Workplace Temperatures Too Cold? Here’s Why


By Sarah Sekula, published on Florida Hospital’s blog

The fight over the temperature of the thermostat, blasting cold air inside a restaurant, the need to bring a sweater to the movie theater – if you’re a woman, you’ve probably encountered any or all of these scenarios.

Do you spend your days at the office shivering? Have you ever stopped to wonder why your body temperature seems to run much colder than male family members or coworkers?

Well, the answers may lie in the difference between the female and male metabolic rate, which is the rate at which a person’s body transforms energy.

According to Enesha Cobb, MD, a research scientist at the Translational Research Institute at Florida Hospital, building temperatures are usually set based on a formula using the metabolic rate of a 40-year-old male. In some cases, these temperatures underestimate female metabolic rate by as much as 35 percent.

If you find yourself needing to fire up the space heater or putting on an extra sweater when you get to work, even if the outside temperature is well above 90 degrees, this formula could be to blame.

Dr. Cobb notes that body temperature is determined by your own metabolism and tissue insulation So, if you’re a woman and you’re freezing in the office, it could be because the air conditioning is set for the comfort level of a completely different gender and body type.

“Using a formula based on this one individual means that we’re likely overestimating the resting heat production of anyone outside of this category, including women and older adults, who generally have lower basal metabolic rates,” adds Dr. Cobb.

Because of the difference in metabolic rate, women generally feel colder than men at the same temperature. However, she notes that you have to consider that your thermal comfort zone will vary based on your activity. So, if you’re sitting stationary at a desk, you’ll probably feel chillier than if you’re up and moving.

“Basal metabolic rates vary based on individual characteristics, such as age and gender. Thermal comfort zones vary within an individual based on his or her activity, body composition, and clothing worn,” Dr. Cobb explains.

So now that you know how AC temperatures are set, it’s time to bring on winter and thus begins a new struggle over the thermometer. Thank goodness Florida winters are generally mild!