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How to Focus at Work: Weather and the Workplace

April 1, 2014

weather and the workplace and how to focus at work

Having difficulty focusing at work? Maybe the weather is distracting you. Will April showers bring you more productivity? Find out how to counter the weather and other distractions and boost your productivity.

Is your office floor cluttered with raincoats, boots, and umbrellas? Or, are you wearing short sleeves in winter and staring out your office window at sunshine and daffodils in full blossom? Is there a bright side to the Polar Vortex? Well here are some facts about the weather and the workplace you inhabit.

Weather and Productivity

Weather matters. Over 6 billion people watch the weather network on TV daily or check it on the Internet. That’s double the 3 billion who watch sports. Even though we are interested in watching weather nightly, we might be tempted to believe that because we spend our time inside offices the weather doesn’t influence employee productivity.

Researchers have been studying how weather impacts employees for years. In the 1980’s researchers looked at assaults in Texas and found that high temperatures and the stress from heat was associated with aggression. Others found that industrial accidents increased when the weather had severe high temperatures. They also found that high temperatures alone could make workers, well, “grumpy”.

If you are like me and someone asked you to guess when your employees would be their most productive, you’d guess that it was when the temperature was perfect, when the sun was out and no one had to drive through puddles to get there. But in 2012 Harvard University Researchers found that rainy weather actually increased employee productivity! In fact, they also found that the rainy weather increased speed and accuracy on the job dwelling upon the relationship between weather and the workplace.

Daydreaming, Distractions, and Tasks

Good weather, it seems, makes employees think about all the outdoor activities they could be doing instead of working (washing the car, playing with the dog, gardening, swimming, or riding a bike). The positive images of doing whatever people love to do outside on sunny days are distracting to employees. When the weather was rainy the participants in the study didn’t think about having fun outdoors, so they concentrated on their tasks.

What could this mean to you in your workplace? You might want to save more of your boring jobs for rainy days when you will naturally be more productive. You could also limit posters of alluring Hawaiian beach scenes in offices where someone’s full attention is essential. And, for employees who must enter data or do repetitive tasks quickly and accurately consider hanging paintings or photographs of rainy scenes on the walls. In addition, in good weather you might also find ways to allow employees flexible work schedules so they can get out and enjoy the things they are already thinking about doing. Remember the value between both weather and the workplace morale.

When it comes to increasing employee productivity in your company, one thing you won’t want to do is sing the nursery rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away…” You’ll want as much rain as you can get!

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About The Author

Lynne Valek teaches graduate courses in organizational psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology’s doctoral and masters programs in change and development, organization theory, systems, leadership, and research. She is also a visiting Associate Professor at Alliant International University, teaching online for the University of Phoenix in psychology, an advocate for mental health in the workplace, and an organizational consultant.

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