Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

With much of Europe currently in the grip of bitterly cold weather it is only to be expected that output in sectors such as farming and construction falls. However, new research from academics in the US says that counter intuitively, poor weather can also affect the productivity of work carried out indoors.

The researchers looked at the automobile manufacturing industry, which takes place throughout the US and as a result is subject to a variety of different weather patterns and has readily available data. They discovered that a single weather warning of strong winds was enough to cause a 26 per cent drop in output. Whilst some factories, located in areas of stable climates weather showed little fall in production due to weather over the course of a year, a plant in Ohio reported an 11 per cent decrease in output.

Companies already consider communications and labour conditions when locating a production plant says Gerard Cachon, a professor of operations and information management at the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania. However, he suggests thinking beyond these factors.

“The [production] losses are substantial enough that a company might want to consider climate when choosing a location for a new facility,” he adds.

Prof Cachon says that the research indicates that those automobile plants that run a “just in time” inventory approach might want to take into account the weather forecast when ordering deliveries and increase orders ahead of predicted bad weather to avoid productivity losses.

The paper, Severe weather and automobile assembly productivity, was co-authored by Marcelo Olivares, an associate professor at Columbia Business School and Wharton PhD student Santiago Gallino.

● The adage time is money appears to have more relevance than you might think. Researchers have found that those who equate time with earning money are more likely to feel impatient if they are not using their time profitably, ie to make money. As a result says the academics putting a price on time changes the way you experience it and can impact on your happiness.

Sanford DeVoe, assistant professor of organisation behaviour and HR management at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and PhD student Julian House have looked at the relationship between time, money and happiness. They wanted to discover if being paid an hourly rate for one’s time would encourage an individual to adopt a mindset “that features the goal of maximising the economic value of one’s time”.

In a series of experiments individuals were primed to equate their time with money. As a result they were focused on the economic returns of a pleasant experience, rather than paying attention to the non-monetary gains such as the enjoyment to be gained from listening to music. They also showed greater impatience and less enjoyment when it came to leisure activities.

“Thinking about time in terms of money is poised to affect our ability to smell the proverbial roses,” says Prof DeVoe.

Putting a monetary value on time he says, changes the way in which time is experienced. “Two people may experience the same thing over the same amount of time yet react to it very differently.”

The paper. Time, money and happiness: How does putting a price on time affect our ability to smell the roses? is published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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