How Weather Affects Productivity
Get ready, because we’re heading into the time of year when our productivity can take a plunge. And you can blame it on the weather—the sun, in particular. According to a number of articles and studies, office workers have a higher level of productivity when it’s raining. At first glance, this might seem counterintuitive, because when the sun’s out and summer’s in the air, we feel energetic and motivated. But that doesn’t translate into getting more work done.
In reality, here’s what happens on a warm May workday:
We sit at our desks thinking about the beautiful offerings of the great outdoors, and either skip out of work early (especially Friday), take longer lunches (usually outdoors), go for more walks, or daydream about what we’d rather be doing out in that bluebird day.
According to a study in Harvard Business School’s article, Blue Skies, Distractions Arise: How Weather Affects Productivity, the amount of time it takes a team to complete a project during sunny days is markedly higher than on rainy days.
If you think about it, it’s easy to see why. When you live somewhere that endures beastly cold snow-packed winters, or a lot of rain, the freedom of a bright day tapping at your office door is irresistible. It almost feels like an earned right to be out in it.
So what do we do with this info?
Seasons will arrive exactly on time and each one brings its particular flavor of mood, so we might as well go with it. Summertime, especially the month of August, is widely known as a vacation time. Most company cultures prepare for this. But what about taking advantage of this time in a really, well, productive way? So, if you know the next four months could show a slight decrease in focus and activity, how do you lean in to it and even make the most of it?
Do things differently.
Productivity, energy levels, ambition—these qualities all naturally undulate. No one person or group of people can be on all the time. The most effective leaders know this, plan for it and even take advantage of it by shifting priorities, refocusing and trying new strategies. For example, if you can, plan to take on meatier, complex projects and new feature builds in the winter months when you also have critical mass in the office. When scheduling product deliveries, shoot for end dates that hit late spring, before shifting into a more summery state of production.
Teams don’t always have to be in a high-output mode for an organization to keep moving forward. One essential element of personal and organizational success is being able to step back, reflect on work done, see what works, what can be improved on and set a new course going forward. Use the down seasons to shift priorities, try new strategies and experiment with refocusing. Again, if you always have your head down, you can lose sight of the goal and get off course, putting energy toward tasks that don’t align with the big picture.
Here are some more ways to keep your team engaged and make a difference while the sun tempts you into a more playful galaxy:
- Have mid-year reviews and goal setting
There’s something about having a review and then setting goals to restart things. And let’s face it—a yearly review, like so many New Year’s goals and resolutions, often get lost in the wake of the months gone by. Use the summer to reflect, reset and revive ambitions.
- Capitalize on fewer distractions
If there are fewer people around, that means you have more quiet time to take advantage of. Make use of it and start (or finish) projects that you haven’t been able to give your full attention to, especially writing or strategy work. Or, if there are a series of small unfinished tasks, summer could be the time to tie them up.
- Catch up on those I’ll-get-to-it-soon tasks
Reports, reviews, budgets, old feature requests you haven’t gotten to—put that shorter attention span to doing the admin stuff that gets put off when you’re in the heat of project work. For example, consider feature requests, respond to emails, close up tasks, etc.
Get those meandering attention spans in one room and put the imaginations to good use! Structure a series of brainstorming meetings that could take your product, business or goals to the next level.
- Restructure your team or working environment
If summer leaves you with some down time around the office, look around you. Is your team as streamlined and efficient and productive as it could be, or is there a bit of finagling you could do to make the group work better together? How about the working environment? Do team members collaborate effectively or are they siloed; is motivation flagging or are people working at cross purposes? This is a good time to start instituting changes before heading back into the second most-productive season of the year, fall.
- Take that dream vacation
Like they say, if you see a door opening, go through it. That opening is the sound of crickets in your office. So what that half the world is out and about vacationing. Sometimes a good stretch of holiday time can be the best gift to your career. Everyone needs to recharge, and if you came out of a particularly gnarly-busy winter/spring take the time off you need so you don’t burn out.
Of course, no one is saying that you have to be less productive when the sun’s out. If this is your season to shine and get things done like nobody’s business, do it! And if you find yourself staring out the window longingly and working with shorter chunks of focus, just know that you’re not alone. And then, make the most of it.