How can I feel less cold in the office?
November 19, 2012 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm always cold. In my office and public places and other people's houses, how can I best be comfortable?

So I am cold all of the time. I can wear long sleeves, but this does nothing for my head and hands and I can tell that the changing seasons are again affecting my productivity and comfort level at work.

I have a minor blood disorder that causes anemia, but can't be helped through iron supplements. I've been able to hack the other symptoms successfully but this cold thing has stuck.

Has anyone else dealt with feeling colder than other people, and what have you done to be more comfortable without the ability to change the temperature?
posted by sarahnicolesays to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Small heater under my desk when I worked in an office. Also a wool hat when it got really cold, and always arthritis gloves.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:07 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Layers. Layers layers layers.
posted by anonnymoose at 2:08 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am frozen most of the time, and fantasize every February about moving to Alabama.

Other people who also are cold tell me that if they can keep one part of their body warm, then the rest of them will stay warm too. In my case, it's my shoulders; keeping a shawl on my shoulders does wonders. My friend says it's her neck; she always wears a scarf.

Can't help you about the hands, alas, except sit on them as much as possible. Walking around and increasing circulation helps (of course in my case, I'd have to walk around every half hour).
posted by Melismata at 2:09 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have a microwave - wheatbags!

If you don't, unobtrusive exercises (25 squats keeps me warm for at least 20 mins) or tea to at least keep your hands warm.

I also dress very warmly and don't worry too much about looks.
posted by kadia_a at 2:13 PM on November 19, 2012

Space heater, hat, gloves (fingerless if typing), scarf/shawl/hoodie or some combination thereof, multiple pairs of socks AND boots lined with fur or fuzzy material, fleece clothing if appropriate, frequent cups of hot water/coffee/tea.

That said, it will still be kind of miserable until June. But those things do help somewhat.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:14 PM on November 19, 2012

Fingerless gloves!

Oh man, a good hand-knitted pair of fingerless gloves get me through the winter. Get a pair with cut-off fingers and a pair with no fingers to see which is easier to work with - I can't type with cut-off fingers, and I have to put the other pair down a bit for easier typing.

But, man, it helps. It seriously helps.

Also? Have a hot drink to hold from time to time. When you wash your hands, use hot water and give it a bit of time.

And don't be afraid to wear a hefty cardigan and a scarf if you need to.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:15 PM on November 19, 2012

I am often cold in the winter unless my neck is covered up. Scarf, turtleneck, or buff!
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:15 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found that cleaning my keyboard at the start of my shift helped my hands feel warmer. And drinking something warm periodically. I am not a big coffee drinker, so I began bringing things like tea and soup to the office.
posted by Michele in California at 2:16 PM on November 19, 2012

Fingerless gloves, scarves, and cozy socks (i.e., not just cotton) help me.
posted by scody at 2:21 PM on November 19, 2012

I am a fellow cold person. In winter, I love the following:
Silk long underwear. (Makes more of a difference than regular long underwear, doesn't feel as bulky.) I get mine from Lands' End.

Wool and cashmere sweaters are much warmer than any cotton or acrylic equivalent. Lambswool and merino are softer varieties of wool.

Wool socks and knee high leather boots also help.

Ask for a cup of tea or always get a cup of hot water at work to periodically warm your hands up on. Little fingerless mitts you can wear at work while you type.

I never leave the house without a scarf. Bonus points if it's a dressier one that goes with your outfits so you look even classier around the office. Again for ultimate warmth, seek out natural warming fibers: wool, silk, cashmere, alpaca...

For more casual settings, a down vest with deep pockets is also a lifesaver. It keeps our torso warm (source of all body warmth!) and the deep pockets are for warming up your hands. Again, I think my favorites are from Lands' End.

Advanced warm strategies: A coworker keeps a large shawl in her office for really cold days. She drapes it over her shoulders or on her lap as needed. My dad changes his socks partway through the day to a fresh (wool) pair. Perspiration can eventually have a cooling effect even if you are wearing wool. I have found that meditating for a good 10-15 minutes often results in my hands being magically warm. I don't know how that last one might be working.
posted by purple_bird at 2:24 PM on November 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh gosh, yes. I am constantly too cold. (Until the summer, when I am eternally too warm. Really, I'm just impossible.) Fingerless gloves, wool sweaters, and scarves are definitely recommended. I've always kept a sweater in my cube at work. Gloves and scarves usually travel with my in my purse—because, like I said, brrr.

In addition to warm drinks (tea!), I usually find that just by keeping hydrated in general, my body does a better job of regulating its temperature. Also, getting up and walking around for a few minutes, when possible, seems to help.
posted by cellar door at 2:25 PM on November 19, 2012

I wear a base layer of a turtleneck whenever possible. Not only does it keep your neck warm but, if you don't care what you look like you can pull the front of the neck up over the bottom of your face to warm your nose. (YMMV, my kid tells me I look like a ninja. This may or may not be appropriate for your office).

Seconding Sidhedevil's link to the IMAK arthritis gloves. They are thick and compressive, which makes them very warm.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 2:26 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

A huge mid-weight shawl (huge to the point that I bring it with me when I travel, as it's as larger or larger than airplane blankets). Fingerless gloves. And the big surprise for me -- over the knee socks or lightweight legwarmers. Turns out an extra layer over my knees makes a big difference in how warm I feel.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:27 PM on November 19, 2012

So, when you're sitting in a place that isn't drafty, the reason your hands get cold is because you'll constrict blood flow to the extremities to keep your body core/organs at optimal temp. Heating up your back, belly or seat can help warm up your hands.

For the office, get either an under the desk heater, or strap a heating pad to your chair back.

For walking around, find a not-too insulated travel mug and keep a warm cup of green or herbal tea on you all the time.

It's probably also worth asking a doctor if your thyroid/metabolism couldn't also be the culprit.
posted by fontophilic at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2012

Space heater if it's possible at your office, or a heated footrest if that won't fly. I've found that long fingerless gloves/handwarmers are also very helpful. Finally, I work at home nowadays so no one looks askance at me if I'm wearing a silly knitted bear hat. But if you have to work in a not super-formal office, there may be some sort of more fashionable hat (a knit newsboy or cloche, for example) that suits your style and that will keep you warm.
posted by drlith at 2:35 PM on November 19, 2012

Office: space heater, scarf, fingerless gloves

everywhere else: layers!
posted by elizardbits at 2:35 PM on November 19, 2012

Ginger tea is very warming (even too warming for me at times). If your hands are cold, the skier's trick of rapid arm circles will get the blood to your fingers. A lap blanket and/or wool or cashmere wrap and/or scarf seem to do more to keep me warm than just wearing warmer clothes. There exists such a thing as a battery-heated vest, although I've never tried it. A dry pair of Smartwool socks will completely change how you feel about your feet. They also make chemical toe warmers that you can put in your shoes. But by far the most helpful thing is to close the door and do a few lunges and squats.
posted by HotToddy at 2:36 PM on November 19, 2012

I keep a heating pad at my desk, I can take off my shoes and rest my feet on it, or I can put it in my lap and rest my hands on it when they get cold.

Moving around helps. Hot tea (keep warming it up if it gets cold) helps. Another layer helps.

I'm not a hat person, but apparently that can also work wonders.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:47 PM on November 19, 2012

I'm a longtime veteran of wearing hats and scarves and fingerless gloves in the office, drinking tea, using microwaveable heating pads (no electric pads or heaters allowed in my last office), etc.

A few things that I didn't see mentioned above:

* Tights under pants don't bulk you up as much as long underwear would, but they do add a little bit of warmth. It's not enough on its own to keep you warm, but part of a multi-pronged strategy. You can still wear smartwool socks over them to keep your toes extra insulated.

* Don't let yourself get really super cold. Once I'm fully chilled, it's nearly impossible to warm up without a long, hot shower. But if I make sure to maintain my warmth with less intrusive interventions (scarf, hot beverage, squats and lunges in the bathroom stall, etc.), I can get back to normal more easily.

When I get up in the morning my house is chilly (like, 60 degrees, which shouldn't feel chilly to a Minnesotan but does to me anyway). If I go through my morning routine in my work clothes, I'm tense and cold and on the verge of shivering before I even go outside. Leaving the house is awful even in a down coat, hat, scarf, mittens, etc. because I'm already freezing, and I just get colder. My teeth will be chattering by the time I get to work. BUT! I've recently discovered that I do much better by putting lots of that warm stuff on well before I go outside. As soon as I'm dressed, I put on my jacket and hat, then eat breakfast, pack my lunch, brush my teeth, etc. That way I'm not already chilled when I step out into the arctic outdoors, and I recover much more quickly when I get back inside at work. Sometimes I even start to feel a smidge too warm before leaving the house (and the clouds part with rays from heaven and angels sing), and going out into the cold feels kind of... nice.
posted by vytae at 2:49 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

For outside, I find a well fitting insulated vest does wonders. When I'm going to a friend's place for dinner or drinks, I bring slippers.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:58 PM on November 19, 2012

I, too, am always cold. I use a combination of buffs, wristies, down shirts from Eddie Bauer, and pashmina scarves/wraps. I also periodically do plyometric exercises around the house or office to heat myself up.
posted by skye.dancer at 3:03 PM on November 19, 2012

Everyone's advice is great; from a fellow cold person - you have my sympathies this time of year.

One thing that worked surprisingly well for me and that I did not see posted was aerobic/cardio exercise. I just ride a stationary bike 5x a week for 30 mins at about 10 mph, and have been much less cold since I started. Consider this if you are not already doing exercise.
posted by Atrahasis at 3:17 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I keep a snuggie at my desk at work. Don't know if you work somewhere casual like that, but I use mine all the time. I think more often in the summer when the AC is cranked up super high.
posted by theRussian at 3:20 PM on November 19, 2012

1) Smartwool socks for everyone

2) Get your thyroid checked

3) Silk long underwear

4) Tiny heater under your desk or this warming mat --- so nice.

5) A giant box of instant handwarmers - even opening one at a time, and alternating hands or keeping it in your cardigan pocket, can help a bunch.

6) Toasty feet insoles.

7) Decently insulated boots or shoes. Leave the plain leather ones at home for the winter. Even Uggs are nice and warm, and they make some that don't look like elephant feet.
posted by barnone at 3:21 PM on November 19, 2012

Sticking your hands straight out, perpendicular to your body, and quickly twisting your body in order to swing them as quickly as possible (while keeping them perpendicular to your body) will warm up your hands temporarily by increasing the blood flow to them (or so my Minnesotan friends tell me).
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:51 PM on November 19, 2012

If at all possible, get up and move around as much possible. Even a quick walk around the office (or even better, a dash up a couple of flights of stairs) will get your core temperature up. I'm generally right in the middle of the pack in terms of being warm or cold, but I get FREEZING COLD if I spend my whole morning at my desk.

And are you wearing sweaters? Wool sweaters? A nice lightweight merino cardigan works wonders for me. (Also wool tights.)
posted by mskyle at 4:13 PM on November 19, 2012


1) Space heater or heat pad if possible

2) Billions of cups of tea

3) Silk long underwear or dance tights under pants (much better for slim fits, and thick enough to keep a slim line/strong enough to make a heat difference

4) Pashmina scarves for everywhere-- especially good for cars and movie theaters as little heat tents/blankets

5) Thick sweater for work, if possible

6) Multiple pairs of socks

7) Blowing hot air down the neck of your shirt from the hand dryer (if for some reason you work in a wetsuit, you can do this with a warm shower beforehand, it's great)

8) Running errands up and down multiple flights of steps

9) Decent wool and cashmere options really are better and warmer than cotton or lighter blends
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:16 PM on November 19, 2012

Waffle knit!
posted by kmennie at 4:41 PM on November 19, 2012

My tiny office shares an HVAC vent with the server room, so it's always, always cold. I have a heater under my desk. I wear layers (Smartwool or polypro against my skin, then more layers on top), and I have thin wool full-finger glove liners, and over them, cashmere fingerless mittens. I haven't had to wear a hat yet, but that day may come.
posted by rtha at 4:45 PM on November 19, 2012

Get a haramaki (Japanese for "belly wrap"). Wrapping up the internal organs helps keep the core temp up. Uniqlo makes a nice one and you can wear it under your clothes for that lo-pro style.

Best of luck!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:51 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I made myself a heated mouse pad which I would not want to live without. Googling reveals that these can also be bought.
posted by canoehead at 5:07 PM on November 19, 2012


I'm a cold person, too. I find that two non-obvious things help immensely: exercise and food.

I started lifting heavy (for me) weights a few times a week. Other than the obvious warm-up effect while doing it, I've also noticed an increased ability to keep warm ALL the time.

And eat enough. The body will attempt to compensate by raising your metabolism a little, which will keep you warmer.

Not saying this will solve it all, but it helps skinny, no-natural-insulation me a lot.
posted by ctmf at 6:13 PM on November 19, 2012

* I heard the food thing first from some web site, so the science may not support that. If not, don't tell me because I sure do seem to be able to correlate hungry and cold more than purely coincidentally.
posted by ctmf at 6:17 PM on November 19, 2012

I think working on the root cause does more good than stop-gap measures. Improving your circulation through exercise can greatly assist in making you feel warmer.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:32 PM on November 19, 2012

Wool, wool, wool, and sipping ginger tea (just steep slices of ginger in hot water).
posted by The Toad at 6:37 PM on November 19, 2012

Hot water bottle. In your lap or in between two shirt layers so it's heating your midsection. Spicy food. Lots of warm water to drink. Fleece-lined tigts plus warm wool socks. I find taking off my boots so I can waggle my toesies to get circulation down there is helpful but be careful not to let your feet get too cold.

And everything everyone else said.
posted by windykites at 6:41 PM on November 19, 2012

Infinite wool! Long wool socks, undershirt + shirt + wool sweater + wool overcoat + hat with some wool pants. Basically, make friends with sheep.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:07 PM on November 19, 2012

Put some rice in a sock. Tie a knot at the ankle. Microwave until nice and warm. Apply to whatever part of you is coldest. Enjoy the bulk of it, the texture, the squishability, and the lovely toasty smell.

I have one of these stashed in my desk at work, and it's more discreet than a heating pad and really lovely on the coldest days.
posted by beandip at 8:46 PM on November 19, 2012

Long underwear has come a long way. Search for base layers at a camping store and you'll find stuff that will keep you toasty while skiing outdoors and is not bulky.
posted by benzenedream at 11:02 PM on November 19, 2012

I understand your plight. I am cold at work in the winter, spring, summer and fall. My solutions are 1) space heater, 2) sweater, 3) hot tea. There is something rather comical about doing all three of these things when it is 95 degrees outside....

Much like ctmf, I have also noticed that working out helps me stay warmer so you might want to give that a try as well. I don't think that you would necessarily need to lift weights. I bike and get the same effect.
posted by nolnacs at 5:28 AM on November 20, 2012

Thanks so much everyone!! So many helpful answers!! I marked as best the things i'm definitely going to start incorporating, as hats/gloves/shawls are too obtrusive for my current lifestyle (but oh so cozy and a definite yes on work from home alone days)

Those under the desk heated mats look wonderful - and I had forgotten about the disposable hand warmers but I think that would really help. Also i'm going to wear more boots so that I can wear thick comfy socks underneath.

And I definitely need to exercise more in general, and get up and move more around the office, so here is yet another reason to stop making excuses and do it!
posted by sarahnicolesays at 7:41 AM on November 20, 2012

It doesn't necessarily have to be super thick socks, in case you find them uncomfortable. I am currently wearing an awesome pair of smartwool knee socks that keep my feets super warm. Also I think they are squeezy compression socks to keep the blood flowing.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 AM on November 20, 2012

PS: REI is having a 25% off sale on Smartwool socks right now. They're expensive but worth every dollar!
posted by barnone at 10:32 AM on November 20, 2012

In my case, changing my shoes made a huge difference. I'm in Seattle, where it's not usually snowy-cold, but rainy and 38 degrees is no fun anyway. I used to wear Converse Chuck Taylors year-round except when they would be likely to get soaked. And I was always cold. (Not just my feet.) Then I got some leather shoes for a trip to Europe, and discovered that I just don't get as cold when I wear those. It makes a big difference. So now I don't wear the Chuck Taylors in the winter anymore, even indoors. The socks I wear don't seem to matter, the shoes do.

When I'm in the house, I wear warm shearling-lined slippers, and that helps there as well. I'm even warmer in those than in the leather shoes.
posted by litlnemo at 5:17 PM on November 20, 2012

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