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Julie Tucker
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How to maintain focus when the sun is shining

Did you know the weather affects our productivity at work? If you want to get a lot done, pray for rain, according to the experts.

When the sun is shining, the last thing we want to do is sit indoors in an office, as we’re too distracted thinking of all the things we’d rather be doing!

Even looking at pictures of people enjoying sunny summer holidays can send our imagination into overdrive and make our work rate slow down, according to recent research.

How much does the weather affect our work?

A two-year study of office workers revealed productivity dipped every time the weather was sunny. Two years of productivity statistics were compared with weather reports over the same time period.

The results showed that gloomy weather, especially when it looked particularly dull, with poor visibility outdoors, spurred greater productivity among the office workers when completing their day-to-day duties. On the other hand, the sunnier it was outside, the less productive the employees became.

Further research carried out by Harvard University backed this theory. Participants were asked to complete entries on spreadsheets, with the promise they would receive rewards based on how accurately and quickly they completed the task in hand.

Some were required to do the work on sunny days, while the others completed the task on rainy days. In addition, some of the participants working on rainy days were shown images of people having fun in the sun before starting their work.

The results showed that the most productive participants were those who worked on a rainy day. The second most productive group was the one where people worked on a rainy day, but saw pictures of people enjoying themselves in the sun. The least productive workers were those who worked when it was sunny outside.

The research suggests sunny weather has the biggest impact on our work, but so does looking at evocative images of summer holiday and beach scenes. Both these factors can disturb our work.

The researchers conclude that good weather is distracting because “task-unrelated thinking” results from imagining how much better it would be to go outdoors in the sun. This train of thought can soon shift our attention away from the task at hand.

How can we stay focused in sunny weather?

Staying focused while the sun is shining is challenging, but not impossible. Considering even evocative images of sunny days can disturb our workflow, the first step is getting rid of that sunny beach scene screensaver! Some researchers even suggest having a screen saver of a rain-soaked landscape instead.

If you’re surrounded by holiday snapshots on your desk, consider taking them down. They can help send you off into a daydream about summer holidays that will make you less productive.

If you sit near a window, erect blinds so you’re not distracted by the sunny street scene outside. There’s nothing worse than being in the office and seeing other people go past enjoying themselves! Close the blinds on particularly bright days to help you focus on your job.

Can flexible working help?

Given that you’re generally more productive on rainy days, this can be a good opportunity to work later. If you work flexible hours, a rainy day could be the ideal time to catch up on those jobs you’ve been putting off, as it’s likely to be a time when you’re more focused.

Similarly, try to leave early when it’s sunny. Research shows people on average work for 30 additional minutes on a rainy day compared with a sunny one. This might be something you’re already doing without realising why.

Next time there’s an overcast day, plan to work a little later to polish off some of the jobs you’ve been putting off. The good news about this is that once you’ve knuckled down on rainy days, you’ll be more likely to be in a position to leave early on sunny ones! This means you’re managing your work-life balance better too.

Once you realise why you’re less productive when the sun’s shining, you’ll find it easier to do something about it. A flexible solution, coworking spaces often enable you to choose your own working hours. Might be time to make a change!

 

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