Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Can the cold boost your performance at work?

The alarm goes off in a morning and – let’s be honest – in this dark, damp winter weather, what wouldn’t we do to press snooze and snuggle back down into bed, if only for a few more minutes?

But before you hit that button, remember these few key facts about why this colder weather is actually good for us and could have a positive impact on our performance at work.


Although getting to work may be a struggle during the cold winter months, once we're there, chances are we'll give our best – unlike during the summer months when we can be more easily distracted and eager to wind down for the holidays. Research in the US showed the impact that warmer weather had on complex decision making. They had two groups of workers complete a proof reading task – one group in a warm room, one group in a cool room. The group in the warm room missed significantly more mistakes than those in the room with the cooler temperature, suggesting that our minds are potentially more alert when our body temperature is lower. This is because our brain produces glucose – which we can either use to make decisions or, when we are hot, we can use it to cool our body temperature down – leaving us with less brain power to make convicting decisions.


We all know that our performance at work depends on the quality of sleep we have had the night before. And cooler temperatures have been proven to have a positive impact on sleep quality. A study by the University of Southern Australia demonstrated that people suffering from insomnia were seen to improve when they went to bed in colder temperatures. The science behind this is the fact that as our body temperature drops, it induces feelings of sleepiness. Therefore we are more likely to fall asleep in cooler environments. Not only that, but our body releases more melatonin in colder temperatures and that’s good for the skin too, not to mention the calories we burn!


Although our desire to keep active during the winter is often much lower than during the spring and summer months, there’s a lot to be said for making sure we continue with our usual non-work activities during the colder months too. When it comes to exercise, there is evidence to show that our bodies are able to train faster and for longer in cold weather, than in the heat. This is because it’s easier for our bodies to regulate temperature. Interestingly though, it works even harder when used to operating at a certain temperature. This was proved when two groups of cyclists were split to train in different environments – one cold, one hot. The cold group outperformed the hot group in the first test, however when the warm group moved back to train in a cold environment again, they were found to outperform the cold group – who’s performance remained consistent. The lesson learned here is that our bodies respond to changes in the temperature, so – in a work environment – maybe turn up the air conditioning a notch before a big team meeting in the hope of maximising the performance of your team?

Our bodies are amazing, responsive, adaptable vessels. The cold weather serves to boost our internal operating system which, when channelled properly, can have a positive impact on how we perform certain tasks. The winter months are often seen as a season to ‘endure’ and ‘tolerate’ while waiting for the spring to reappear, full of promise. Surely it would be better to see the winter for what it is – a time of possibilities and potential; the time to test yourself and strive to achieve your best.

Why not give the winter your all – and see what you get in return?

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