Productivity really does boost when the weather is bad

‘Bad weather’ means it’s cold, rainy and generally unpleasant to be outside. And that’s precisely why it’s such a productive time to get some work done.

While it may seem anecdotal, researchers decided to test – and subsequently prove – that the old fable is indeed true.

According to a study by Jooa Julia Lee of Harvard University, Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, and Bradley R. Staats of the University of North Carolina, bad weather is better at sustaining people’s attention and maintaining productivity.

“Drawing on cognitive psychology research, we propose that bad weather increases individual productivity by eliminating potential cognitive distractions resulting from good weather. When the weather is bad, individuals may focus more on their work rather than thinking about activities they could engage in outside of work,” their research report stated.

The hypotheses were tested using both field and lab data. In an experiment involving Japanese bank workers whose windows gave them a view of the weather, a 1-inch increase in daily rainfall was related to a 1.3 per cent decrease in worker completion time for data-entry tasks. When the weather was bad, workers were less distracted by thoughts of outdoor activities.

Notably, while other positive outcomes are associated with ‘good weather’ such as higher stock-market returns, more pro-social behaviour, and more spending (consumer purchasing and tipping), bad weather has its own place in sustaining the economy.

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