets down near 68, the rate of errors in a pool of female workers went up by 44% and the amount of work produced was less than half.
Discomfort Is Inescapable, Pervasive, And Costly:
This drop cost the businesses in-question a minimum of 10% extra in labor expenses.
Conversely, they also found that when it reaches 77 degrees in an office but doesn’t go over, productivity is generally at its maximum. This included both faster work and fewer errors.
And in another quirk of humanity, some people tend to be perpetually cold. For example, women.
-Which makes sense because women’s metabolisms are anywhere from 20 to 32 percent slower than men’s, and they also carry 1/3 less muscle-mass, too.
So unfortunately, fixing this problem will probably require some individually-tailored solutions.
Temperature+Context, Your Body And Mind Are Wired Together:
But that’s not the end of it.
Because it turns out that just like the painkillers that end up reducing Both physical and emotional pain,
Our brains are “double-wired” in another area.
Temperature and Trust are wired-together, too.
In a recent series of tests at the University of Utrecht, subjects were shown short films and asked to describe them afterward.
Not only did they use completely different types of language under temperature conditions that varied from the low 60s to the low 70s,
The Linguistic-Indicator, Warmth=Trust:
They were found to also change the amount of external friendliness & cooperation in direct proportion to the the thermostat.
When things were warmer, a majority of subjects very-tellingly expressed empathy for the test-runners as a part of their answers.
And this more subtle effect of temperature seems to support Ijerman & Semin’s idea that people in warmer conditions would deal in more concrete terminology, and those in cooler conditions would be more symbolically-abstract.
So the old linguistic clichés hold true. When we’re physically cold, we’re also emotionally, psychologically, and socially “cold”, too.
ie: Temperature changes both your processing and interpretation, and this is especially true for what is new, uncertain, or foreign.
Temperature Affects Both Your Internal And External Dynamics:
So, businesses beware!
If Campbell’s Soup can use temperature-induced misery to make profits, you might end up losing yours at both the Individual & Group levels, if you don’t look out for your workers.
-Even if it’s something as silly as a few personal space-heaters or a more-aggressive thermostat.
Check out the rest of the details in the Links:
Photo Credits: “Cold House 1”, by Francis Valadj
• Source: Cornell
• via: FastCompany
• More Coverage: PsychScience
• Source Studies:
• Hum.Fac.Ergo-Thermal Effects on Office Productivity
• APS-The Thermometer of Social Relations, Mapping Social Proximity on Temperature