The argument over the office thermostat is not just happening between you and your cubemates.
Last week, the Washington Post ran a column, "Frigid Offices, Freezing Women, Oblivious Men: An Air-Conditioning Investigation," that generated a heated response on the internet. Author Petula Dvorak's conclusion: Blasting the office air conditioning is sexist. Cooler office temperatures favor suit-clad men, whose traditional office wear keeps them warmer than women in dresses.
Putting aside the sexism debate, there are a number of reasons to keep the AC on that have nothing to do with gender. A number of studies have shown that heat and humidity (especially in the summer) does no favors for your brain:
Heat impairs your decision-making.
In 2012, researchers Amar Cheena and Vanessa M. Patrick, from the Universities of Virginia and Houston respectively, studied the effect of heat on decision-making using a real-world example: lottery ticket sales. For one year, they recorded how many tickets were sold per day for different types of lottery games in a Missouri county, and the recorded temperature on that day. On hotter days, sales for scratch tickets were typically lower, but sales for lotto tickets usually stayed the same. Scratch tickets required people to choose between a number of different choices, while lotto tickets required fewer decisions. Are people simply lazier on warm days? Maybe. Warmer temperatures require the body to use more glucose to maintain a normal body temperature, depleting the amount of glucose that can be used for cognitive processes, according to Scientific American.
Heat decreases your productivity.
Finnish researchers, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, completed a review of 24 different studies that dealt with temperature and productivity. Many of the studies were completed in call centers, and measured the speed of an employee's work--i.e., how quickly they handled a call--at different workplace temperatures. Their results, published in July 2006, found that, on average, worker productivity decreased once the office temperature hit 73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat (may) heighten tempers.
A 2013 study published in the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence looked at more than 38.1 million tweets in the U.S. written during the month of April. Using a linguistics coding system, the researchers quantified how much negative and positive emotion a tweet reflected. In many Southern states, such as Alabama and Georgia, the higher the humidity index, the more negative the tweets were. But take this data with a grain of salt: In desert-like climates, such as in Arizona, humidity may have actually been welcome, as tweets tended to contain more positive language, according to the researchers.
As for the ideal office temperature for productivity, that remains as elusive as ever. Some studies say the perfect temperature is 70 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit. If that's too cold for you, make sure to bring a sweater-- being too chilly may leave you feeling distracted.