Trends & Insights

Women Chilly At Work? Yes, but...it’s complicated

Posted by Lindsay Baker on Aug. 5, 2015

Over here at Comfy HQ, it’s been exciting to watch the flurry of media coverage on a recent research study from Maastricht University on young women’s metabolism rates. Incredible how it has sparked so many people complaining about freezing temperatures in American offices in the summer, and we couldn’t agree more! But, as is often the case, the articles are glossing over some pretty important details.

So, I wanted to take a moment to share some of our reactions to the way that these issues are being portrayed in the press and what I’ve been hearing in the thermal comfort research community.

First off, it’s important to note that there are key aspects of the study that are not correct, you can read more about that in ASHRAE’s press release here. I gotta represent for my ASHRAE peeps here, the ASHRAE 55 standard is in fact based on research studies on the comfort of thousands of men and women, not just 16 scandinavian 20-something ladies.

Lots of things impact our comfort

Inaccuracies have led the Maastricht U authors to conclude that the gender issue is the big reason why offices are over-cooled in the summer. In reality, gender is just one of many equally important variables that determine comfort.

Looking at data from Comfy, we can see just how much this variation plays out with our thousands of Comfy users. We see men who prefer very warm temperatures north of 78 degrees fahrenheit, and women who prefer temps under 70. We see people who want a warm space on one day and a cool one on the next! Why aren’t they more predictable? Don’t we all have a ‘perfect temperature’ that is just right for us, like Goldilocks? Nope, we don’t.

Given all of the interest in this issue of women and men, we’ve been getting the question- what does the Comfy data say? And although it’s just a quick preliminary look, our data, which includes over 30,000 data points of moments when Comfy users have clicked “Warm my Space” or “Cool my Space”, tells a lot. Here’s a graph of what we see.

Gender and Temperature

What does this graph tell us? When offices are 71 degrees or below, the majority of men and women find it too cold.* It’s not just the women. And more importantly, you can see that there is no clear line between what women and men want- we are all on a spectrum of preferences. We are all different, and although women might fall towards the cooler end and men fall towards the warmer end, there is no big gender divide.

Work is a dynamic place

Ultimately, the workplace is a very dynamic place, and our temperature preferences are just as dynamic. That’s why we believe that temperature settings should be dynamic as well. With Comfy, that’s what we do. And what’s more, Comfy has been deftly designed to achieve high levels of agreement between co-workers. Perhaps our most proud accomplishment around here is our 95% agreement rateit means that with Comfy, people find peace with each other, and with the temperature. And when it comes to such a thorny issue as office comfort, finding peace is a pretty awesome thing.

*Lots of fine print on this data. It includes many different climates. I used a SSA spreadsheet of baby names to assign a gender to our users, since we don’t ask for their gender, which may mean that some genders are not accurate, but then again, gender is not binary anyway.




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