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Focusing in the summer can be hard. One survey found that we rate ourselves as being 45% more distracted during this time of year—and that we rate our productivity as 20% lower than usual. On top of this, workplace attendance falls by around 18% during the summer months, meaning projects take around 13% longer to complete. (Working reduced hours or telecommuting in the summer has been shown to only exacerbate this effect.)1
In writing Hyperfocus, I read hundreds of studies and interviewed dozens of researchers about what influences our attention and focus. I learned that almost everything affects our attention—how much caffeine we consume; how tired we feel; what type of music we listen to as we work; the messiness of our office; the number of problems on our mind; and whether we leave our email inbox open as we work. Our attention is fascinating and complex, and it’s nudged by even small things like the temperature of our office.
Not every bit of research made it into the book—the temperature of our office being one of them. Hence, the reason for this blog post.
But enough preamble. When it comes to the temperature of your office, here’s what the research shows:
- 70-72ºF (21-22ºC) is the temperature range that will make you the most focused and productive.
- Your productivity begins to decrease in temperatures above 73ºF (23ºC). At 86ºF (30ºC), your productivity drops to about 90% of what you’re capable, and drops precipitously beyond that point.
- Any temperature below 68º (20 ºC) significantly decreases your productivity. Lower temperatures increase the number of errors you make, and also increase your chance of getting sick.
Your mileage during hot or cold temperatures may vary—everyone is wired differently—but on average, this is when your performance will peak.2
It’s also possible to use the thermostat to defend your attention in other ways. For example, if people like to stop by your office to chat, you could lower the temperature and put on a sweater. Your visitors will get cold faster, and your meetings will speed up considerably.
If you can, lower the temperature of your office meeting rooms. Knowledge workers spend an average 37% of their days in meetings. Lowering the temperature of your meeting may not be as effective as saying “no” to them in the first place, but it’s likely to nudge that figure in the right direction.