The holiday months are a chance to think more strategically.
It's not easy to stay focused in the summer months. Your colleagues are on holiday, the weather may make your office uncomfortable, and you’ll no doubt be distracted by your own summer plans. But there are ways to ensure your productivity doesn’t slump in the heat.
KEEP YOUR COOL
As temperatures rise, productivity falls. Research by the Helsinki University of Technology suggests that the best temperature for staying productive is between 21 to 22 degrees celsius. Your performance will start to wane the further the ambient temperature strays from this mark.
Unfortunately, air conditioning is not without its downsides. Not only does recycled air spread illnesses, conditioned air is drier and can lead to dehydration. A desk fan is perhaps a better option.
A 2012 study by the University of Barcelona found that “being dehydrated by just 2 per cent impairs performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor, and immediate memory skills”.
Half of patients who visit their GP to complain of tiredness and fatigue (roughly 20 per cent of total GP visits) are actually suffering from dehydration. These findings, by the Natural Hydration Council, also show that people don’t often realise they’re dehydrated. The NHS recommends 8 to 10 glasses of fluids on a typical day and more in hot weather.
Gustav Mahler used his summers to compose symphonies, notes professor Andre Spicer of Cass Business School. “It helps to have goals which are meaningful to you”. Summertime throws up more potential cognitive distractions, according to one Harvard study, but perhaps an empty office is the perfect environment for thinking on a grander scale.
Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of Warwick Business School thinks that these months can be an ideal time to concentrate on long-term projects. “Goal-setting theory puts minor tasks in the background and encourages a focus on challenging but attainable goals.”
WALK IT OFF
It is commonly recognised that a lunchtime stroll can increase enthusiasm and reduce anxiety, but summer temperatures provide the opportunity to go further. AJ Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy, advocates working at a treadmill desk when it is hot and humidity is high. “Walking raises your serotonin level, which is good for sharpening attention, and amazingly, walking and typing isn’t that hard.”
While most people won’t have this option, getting out of the office can be hugely beneficial, argues Spicer. “Walking meetings are becoming increasingly popular because they allow workers to engage with the outdoors”. Research at Stanford into the relationship between walking and thinking found that “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity”. Walking is by no means a catch-all. The same study found that sitting was better when solving a problem with only one solution.
Work from phone
A favourite among the forgetful, Parallels Access allows you to get at all your desktop apps and files from your phone. Originally available for iPads only, it is one of the smoothest remote access apps on the market and is ideal for modifying complex documents over a long period. You can choose to blank your screen as you work so nobody at home or work can see what you’re working on. The app is free to download but a subscription fee applies and desktop software must be installed.