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What This Winter Is Doing to Employees' Productivity

Good news: the polar vortex may not have frozen your team's ability to get things done. Recent research suggests bad weather is good for productivity.


How has this especially unforgiving winter season affected your employees' productivity? Perhaps very positively, suggests recent research by Harvard Business School Associate Professor Francesca Gino. 

Gino and her colleagues examined preexisting employee productivity data from a midsize bank in Tokyo, she wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post. During a two-and-a-half year period, the bank filed 56,000 loan applications, a process that involves huge amounts of data entry. 

The researchers correlated those figures with Tokyo's meteorological data from the same time period. The results: when it rains, it pours (in the office). 

"We found that an increase in rain correlated with a decrease in the time it took for workers to complete their tasks. To be precise, a one-inch increase in rain was related to a 1.3 percent decrease in worker completion time for each transaction," Gino said.

The findings are particularly surprising given that most employees feel that they are more productive when the weather is nicer. Before the study, Gino had polled about 200 workers asking them to predict the impact that sunny weather had on their productivity. More than 80 percent thought that nicer weather would result in an increase in their productivity. 

So how can you use these findings to your advantage? Well, giving an extreme suggestion, Gino recommended locating your company's operations to a place with terrible weather.  

But if that's out of the question, try maintaining an adjustable work schedule based on the weather, she said. In other words, if employees are going to be distracted on a beautiful day, you might as well cut them some slack. Besides, by the end of this bitter--and apparently productive--winter, they'll deserve it. 

Last updated: Jan 30, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.

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