Why Your Iced Coffee & AC Aren't Helping You This Summer

Though many would balk at the idea of a summer without air conditioning and iced drinks, it turns out those chilly godsends aren't as good for you as they feel. In fact, they may be stopping you from being your best self at work and at play.

The New York Times’ Kate Murphy recently explored why we over-air condition our offices (employee feelings summed up in a tweet: “I could preserve dead bodies in the office it’s so cold in here.”) and found that the more we manipulate nature, the more luxurious and powerful we’re perceived to be. Examples of this can be found in store hierarchies and their varying use of AC: Murphy points out that “Whole Foods is chillier than Kroger, which is chillier than Piggly Wiggly.” In essence, we’re paying more for shivery consumer experiences.

A frigid AC does not make for a more productive work environment, as is often touted by schools and HR teams; in fact, people who are poorly dressed for low inside temps experience an inhibition of productivity. This is because instead of concentrating on work, they're focused on their discomfort, which research physiologist Nisha Charkoudian explains works as an evolutionary signal that extreme weather could be on its way. Worse yet: Colder office temps foster uncommunicative behavior in people, demonstrating the extreme interplay between environmental conditions and socialization. A simple remedy to the work freeze is to listen to your mother and pack a jacket — for your brainpower and coworker relationships alike.
And before you even arrive at your freezing place of work, you may be silently judging others because of your morning iced coffee. The presence of physical coldness actually influences how we see others, as seen in a Yale University and UC Boulder study that tested the effects of hot and iced coffee on people’s social perceptions. Holding onto a chilly cup can lead you to believe someone is metaphorically icing you; the opposite effect holds true with beverages like hot coffee and tea, both of which can lead you to view others as more warm and inviting.

Yes, it’s hard to justify ordering a steaming latte in muggy July, but it may just turn everyone around you into human teddy bears. Which is not unpleasant at all.

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