Jul 18, 2017

There are days where we just don’t feel like leaving the comfort of our own homes. On wet, cold and gloomy days going outside doesn’t appeal to most of us. Rainy days can lower our mood, as most people get energized by the sun. On such rainy days, it’s not difficult to stay an hour longer at the office. Sunny summer days on the other hand do not motivate you to work longer. Maybe because you’ll be preoccupied thinking about all your friends and colleagues at the park already enjoying their first beer.


The Danish summer is upon us but at the moment it seems like there are more rainy days than sunny. But to what extent does the weather have an impact on our performance level at work? Well, according to a study, a fairly large one actually, the weather has a larger impact than we think. (The researchers even found a formula that converts rainfall into productivity.)



Harvard University researchers Jooa Julia Lee and Francesca Gino, along with Bradley R. Staats from UNC, conducted a study on why bad weather is associated with increased productivity. Over a period of two and a half years, the researchers observed the efficiency of the staff of a Japanese bank. They measured how quickly they fill out forms, how many credits they gave, along with other bank tasks. To make sure the participants were actively exposed to the weather the bankers worked in a glass enclosure similar to that of a greenhouse.


The result, bad weather correlates with efficiency. The researchers concluded that good weather conditions increase the attractiveness of outdoor activities. Bad weather, on the other hand, increases individual productivity by eliminating potential cognitive distractions that are the result of good weather. They also estimated that the effect of bad weather was almost like having 1 extra person working.


So, when outdoor activities appear attractive, people find it difficult to concentrate. The authors sum it up: “We posit that the positive effects of bad weather on productivity stem in part from the probability that people may be more cognitively distracted by the outdoor activities available to them on good weather days”. On sunny days people simply prefer to go cycling, going for a walk or swimming and are thereby distracted.


But what can we actually do about it? Because we can’t really predict or control the weather. The researchers are proposing more flexible working hours. If half the workforce is already mentally at the beach it probably doesn’t make sense to schedule an important meeting at that time. Instead you could  try to move important meetings or projects on rainy days.


The next couple of months might become wet ones, but there’s a silver lining to all this rain. Bad weather makes us  more productive, so a rainy summer may not be so bad after all..

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