Awful Weather Makes for Better Workers (and More Mouse Trap Sales)

Awful Weather Makes for Better Workers (and More Mouse Trap Sales)
A man crosses Broad Street during a winter snowstorm on Jan. 21 in Philadelphia
Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Snow, sleet, hail, freezing rain, slippery ice, giant puddles: Weather conditions covering much of the Northeast today have many commuters wishing they could stay home in bed. One might think lousy weather like this would result in a huge dent in productivity, but there’s evidence that the the opposite is true.

Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino has found that productivity gets better when the weather gets worse. “On a bad weather day, people are better at focusing on their work, not because the weather makes them grumpy but because they have fewer distracting thoughts about what they might otherwise be doing outside,” Gino wrote on her blog. “Indeed, cognitive distractions and error rates were greater on nice days than on bad-weather days.”

Gino and her colleagues researched productivity at a Tokyo bank over a two-and-a-half-year span and found that employees worked faster on rainy days. Each additional inch of rainfall correlated with a 1.3 percent decrease in worker completion time for each transaction. “When accumulated over time for the entire bank of nearly 5,000 employees,” Gino explained, “a 1.3% productivity loss could be judged to be a significant revenue loss for the bank: at least $937,500 a year.” Businesses may be better off locating in areas with inclement weather and might want to consider assigning tasks that take less focus when it’s nice outside.

Many companies also use weather intel to inform their marketing strategies and shelf-stocking. Campbell’s Soup, for example, figured out that people are more likely to buy soup on cold, dreary days and created a “misery index” algorithm to coordinate the frequency of its radio ads with meteorological data.

Another surprising finding: Mouse trap sales seem to increase by 25 percent for every one-degree drop in temperature. It turns out that mice also like to stay inside when the weather turns nasty.

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