Shivering at Work? Could Be Sexism.

Is shivering at work sexist?

Maybe not intentionally.

But it turns out that more women shiver at work than men. It’s also true that more men still control the thermostat at workplaces than women do. Ergo?

Why Are Offices So Cold?

Not everyone finds offices cold, but most women do. That’s because, noted in a recent article from NPR, sometime way back in the 1930s, scientists established “metabolic equivalents.” That’s the amount of energy a body requires when sitting, walking and running. Those metabolic equivalents are used to this day to help building engineers dial heating and air conditioning temperatures to keep people inside comfortable.

The problem is, those measurements were probably based on a man, someone around 40 years old and weighing 155 pounds. Oh, yes, he was also probably wearing a suit. No wonder indoor temperatures were set to be chilly if not downright cold, especially when hot summer temperatures rose to 80 or 90 degrees and indoors, temperatures might get even hotter. Meanwhile, more and more women started entering the workforce, and they most decidedly were not wearing all those clothes—summer dresses and sandals without stockings is more like it.

It doesn’t help that women actually feel colder than men, even when both are in the same room.

Mostly that has to do with the fact that men generally have more muscle in their bodies, and muscle cells produce more heat. Even women who are not overweight probably have more fat cells than muscle, and that can make a difference when it comes to keeping cool.

I’ve certainly noticed this in my own home. When my 20-something muscle-bound son visits in the summer, one of the first things he does when he walks in the door is crank up the air conditioning. As soon as he leaves, I turn it down.

How Does This Affect Your Health?

“Temperature influences your productivity,” Bjarne Oleson of the International Center for Indoor Environment and Energy in Denmark told NPR. Uncomfortably chilly or hot offices can undermine your concentration and lead to more errors in typing and other tasks.

I’ve also noticed that being in cold spaces actually makes me physically tired, probably because my body is working harder to stay warm. It’s one of the reasons why I like sleeping in a chilly room; it helps me fall asleep. But working in the cold? I’d rather not.

Excessive Air Conditioning Uses Unnecessary Energy and Contributes to Climate Change

In addition to creating discomfort for many employees, excessively air-conditioned buildings use a lot of energy. In fact, your office building might be consuming more energy to stay cool than to stay warm. This has certainly been true of my home. I live outside Washington, D.C., and my household energy bills in the summer used to be about 30 percent higher than my bills in the winter when I wasn’t really paying attention to who was turning up the AC.

Because many utilities burn coal, cranking up the AC can lead to an increase in smoggy air, as well as the release of the carbon dioxide that causes climate change. That’s one reason why many utilities offer their consumers financial incentives to let them cycle their AC on and off during peak demand times.

What Can You Do?

According to research reported on at the National Institutes of Health, women prefer working in a room that’s around 77 degrees Fahrenheit; men prefer 72. But it may be hard to get the thermostat in your building adjusted either way, depending on how large the building is and who controls the thermostat.

The obvious answer for anyone who is shivering at work is dress warmer. Keep a sweater in your office or desk drawer and maybe even a little space heater if it’s really that cold. Telecommute one or two days a week if that’s an option. If it’s really freezing and you can’t make a change, set up a “warm” room where you can work in comfort.

More and more offices are relaxing their dress codes, so hopefully, if guys don’t have to wear suits and ties, they won’t. If men and women are dressing cooler, the AC won’t have to be so cold.

If an entire building is over-cooled, you may need to collaborate with other offices to request AC adjustments from the building manager.

Related
Your Air Conditioning Could Be Costing You
Air Conditioning Is Heating Up The Globe

 

86 comments

Jessica K
Jessica K25 days ago

Well, it's easier to dress warmer and then take a sweater off than the other way around. Here it's very warm in town but lots of people live in the mountains. They come down the hill wearing sweaters and jeans (men and women) and then walk into an area that is 80 degrees, so all the offices are super chilly to compensate. Here it's due to climate, not much else so far as I know. Thanks.

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John W
John W1 years ago

Here's a simple solution, wear more layers of clothing. Articles like this are exactly why feminism isn't taken seriously anymore!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Tyfs

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Jennifer Manzi
Jennifer Manzi3 years ago

Kamia- they said the exact same crap to us about the computers and staying awake, lol

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Jennifer Manzi
Jennifer Manzi3 years ago

I must be a man cuz I'd rather it be 73. I was often cold when I worked in offices though.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta K3 years ago

Too true. the men in the office like to set the aircon at 16degC (60.8degF) even in winter!

and there's nothing you can do except dress warmer and breathe in the freezing air. That's why everyone is always sick! (that and poor hygiene)

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer3 years ago

I live in a HOT climate and offices and banks here keep the air conditioning way up.

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Genoveva M G.
Genoveva M M3 years ago

My house is at 72 degrees and still hot for me. I don't lower it more because of my kitties, otherwise I can live in a freezer, lol.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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