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Is There a Link Between Office Temperature and Worker Productivity?

It stands to reason that environment can effect productivity. Noise can cause distractions, and even colors have been associated with certain psychological states. But can the temperature of an office also be a factor?

One study conducted by Alan Hedge of Cornell University concludes that it does. Hedge, a professor of design and environmental analaysis (and director of the university’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Lab) found out that a warm environment can enhance productivity.

Hedge and his team conducted the study in the Insurance Office of America. Sensors attached to workstations measured the air temperature every 15 minutes. These also checked how long workers would stay at their keyboards and the delays caused by errors.

Interestingly, when the air temperature was colder (66 degrees Fahrenheit (18.8 degrees Celsius) workers were typing at 54 percent of the time and had an error rate of 25%. When the temperature was increased to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (or 25 degrees Celsius), they worked all the time and had an error rate of 10%.

This study justifies the higher business cost of maintaining a warmer office temperature even in cold climates. Hedge computed that at the ideal zone the company would save an average of two dollars an hour per employee, which would amount to considerable business savings.

However the study has not yet been replicated and the concept needs further testing in other office environments in order for the data to be seen as scientifically conclusive. Nevertheless the correlation is worth looking into—perhaps companies may adjust temperatures for a month or two to see if there is any noticeable change in output.

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