There was recently a post on the Harvard Business Review blog network about the polar vortex and its relationship to work productivity. The author’s study asked 200 people to predict the impact of weather on productivity, and 80 percent predicted that output went up during nice weather and down during bad weather. You can read all about their study methodology at the link above, but the interesting thing was the bottom line: productivity actually rises when the weather is bad (rain, snow, fog, whatever) and decreases the nicer the weather is. Why, you ask? Because people are distracted by thoughts of all the fun and pleasant things they could be doing outside when the weather is nice. When it is ugly out, they don’t have anything better to do and are not distracted by the possibilities. They hunker down and focus in on the work at hand.
How has the polar vortex affected your productivity? I’ve never considered staffing or work assignments based on weather, but if staff are more focused on bad weather days, perhaps they can be given extra time for more detail-oriented projects then. Of course, we serve the public rain or shine, and customer service has to reign supreme regardless of the weather. What if we rotate our staff “on-desk” more on sunny days and give them more “off-desk” time to focus on difficult projects when the weather is bad? It’s an interesting idea.