Here in the UK, we know that it doesn’t rain; it pours. With this February set to be one of the coldest on record, office workers across the country are groaning into their coffee pots.
But how exactly does weather affect the workforce? Are we living in a winter wonderland? Or are we dreaming of anything but a white Christmas? Let’s have a look at the research.
Ah, the many arguments the office thermostat has seen! 80% of office workers complain about their workplace’s temperature, wasting up to ten minutes a day merely acclimatising to it. In the summer it’s too hot – leading 31% to buy their own fan – while in the winter it’s too cold, meaning 56% of workers don extra clothing.
Productivity also varies with temperature. Interestingly, research from the University of Cornell suggests that raising office temperature from 20 to a whopping 25C reduces errors by 4% and increases output by 150%. By contrast, Helsinki University recommends 22 degrees as the optimum.
What’s certain is that Facebook’s cooler temperature of 15C – five degrees below the UK’s Chartered Institude Of Building Services Engineers recommendation – hasn’t earned Mark Zuckerberg many fans among his workforce.
Want to optimise your productivity? Better hit that thermostat.
It’s no secret that working in winter is a far more miserable proposition than summer. Quite apart from snow days, icy conditions and travel disruptions, a study by Peldon Rose found that over a third of respondents claimed to be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. So you’re much more likely suffer with depression and mental illness in winter than in summer.
We also get far less exposure to natural daylight in the dark months. This is a serious problem; a 2013 study of day-shift workers found that those who get enough daylight at work sleep an average of 46 minutes more per night. Workers with low exposure – i.e. no windows in the office – report lower scores on vitality as well as quality of life.
Still, it may not be all doom and gloom. Research from 2014 suggests that cloudy conditions “increase individual productivity by eliminating potential cognitive distractions resulting from good weather.” So basically, we’re less likely to get distracted wishing we were elsewhere when it’s miserable outside. Makes sense.
Is summer for work or play? A 2012 Captivate study found that, among 600 American workers, both productivity and attendance dropped by a fifth in the summer months. The latter, then.
What’s more, those companies that closed early on Fridays found that 80% of their workers reported reduced productivity. So if your workplace offers ‘summer hours’ come June, seriously consider whether you want to get in on the action; it might come at a price.
Wet wet wet
Humidity. Not a sexy topic, but hey-ho; we’ll go there. In April 2010, a Swiss SBiB study found that, of the many things that negatively affect office workers, ‘dry air’ came in second, only beaten by noise.
The perfect level of indoor humidity is 40-60%, most organisations claim. Lower levels can cause headaches, sore throats, rashes on the skin and contact lens problems. But higher humidity – common in the summer months – can equally encourage the spread of illnesses.
So now you know: summer is bad for productivity, winter for mood. One thing, however, is certain: no amount of sunshine is going to get that report in on time. That, my son, is all down to you.
Susanna writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.
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