Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2012

Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity

by Jooa Julia Lee, Francesca Gino and Bradley R. Staats

Abstract

People believe that weather conditions influence their everyday work life, but to date, little is known about how weather affects individual productivity. Most people believe that bad weather conditions reduce productivity. In this research, we predict and find just the opposite. Drawing on cognitive psychology research, we propose that bad weather increases individual productivity by eliminating potential cognitive distractions resulting from good weather. When the weather is bad, individuals may focus more on their work rather than thinking about activities they could engage in outside of work. We tested our hypotheses using both field and lab data. First, we use field data on employees' productivity from a mid-size bank in Japan, which we then match with daily weather data to investigate the effect of bad weather conditions (in terms of precipitation, visibility, and temperature) on productivity. Second, we use a laboratory experiment to examine the psychological mechanism explaining the relationship between bad weather and increased productivity. Our findings support our proposed model and suggest that worker productivity is higher on bad rather than good weather days. We discuss the implications of our findings for workers and managers.

Keywords: weather; productivity; opportunity cost; distractions; Weather and Climate Change; Performance Productivity; Social Psychology; Mathematical Methods;

Citation:

Lee, Jooa Julia, Francesca Gino, and Bradley R. Staats. "Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-005, July 2012.