The Surprising Effect of Bad Weather on Productivity

It’s pretty obvious that the weather can influence your mood.

A bright and sunny springtime day can make you feel great. A dark and gloomy day in the middle of winter can be a bummer.

Regardless of the weather outside, you might be inside and busy at work. How exactly does the weather influence your productivity? Does bad weather lead to worse performance?

A recent survey found that most people (83%) believe that bad weather reduces productivity.

 

But is this actually the case?

A recent series of studies suggests that it is not.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just perfect.

 

What’s wrong with the common intuition?

If your intuition is that people in a good mood tend to perform better than people in a bad mood, you’re correct about that. There is a ton of evidence that this is the case.

That’s not the problem. The problem is that your mood isn’t the only thing that influences productivity. Also important is the ability to focus and pay attention, to not get distracted.

 

Good weather is often the bigger distraction.

Just below the surface—whether you’re consciously thinking about them or not—are all the other things that you could be doing right now.

The number of other things you could be doing, and how desirable you find them, are usually much greater on a “good weather” day.

 

The result is that people actually tend to be more focused and productive on “bad weather” days.

This pattern is found in day-to-day weather variations, and by comparing the performance of people in different regions with different current weather conditions.

Even just quickly showing people some pictures of fun “good weather” outdoor activities in an experiment made it more difficult for them to concentrate afterward.

 3884309472_40650abd5b_bFun is the mind-killer.

 

What have we learned?

“Bad weather” can definitely be a good thing.

It might not always put you in the best mood, but it might also be the best time to work on things that require focus and concentration.

On the other hand, it is useful to recognize that “good weather” can actually hurt your concentration.

If it’s really nice out, you might be better off doing things that don’t require as much focus. (Or at least try to rearrange your schedule so you get some time outside).

Do you check the weather forecast when you are planning ahead for the next few days?

Perhaps it’s worth also thinking about how different types of work might fit in best with upcoming conditions.

 

 

Image credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, greg, Jan Smith

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