Everyone in business has heard of the summer productivity slump, but what's behind it? Is it simply that too many people are away on vacation to really get anything done? Or the sunny days sparkling outside office windows are too distracting? Maybe it's just the morning-after sluggish of all those fun summer BBQs?
Hot weather actually slows your body down. The hotter it is, the more energy you need to expend to keep yourself cool, which can mean activities you're used to doing easily--whether it's walking around outside or exercising at a certain intensity--take more effort.
RELATED: Summer 2016 was had some severe heat
Severe, hot summer weather in the US in 2016
Severe, hot summer weather in the US in 2016
A woman rests in the shade during a hot and sunny day at Central Park in New York July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People sit in the shade around the fountain at the Christian Science Plaza on a hot summer day in Boston, Massachusetts July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A helicopter drops water near a hot spot on the Wagg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 24, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
People cool off beside a fountain during heat wave at the Word War Two Memorial in Washington July 18, 2013. The northeastern United States sweltered on Tuesday in a scorching summer heat wave, complete with stagnant, sticky air and no winds for relief, forecasters said. Even in a summer already filled with stretches of very hot weather, this week will be stubbornly brutal, with no relief in sight until the weekend brings thunderstorms to the region, they said. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: WEATHER)
Friends Grace Greenwood (L) and Alex Place, both of Arlington, Virginia, leap into a water sprinkler for a "high ten" during heat wave at the Washington Monument in Washington July 18, 2013. Greenwood was celebrating her birthday with a visit into the city. The nation's capital is experiencing a heat wave with temperatures around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
NEW YORK CITY, NY, UNITED STATES - 2016/07/24: New York City, New York. A dog keep cool during a heatwave across the city. (Photo by Louise Wateridge/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People enjoy a day in the pool during a heat wave called "Heat Dome" in the Astoria borough of New York, U.S., July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Children play in a fountain during a heat wave in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
People cool off in the Pacific Ocean during a record-setting heat wave across the U.S. Southwest, on the summer solstice in Santa Monica, California, U.S. June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Jun 5, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; A general view as storm clouds roll over Oriole Park at Camden Yards during the eighth inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees . Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
This photo taken with a fisheye lens shows the Lower Manhattan skyline, center, is seen at a distance as a rainbow glows in the sky seen from The Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, N.J., Monday, July 25, 2016. Sever weather hit the northern New Jersey region prompting the Hudson County Office of Emergency Management to send out alerts. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Tourists cluster in the shadow of one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, Sunday, July 24, 2016, in New York, as excessive heat continued to blanket the Northeast. Temperatures continued into the 90's for the fourth consecutive day with no relief in sight for the next several days. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
How long can I use this as an excuse?
If you're one of those that can barely rouse yourself to complete even basic tasks once the thermometer climbs high up into the 80s, this is reassuring news. Your boss or customers probably won't accept the excuse that you're simply too warm to be productive (especially given the downright polar conditions in some air conditioned offices), but at least you can tell yourself you're not just suddenly way lazier.
However, this explanation has a definite expiration date, according to Foley. If the heat keeps up, our bodies quickly get used to it. "After only a day or two in the heat, we start producing more plasma, the liquid portion of our blood," she writes. "Not only does this bring more oxygen to the muscles (which they then use to generate energy), it also helps regulate body temperature."
After two weeks in the heat, your body should be fully adjusted. (Though as someone who lives in a place where it's well over 100 most days for months, I've personally found there is some level of heat that there's no getting used to.) But be aware, the 'it's just too hot to work' excuse isn't a once-and-you're-done type deal. Heat acclimatization quickly wears off when the temperature falls again, making this a valid explanation for at least short-term laziness year after year.
"Next time you're back in the heat, you'll be moving like molasses until your can adapt again," Foley memorably notes. Check out her complete article for more details on the body's response to heat, as well as info on how it affects athletic performance.
Do you find your productivity tailing off once the temperature climbs to a certain point?