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Worker Productivity Changes With The Weather

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Extreme weather and changes in climates can cause catastrophes. Not only in the way we all live, but in the workplace, too.

Business Insider took a look at a working paper by NBER, which is from the minds of Columbia’s Geoffrey Heal and Harvard’s Jisung Park. It reports some pretty interesting information. Productivity is lower during hotter than normal years, but higher in colder climates by about 3% or 4% GDP for both temperature extremes.

Now, they’re not coming right out and blaming the climate for our workplace woes, though they do admit that this two-sided effect could cause problems in many areas. Economics, philosophies and politics could all see consequences. Believe it or not, but there is already an existing inequality between warmer and colder countries. Warmer countries tend to be poorer while colder countries are generally wealthier. Extreme temperatures could cause an increase to that imbalance along with the decrease in efficiency that we’re seeing. Check out the chart below that shows predicted output with just a one-degree Celsius change in temperature.

productivity growth and temperature


A portion of the negative effect most likely comes from low agricultural yield, a higher sea level, extreme weather events, and possibly some disruption and violence. But the physiological effect of temperature changes is likely causing a drop in productivity.

First, we know that higher temperatures make people perform worse on tasks and score lower on tests. When you add increased mortality and the reduced work hours of people whose jobs are directly affected by temperature, you get a significant drop off.

The chart below from 2006 backs up that claim:

temperature affects productivity


Countries with a warmer climate have lower output and GDP. This has been studied for years and backed by data. Even MIT published a paper stating that countries with a hotter climate are 1.2% to 1.9% poorer. Humans need an optimal zone, smack dab in between hot and cold.

Do you find your productivity to be lagging? Maybe the temperature has something to do with it. There are issues with productivity growth everywhere. Reach out to one of our business process improvement consultants for more information on how to increase your efficiency!

Editor’s Note: Our apologies for the slight fuzziness of the images above. While they are not fully clear, we felt the graphs too compelling to leave out of this post.

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Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea transplanted from Illinois to South Carolina. She loves to write, read, and spend time with her dog and her family. Alyssa is very active on social media. She has been part of the AccelaWork team since 2013.
Alyssa Shea

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