There's a cold war between the sexes at work, writes Paul Lewis, and it's leaving women shivering.
The news that the world standard for the office temperature to be achieved by air conditioning is set to suit men rather than women was surprising in some ways and predictable in others.
What was no surprise was that men had designed a standard to satisfy themselves with no consideration to the women who might also use it. This was back in sexist 1960s after all. Less excuse perhaps for the same standard still being applied today. Even so, the real surprise for me was that men and women have different temperature requirements. Which I guess makes me, as a man, just as bad as those sixties designers.
I now know better. Women tend to have a faster metabolism than men. So men apparently find a temperature of 22 degrees perfect for the working environment whereas women prefer 25 degrees in order to feel comfortable. Not that it's ever that easy. I certainly know a few mature women who require arctic conditions to cope with hot flushes. Also, the standard was arrived at on the assumption that men wore suits and ties in the office. Today's entrepreneurial businessman is quite likely to go to work in loose chinos and an open neck short sleeved shirt.
Nevertheless, we can be clear that the matter of who controls the air con is a new cold war in the battle of the sexes. If you lose the battle, you can always put a cardi on or take a jacket off. Short of providing a range of offices at different temperatures, all a good boss can do is compromise with a temperature of 23.5 degrees, then both sexes can suffer. Perhaps the temperature could be set to suit Employee Of The Month.
As countries grow more prosperous, so does the demand for air conditioning, even in a country like Britain where it's rarely hot enough to need it. Statistics do seem to show that productivity increases in hot climates when air conditioning is installed. The problem is that the refrigerants in air conditioning contribute to greenhouse gases which in turn affect global warming. So it's a vicious spiral in which, as the planet gets hotter, we install more air conditioning which causes the planet to get even hotter.
Call us old fashioned but in our (mixed sex) reception at Hampshire Workspace where I have a desk, we have a ceiling fan which is remarkably effective at cooling the air. If it gets really hot, we open a window.