Too hot to carry on? Disinclination to persist at a task in a warm office environment

Ergonomics. 2018 Apr;61(4):476-481. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2017.1353141. Epub 2017 Jul 17.


We investigated the effect of an elevated ambient temperature on performance in a persistence task. The task involved the coding of incorrect symbols and participants were free to decide how long to spend performing this task. Applying a between-subject design, we tested 125 students in an office-like environment in one of the three temperature conditions. The comfort condition (Predicted Mean Vote [PMV] = 0.01) featured an average air temperature of 24 °C. The elevated ambient temperature condition was 28 °C (PMV = 1.17). Condition three employed an airstream of approximately 0.8 m/s, intended to compensate for performance decrements at the elevated air temperature (28 °C, PMV = 0.13), according to Fanger's thermal comfort equation. Participants in the warm condition were significantly less persistent compared with participants in the control and compensation conditions. As predicted by the thermal comfort equation, the airstream seemed to compensate for the higher temperature. Participants' persistence in the compensation and comfort conditions did not differ. Practitioner Summary: A laboratory experiment involving a simulated office environment and three ambient temperature conditions (24 °C, 28 °C and 28 °C plus airstream) showed that persistence at a task is significantly impaired at 28 °C. An airstream of 0.8 m/s at 28 °C compensated for the disinclination to persist with the task.

Keywords: Thermal environment; ambient temperature; cognitive impairment; persistence; thermal comfort.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Temperature*
  • Time and Motion Studies
  • Ventilation*
  • Workplace
  • Young Adult