If you’ve ever spent time in the southern United States during the peak of summer, you know how hot it gets. Here at PGi’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, we’ve already conquered more than 40 days of 90 degree temperatures, with nothing but the occasional 5 minute downpour once every ten days to help the situation.
And as the forecast continues to call for hot and sunny, it feels like all of my efforts to be productive are taken over by daydreams of a beachy breeze or a cool afternoon in the mountains. Which got me thinking: could there be a correlation between the weather and our productivity?
A study from the American Time Use Survey found that, on rainy days, men spent an average of thirty minutes or more at work than they did on comparatively sunny days. And in 2012, researchers from Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a similar field study of Japanese bank workers. This study had similar findings: bad weather made workers more productive. And when the weather improved, productivity fell.
In order to dive a little deeper into the science behind the correlation of weather and productivity, the same Harvard researchers furthered their study by assigning students data entry tasks on either sunny days or rainy days. They were randomly assigned one of two conditions: before they started work, they were either shown six photos of outdoor activities in pleasant weather, like sailing, or they were asked to describe their daily routines.
Researchers found that the students were less productive when they’d view the photographs. Instead of concentrating on their work, they were focusing on what they would rather be doing. According to the findings, the singular thought of a better, more pleasant alternative negatively affected the student’s concentration and productivity.
At last, a scientifically-proven cause for the phenomenon of summer FOMO (fear of missing out). And since I know most of you are suffering through the same innate yearning to be outside enjoying what’s left of summer, here’s a few ways to help you beat summer FOMO:
Use Your Vacation Time: It might seem obvious, but give in to your summer FOMO for a few days this summer. According to the research, The State of American Vacation, 658 million vacation days were wasted in 2015. That’s 55 percent of workers who elected to not to use their vacation time last year.
Avoiding taking time off during the summer is a serious mistake if you want to continue to be productive. Paid-time-off is a benefit for you to use. So, when you’re able, schedule some time off to hit the lake with friends or take a family vacation to the beach.
Mental Health Days: If you can’t afford to take off a few days at a time, then take what I like to call a “mental health day”. This is a personal tip of mine, and I try to give myself these days once every month or so. As an example, I recently found myself suffering from summer FOMO pretty bad, and because I couldn’t afford to take a full-on vacation, I took a mental health day and spent my morning hiking, then with my family that afternoon. It was the mental fresher I needed to take a step away from work and come back reinvigorated, ready to get down to business.
Step Away from Social Media: Social media could likely be the biggest source of summer FOMO. As you instinctively and obsessively check your timeline for updates, you’re setting yourself up to fall victim to feelings of depression, anxiety and jealously as you see photos of your friends hanging out at the park or slurping down frozen daiquiris on their cruise to the Bahamas. As hard as it is, you have to learn to turn off the social media during work hours.
Take Strategic Breaks: Another favorite tip of mine: take strategic breaks away from your desk. Get up, go eat your lunch outside or take a 15 minute walk around your building and soak up some sun. If you absolutely can’t pry yourself away from work, try having your next meeting outside. Not only will this give you a literal breath of fresh air, but you’ll also feel like you’re taking a short mental break thanks to the change in scenery.
It’s a tough fight trying to beat summer FOMO, but trying the tips above may help keep you on track to staying productive. And who knows, maybe you’ll be so productive that work will fly by and you’ll get a little extra time back in your day to enjoy what’s left of summer.