Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity

Rain got you down? I know that I feel that way sometimes. However, any interesting post in the HBS Working Knowledge blog highlights some recent research that shows just the opposite.

Most people believe that bad weather conditions reduce productivity. In this research the authorsMan-Umbrella-Rain part-time cfo washington dc area predict and find just the opposite. Using empirical data from laboratory experiments as well as from a mid-sized Japanese bank, the research demonstrates that weather conditions influence one’s own cognition and focus. For indoor work contexts, worker productivity is higher on bad rather than good weather days. By reducing the potential for cognitive distractions, bad weather was actually better at sustaining individuals’ attention and focus, and, as a result, increasing their productivity. Overall, findings deepen understanding of the factors that contribute to worker productivity. Key concepts include:

  • Seemingly irrelevant factors that managers cannot control, such as weather, may have powerful effects on workers’ productivity.
  • Organizations could assign more clerical work on rainy days than sunny days to tap into the effects of bad weather on productivity, assigning work that does not require sustained attention but does allow for more flexibility in thinking.
  • There is a significant gap between people’s general beliefs about the effects of weather on their productivity and the actual effect of weather on their behavior.
  • Despite the widespread belief that bad weather conditions are related to low productivity, this research provides compelling evidence that people are less productive on good weather days because their attentional resources are more likely to be depleted when they have more choices (such as outdoor activities), and face higher opportunity costs of being indoors.


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