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I told you I was cold

For a couple of years I went to Singapore to run the news website of the World Architecture Festival. The work was interesting if demanding, the company was congenial and I knew plenty of people. But I was unhappy. Why? Because I was cold.

Singapore has a climate that rarely dips below 30C, with high humidity, so wearing summer clothes seemed a no-brainer. But the air conditioning, particularly in the office where I worked, was so ferocious that you needed not merely a cardigan but also tights and, at times I felt, boots and mittens. 

It was obviously ridiculous and unsustainable to cool to this extent, but I seemed to suffer more than most, and particularly more than the men. At the time, I thought that it was because of the different way that we dressed – me in a skirt and sandals, them in trousers and socks and shoes – but this week’s much trumpeted research shows that, even discounting for clothing, men and women just are different.

Our thermostats, it seems are different, and women are happier and work better in warmer environments. Which actually has some fairly fundamental implications for the people who design our offices. Just as task lighting makes people generally happier and also consumes less energy than generalised lighting, so individual heating and cooling must be the way to go as well.

We hear a lot about new ways of working. The office as a featureless plain with functionaries slotting seamlessly into identical desks is of little use unless you are running a call centre. People are, shock horror, individuals, who need to work the way they want to and often when and where they want to as well if their employers are to get the most out of them. And now, shock horror, they also need to work at the temperature they want to.

And me? I don’t go to Singapore any more, and my environment is warm enough. I work at home so there is no air conditining, and I can choose the temperature. 

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