To many office workers, this will hardly come as a surprise. “The women in my office keep their coats on their chairs because they know they’ll have to put them on during the day. Someone had hand warmers in the microwave once,” Ben said.
If your boss still won’t ease off on the air conditioning, there are other ways to warm up. That’s because, according to the latest psychological experiments, our inner thermometers are nowhere near as reliable as we think.
For a small study published this year, each of the 32 participants spent an hour in a room illuminated with either a ‘warm’, sunset glow or ‘cool’ lighting and reported how warm they felt every ten minutes. What the volunteers didn’t know was that the room temperature was either being increased or decreased while they were there.
Despite this, volunteers on a cooling cycle felt significantly warmer under the ‘warm’ light than those under the ‘cool’ light. “There’s a long historical association there, potentially dating back to red campfires and blue ice,” said UCL researcher Shipworth.
The hope is that one day psychological tricks could keep workers happy while saving on energy bills.
Steering clear of the thermostat may have other benefits. In Kingma’s view, spending most of our lives in temperature-controlled environments isn’t just environmentally irresponsible, it could be harming our health – contributing to the obesity epidemic and fuelling the rise of metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
“By exposing yourself to mild cold and mild warm environments you get both cardiovascular and metabolic exercise,” he said.
Mild temperature variation may be healthy – but working in extreme heat or cold can be downright dangerous. So what are your rights? While there’s a legal minimum working temperature in most countries (16°C in the UK, 60.8F), many don’t set an upper limit, stating instead that the temperature should be ‘reasonable’.