Is the cold weather making you as productive as a snowman? Changes in temperature affect people differently, but a few studies shed some light on how ambient factors impact or ability to focus and get work done.
Think about the last time you felt cold, really cold. Chances are, you shivered, wrapped your arms around yourself, maybe jumped up and down a few times. You probably could not stop thinking about how uncomfortable you were. The stress of being cold is very disruptive, physically and mentally. Your brain is all about protecting itself and your body. When it registers a disturbance in the status quo, it will do whatever it can to get your attention.
What Science Tells Us About Feeling Cold and Productivity
- A Cornell study showed that employees who work in a cold environment (68ºF) are less productive than those who are kept toasty at 77ºF. They make more errors, and show more distractibility.
- Another study demonstrated that people who are cold are less likely to want to work with others. They are less trusting, so this negatively impacts team work, and office collaboration.
- The British government sponsored a study that found that the ideal office temperature for productivity is 74ºF. Other studies show an ideal range of 69ºF to 73ºF.
- A French study showed that women who worked in an air-conditioned environments were more than twice as likely to take a sick-day or go see a doctor.
- Your brain uses more glucose when it is trying to raise your internal temperature.
- Being cold affects your hormone balance (e.g.thyroid, cortisol and glucagon), which in turn makes it harder for you to concentrate and be productive.
What can you do to be more productive when you are cold
- Keep your work temperature between 71ºF and 74ºF.
- Dress in layers
- Drink hot herbal tea, especially ones with ginger. A word of caution about coffee (this from a coffee lover): while it is true that a little bit of coffee can help you concentrate better, one sip too many will make you feel scattered. It might be best to stick to herbal tea when trying to warm up.
- Take frequent breaks. Walking around, moving your body, improves blood flow and helps regulate your internal temperature.
- Wear thick, warm socks. Keeping your extremities toasty will help your body redirect its energy towards warming up your organs.
- Use a space heater and cardigan at work. Especially if you’re under a central air vent, having a heater at your feet can make all the difference. An extra sweater or jacket is a must in an office with central air.
- Pump your legs up and down while you sit at your desk. Calf raises are not only good for you, they help pump blood back up. Efficient blood circulation helps regulate your internal temperature.