Bad weather blues are good for productivity

Bad weatherWhen dreary weather takes its toll across the U.S., it might make us more productive.

When I studied the effect of weather on productivity with Harvard colleagues, we found that bad weather can bring out the best in us, as we detail in “Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity.”

We conducted three studies about how weather relates to employees’ productivity: a bank in Japan, an online labor market in the U.S. and a lab experiment. We found:

  • Employees completed more work on rainy days.
  • Both speed and accuracy were higher when the weather was bad.
  • Employee productivity was lower on good-weather days.

Distractions were partially responsible for these effects – good weather may distract us, while we may stay focused better on bad weather days.

So what does this mean for firms? In the end, weather is a factor to be considered in locating services operations and dreary weather might be a positive.

  • Greater productivity might translate into greater learning over time.
  • Distractions – like the beautiful blue skies tempting you from the office window – led to higher error rates, so on sunny days you might want to avoid working on tasks in which errors would be costly.
  • The number of staff allocated to a task could be increased when the weather is expected to be bad and decreased on days predicted to be sunny.