Commentary – Why the sun slows production

Callie Hermanson

Summer is here!

But rather than giving me a sunny disposition, I’m at work contemplating long days of staring out the office window. Or in my case, staring at white walls since the windows are only at the front of my office, daydreaming and wishing I could be outside.

I know I shouldn’t moan about sunshine, but staying focused at work when it’s warm outside is tough.

The recent sunny days have definitely sent my productivity at work downward, leading me to conclude that sunshine makes me a lazy worker.

Good weather feeds one of my biggest weak spots at work – the tendency to procrastinate.

I know I’m not alone. Procrastination at work seems to be an instinctive response to blue sky days.

I think the problem is when the weather is grim, staying cooped up inside doesn’t seem like such a bad option.

But when the sky is blue, and the sun is shining through the window, our minds automatically wander to plans for our leisure time, making the world outside the office walls call to us.

Cold drinks, days in the park with our friends, going to the lake on a bright, warm day our minds fill with the fun that lies beyond the office walls rather than getting on with the task we’ve been struggling to get a hold of.

As a result, our productivity levels drop. Sunshine makes everything at work seem that little less inviting.

I think this is why the tendency to delay tasks is exaggerated during a sunny day. Although I’m claiming workplace procrastination is an instinctive reaction to the summer sun, its impact is rarely as instant as I suggest.

The change to an unproductive sunny day is in small stages. At first, you probably fall into procrastination mode subconsciously. Then at some point mid-morning, you realize you should be getting on with something but you aren’t. To make yourself feel better, you then slip into more conscious procrastination proactively distracting yourself with non-essential tasks that seem less unpleasant, convincing yourself that the task you’re putting off is not quite as urgent as it is and then delaying things further by insisting you really should get more information before you get started.

Then lunchtime rolls around and what you want to do more than anything is head to a park bench, grab an iced coffee and enjoy some of the rays of sunlight.

But as you’ve been procrastinating all morning, you instead punish yourself for your poor productivity by chewing on a sandwich at your desk while engaging in further Internet-fuelled time-wasting.

After an unproductive morning, heading out for lunch in the sun seems an undeserved luxury, but escaping the office and getting outside might be just what you need.

When we’re struggling with motivation, ploughing along for eight hours straight is not going to do us any favours. A change of scenery and taking a break even for 15-20 minutes is a proven way to reboot battered energy levels and boost concentration.

The physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, making you more alert. Sunlight will help, too.

 

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