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This is really why you’re less productive in the summer

It’s not just because you’re finally taking that vacation time.

This is really why you’re less productive in the summer
[Photo: Jakob Owens/Unsplash]

If the sun’s out, your brain’s out-of-office, right? Managers across nearly every industry believe distraction soars as the temperature rises.

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But are we really less productive in the summer? Career experts and life coaches agree it’s true—but it’s not just because you’re anticipating that beach getaway you have planned. Here are the real reasons why you may find your energy dropping or why you may not be able to maintain concentration when it’s gorgeous outside:

More than anything, our environment impacts our productivity

Temperature is part of that, says life coach Ellyn Schinke. Think about your morning commute: It’s sticky and humid even at 8 a.m., and by the time you get into your air-conditioned office, you’re already exhausted. Heat causes many  people to feel lethargic, making it much more difficult to focus on that meeting you have first thing.

Your “summer attitude” also plays a role

It’s 4 p.m., the weather is a breezy, beautiful 75 degrees and you have no more meetings left. There’s a report that needs filing, but it isn’t due for another two days. A handful of emails need your attention—but nothing urgent. What do you do? If you’ve been in your job for a while, you might duck out early. Or you’ll fool around on Facebook (or, just maybe, by reading Fast Company articles) until your manager heads out. After all, this beautiful weather won’t last forever.

“The relaxed atmosphere of summer can contribute to lower productivity,” says career expert Wendi Weiner. “People’s attitudes change due to the heat, and they tend to focus on self-improvement and self-care. Sunshine boosts the serotonin and happiness in the brains of others and decreases analytical capabilities, thus diminishing desires to work.” 

Looking forward to things makes us less productive

Sure, people travel and do other fun activities year-round, but many people have more going on between May and September than they do any other period. From weekend getaways and summer Fridays, to weddings and rooftop happy hours, your calendar is probably booked solid. Schinke says this isn’t much different than when you were a kid and counted down the days until school was out for summer. 

As we get older, we look forward to summer because we get to enjoy the warmer temperatures,” says Schinke. “If we’re being honest, I think it comes down to the fact that everyone has an inner child that is looking for an excuse to go on ‘summer vacation’ from their work.”

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Absences naturally impact productivity

This one’s fairly obvious: More vacation time means less progress. Whether your company has an unlimited vacation policy or a more structured approach, not everyone on your team can be away from their desks at the same time. This often means you’ll do the tango with your colleagues: You’re in Europe this week, they’ll head to the Caribbean next. But during this shift, it can make it impossible to keep a project on track. “Even if you’re not taking an exciting vacation, perhaps your coworkers are out of the office a lot,” Schnike says. “This can impact the productivity of the whole team.”

Your sleep (or lack thereof) can be a factor

When it’s cold and dark, chances are slimmer that you’ll agree to a last-minute round of drinks after work. But when your friend suggests a picnic in the park on a warm summer evening? The sun won’t set until past 8 p.m. in most parts of the country, so it’s natural to want to soak up every moment after you escape your overly air-conditioned office.

During these months, you’re far more likely to drink more and/or stay up later, says Schinke, meaning you feel sleepy when it’s time to clock in. It’s not too different than the decline in productivity that follows the Super Bowl or St. Patrick’s Day—but in the summer, it could be a more frequent occurrence. 

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