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I'm curious if there have been any studies that can tie office temperature to productivity. Is it better to be warm or cold or 'just right'? Is there a standard temperature that is best for everyone, or is it a personal preference?

Is there a business case to be made for buying an air conditioner or turning up the heat?

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Skeptics question? –  Dmitry Selitskiy Aug 9 '11 at 20:44
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up vote 28 down vote accepted

Yes. While the exact optimal temperature depends on the person, there is a range where people are generally more productive. You can see a spike at ~ 70 - 71 °F aka ~ 21 - 22°C.

A quick search to find an actual study turned up this from Helsinki University and this from Cornell.

Translated to both Fahrenheit and Celcius temperature ranges, here is the picture from the former:

enter image description here

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Note that there may be cultural bias in the study. Helsinki and Ithaca are cold places whose inhabitants are used to a certain range of temperatures, and 21 or 22 may be comfortably warm temperatures. In other hotter places in the world (where it drops to 21 only in the winter), something like 25 or 26 may be the most comfortable temperature for those who live there. Actually, your graph is based on the Helsinki study, and the Cornell study in fact recommends 25 as the optimum. –  ShreevatsaR Dec 27 '11 at 7:09
    
What exactly is "productivity" in that graph? What was the task being performed? –  l19 Dec 11 '13 at 4:23
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This is a subjective question but I want to say something about it.

First of all, I work in plaza on the 17th floor. We have air conditioner system. But sometimes we can't change the temperature. Because our air conditioner system is a central system.

Our office, normally temperature range around 23 - 26 Celsius. This is good for us. Not cold, not hot. But we have no opening window in office. And this is so bad. Although I'm ok with conditioner air, all people need fresh air no matter how temperature is. If I have a chance to choose between hot and cold, I always prefer cold. Best temperature is good with only fresh air.

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I don't have any studies, but it seems fairly clear to me that it's better, at work, to not be distracted. If you find yourself thinking "I'm cold" or "I'm hot" every ten minutes, or even every hour, you're clearly not as productive as you could be.

Temperature is definitely a question of personal preference - I've had a housemate with such different preferences from mine that we literally couldn't be comfortable in the same room - but few people have extreme preferences, so it should be possible to find a temperature that's good for most. From personal experience, I'd place it around 22-25 Celsius.

It also depends on the kind of work done - physical work warms you up, so you'll need slightly higher temperatures for people who are sitting in front of computers all day than for people who are moving around.

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Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis and director of Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, has gathered an interesting bibliography on the topic: http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/DEA3500pdfs/thermperform.pdf (mirror)

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In order for this answer to be more useful as a stand-alone resource, I'd suggest summarizing the interesting findings or conclusions from the link and/or some of the key papers that are cited. As it stands, this is just a redirect to a list of papers and doesn't really answer the question. –  Adam Wuerl Dec 14 '13 at 22:23
    
Well the PDF I linked contain references and a very short summary of each of them: 1) This seems to me more useful than the 2 other answers that relate on personal experience or intuition only 2) The other answer links to 2 articles without summarizing put aside the 21 - 22°C and the graph. 3) IMHO it does answer most of the question, which is around office temperature vs.productivity. 4) For more reading: ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/dea3500notes/thermal/… 5) It's hard to summarize experiments with different conditions and different results. –  Franck Dernoncourt Dec 14 '13 at 22:58
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