The weather can greatly affect daily experiences


The weather can greatly affect daily experiences, for instance, increasing or decreasing the yearning to spend time outdoors or making commutes to the workplace more or less enjoyable. While several past studies have investigated the effects that the weather can have on people’s overall mood and energy levels, the extent to which it can influence their experiences in professional environments is still poorly understood.

With this in mind, researchers at Leuphana University Lüneburg have recently carried out a study investigating the effects of daily morning weather on how people feel while they are at work.

Their paper, published in the IAAP’s Applied Psychology journal, specifically examined people’s energy levels, job satisfaction, burnout and stress on a daily basis as they related to morning weather.

“The idea for this study came spontaneously during a team meeting on a bad weather day,” Laura Venz, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told MedicalXpress. “Everyone was sluggish and talking about the weather.

Usually, we research how factors at work, such as conflict, high workload, or support, relate to how employees feel; that day brought the crazy idea that seemingly irrelevant factors, like the weather, might indeed play a role as well.”

The primary goal of the recent study by Venz and her colleague Alexander Pundt was to test the hypothesis that morning weather can influence the mood and wellbeing of employees on a daily basis. Their hope was that their work would stimulate greater research exploring the role of environmental factors on people’s behavior at work.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers conducted a so-called diary study, essentially asking employees to answer two surveys on a daily basis on all working days: one in the morning before they started working and one after work.

Subsequently, they developed what is known as a pictorial scale, which is essentially a diagram in which different intervals or phenomena are represented by illustrations generally used to summarize weather forecasts (i.e., a sun, a sun partly hidden by a cloud, a cloud with rain, and so on).

“Participants simply chose the icon that presented the current weather,” Venz explained. “After work, they answered questions that measured their current wellbeing (i.e., satisfaction, vigor, burnout, negative affect). This allowed us to relate morning weather to same-day wellbeing after work.”

Study explores the effects of morning weather on people’s mood and wellbeing at work
The pictorial weather scale created by the researchers and included in the surveys they developed. Credit: Venz & Pundt.

Venz and Pundt conducted their study in April, which is known to be the month with the most variable weather in Germany. One-hundred-fifteen employees took part in their study, completing the surveys they had prepared for a total of 457 workdays.

Interestingly, the data they gathered suggested that morning weather was only related to positive wellbeing states, and not related to negative ones. In other words, the researchers found that the better the weather was in the morning, the more employees felt energized and satisfied with their work.

Contrarily, when the weather was bad, people felt more fatigued and unsatisfied. On the other hand, more negative wellbeing indicators, such as burnout and stress, appeared to be unaffected by the weather.

“Our findings surprised us, because we implicitly had expected stronger relationships with negative wellbeing states,” Venz said. “We acknowledge that the weather is beyond the scope of managerial action. Nevertheless, we deem it important to realize that aspects beyond job design affect employees’ wellbeing at work.”

The results gathered by Venz and Pundt offer valuable insight about the role that environmental factors, particularly the weather, can have on the energy levels, satisfaction and overall wellbeing of people at work.

Ultimately, they could promote the development of initiatives to improve the wellbeing of employees, for instance, encouraging them to ride a bike or walk to work when the weather is good or introducing energizing activities for bad weather days.

“In future studies, we plan to look at the mechanisms that explain the weather-wellbeing link,” Venz said. “It might, for example, be that employees behave differently on good-weather days (e.g., are more likely to provide support to their co-workers) and this in turn makes them more satisfied and energized.”

Weather is widely believed to influence people’s mood. For example, the majority of people think they feel happier on days with a lot of sunshine as compared to dark and rainy days. Although this association seems to be common sense (Watson, 2000), it is striking to see that the number of studies on the association between daily weather and mood is relatively small (Keller et al., 2005).

In studying such an association, seasonal influences of weather must be distinguished from day-to-day in- fluences. This distinction becomes clearest when studying the effect of the amount of sunlight (i.e., hours per day were a shadow can be detected) on mood: This variable both fluctuates between days within a single season (e.g., a sunny vs. a cloudy summer day), but also between seasons (in the northern hemisphere, pho- toperiods are longest during summer and shortest during winter, leading to more hours/day for potential unobstructed sunlight accumulation in summer than in winter).

This distinction is im- portant since mood reactions to day-to-day weather fluctuations may not generalize to reactions to seasonal weather fluctuations, and vice versa. In studying the effects of weather on mood, several studies have focused exclusively on individuals with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition that involves recurrent fall/ winter major depressive episodes that remit in the spring (e.g., Molin, Mellerup, Bolwig, Scheike, & Dam, 1996; Oren et al., 1994; Young, Meaden, Fogg, Cherin, & Eastman, 1997).

Such a clinical condition may be an extreme manifestation of normal variations in seasonality (defined as an individual’s degree of seasonal variation in mood, energy level, sleep length, weight, appetite, and social activities; Kasper, Wehr, Bartko, Garst, & Rosenthal, 1989).

Previous studies on weather and its relation with psychological constructs took only one or two weather parameters into account (e.g., Bushman, Wang, & Anderson, 2005; Keller et al., 2005). However, it is important to examine a wide variety of weather parameters, to be able to differentiate the effect of each parameter.

For example, temperature is often associated with sunlight. After controlling for the parameter sunlight, the unique effect of temperature on mood might decrease or even reverse in sign. The present study includes a broad range of weather parameters simultaneously to study the effects of daily weather changes.

Specifically, we studied the effect of temperature, wind power, sunlight, precipitation, air pres- sure, and photoperiod on mood.

Multivariate and univariate anal- yses enable a distinction between unique and shared effects of these parameters.
Mood has often been conceptualized within a circumplex struc- ture of affect (Feldman Barrett, 1995). In this structure, the dimen- sions of valence (unpleasantness vs. pleasantness) and arousal (low vs. high) can be distinguished.

In studying people’s mood, the PANAS mood scale (Watson, Clark & Tellegen, 1988) is fre- quently used, which provides a clear and reliable measurement of positive and negative affect. However, the PANAS general dimen- sion scales combine the dimension of valence with a high arousal focus.

To consider the low end of the arousal dimension, this study also focused on tiredness as a dependent variable.
The effect of daily weather on people’s mood has been most thoroughly investigated in two studies.

First, Keller et al. (2005) investigated the effect of temperature and barometric pressure on single-occasion explicit and implicit mood valence (positive mood subtracted by negative mood) and cognition (memory and cogni- tive style) in three different samples of (mostly) North American participants.

They found no consistent main effects of weather on mood, though they found a moderator effect of both season and the time participants’ spent in the open air: On spring days when people spent a lot of time outside, mood was positively associated with air temperature.

On summer days, however, spending more time outside on warm days was associated with decreased mood In addition, on spring days, barometric pressure was positively asso- ciated with mood (no main or interaction effects were reported for the other seasons).

Watson (2000) collected diary reports by eight different samples of students from Texas (total N = 478) between 1985 and 1993, during either fall or spring. Participants reported their mood on an average of 43.6 occasions), using the 11 subscales of the PANAS-X (Watson & Clark, 1994). Watson (2000) focused his analyses on the amount of sunshine and rain, but found no con- sistent effects on any of the daily mood variables.

To investigate whether mood would be associated with weather on days with extreme weather conditions, Watson (2000) also compared days with 0% sunshine with days with 100% sunshine but found that sunshine only influenced the overall intensity of participants’ mood reports, not the valence of these reports (i.e., participants reported more extreme scores on both positive and negative mood scales).

To summarize, both the Keller et al. (2005) and the Watson (2000) study found no consistent main effects of weather on mood. However, the conclusions of both studies are limited by a number of factors. First, they almost exclusively focused on participants from North America, so it is unclear whether effects can be generalized to other regions. Second, the study by Keller et al. (2005; though not the one by Watson, 2000) investigated only the effects of two weather parameters and one mood valence variable.

To extend these findings, the present study used a broader ap- proach in studying the relation between weather and mood by including a wider variety of weather parameters and including three aspects of mood. Going beyond both the Keller et al. (2005) and the Watson (2000) study, the current investigation also studies the effect of wind power and photoperiod on mood.

Third, the present study also extends previous research by examining indi- vidual differences in sensitivity to weather fluctuations. It is ex- pected that the effects of weather on mood differ across individ- uals. Although individual differences in sensitivity to daily weather have not been studied previously, the results of some studies suggest a link between seasonality and personality, espe- cially concerning the trait of neuroticism (e.g., Jang, Lam, Lives- ley, & Vernon, 1997; Murray, Hay, & Armstrong, 1995). There- fore, it is interesting to examine whether also a link between sensitivity to daily weather and personality exists.

Personality and demographic characteristics will be examined to see if individual differences in sensitivity to weather changes can be predicted (Ennis & McConville, 2004). To adopt an exploratory approach of personality as a moderator between daily weather and mood in the current study, personality will be assessed at the broad level of the Five Factor Model.

In addition, gender and age will be included in the analysis. Some studies (e.g., Rosen et al., 1990) have found a decrease in seasonality and SAD with increasing age, though it may also require some degree of exposure to develop a sensitivity to the local climate and photoperiod.

In addition, seasonal affective disorder is found to have a higher prevalence rate in women than in men (e.g., Lucht & Kasper, 1999; Rosen et al., 1990). Finally, the present study investigated the moderating role of season to replicate the finding by Keller et al. (2005) that temperature only affects mood during the spring.

Since the present study examines within-person associations between daily psychological states and daily weather variables, data have to be collected across a series of days (diary method). Diary methods reduce retrospective bias because of minimizing the time between experiences and the report of these experiences (Bolger, Davis, & Rafaeli, 2003). In this study, the Internet was used to conduct a diary study.

The use of the Internet might result in large sample sizes and eases data collection for a longer period of time (Michalak, 1998). Data was gathered for an uninterrupted sequence of months that include different seasons of the year.

To summarize, this study investigates the effects of daily weather on people’s mood, while taking individual differences into account. The effects of six different weather variables on three separate mood variables are examined. Furthermore, to examine what might account for individual differences, the Big Five per- sonality traits, gender, and age are included in the study. In addition, we investigated the possible moderating role of season. The aim of this exploratory approach is to get a further under- standing of the possible relation between weather, personality, and mood.

reference link :

More information: Rain, rain go away! A diary study on morning weather and affective well-being at work. Applied Psychology(2020). DOI: 10.1111/apps.12299.


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