Feeling hot? How to keep staff happy in a heatwave

water bottle heatwave

As the weather heats up again this week, experts predict UK summers will continue to get hotter, keeping staff happy, healthy and motivated will be ever-more important…

The latest research suggests that the next three years could be ‘anomalously warm’ [BBC News: Next few years ‘may be exceptionally warm’ 14/08/2018].

The years up to 2022 could see extreme temperatures according to the research, which appeared in the journal Nature Communications [Nature Communications: A novel probabilistic forecast system predicting anomalously warm 2018-2022 reinforcing the long-term global warming trend 14/08/2018].

With the trend expected to see some of the hottest-ever summers in the UK, it is important that employers consider how they will ensure their staff remain comfortable and happy during hot weather.

This is especially key in a country where air coolers and conditioners are not the norm.

As many modern buildings are made from glass, it is unsurprising that offices can start to feel like greenhouses. Of course, manufacturing and warehouse buildings have similar issues. So much so that the TUC (Trades Union Congress) is calling for a change in the law to ensure that no indoor workplace temperature is higher than 30°C (27°C for strenuous work) and that employers bring in cooling measures when the temperature hits 24°C.

At present, no legislation exists – instead government guidance [GOV.UK: Workplace temperatures] says that indoor workplaces must be a ‘reasonable’ temperature, with a suggested minimum of 16°C (13°C for physical work) but no maximum temperature suggested.

It makes perfect business sense to ensure your staff are not too hot. After all, it is hard to be productive in a stuffy, hot building.

And you are more likely to see absenteeism during a heatwave – watch out for a rise in sick days on Mondays and Friday. It’s understandable that it’s hard to feel motivated when the sun is shining, the office is boiling and a day in the garden or a trip to the coast is more inviting than a sweaty, long commute and hours stuck in the office.

So what can HR departments to do help? Here’s a few ideas:

Flexible hours

If your business allows for flexibility, let staff come in and leave earlier or later to avoid the hottest parts of the day and the rush hour. You’ll see a difference on Fridays if staff know they can set off early for a weekend trip, barbecue or pub garden!

Relax the dress code

Keeping cool is the priority, but you need to set the boundaries – and remember it needs to be a fair and non-discriminatory dress code. Spend some time compiling a straightforward and easy-to-follow dress policy to keep things simple. For instance, shorts are allowed but not swim/gym wear or hot pants or denim – but of course it depends on the workplace. Sandals are on the list but not flip flops (due to health and safety concerns). In more formal settings, look at where the rules can be relaxed a little to make everyone more comfortable – do people really need to wear ties?

Hydration is key

Your staff need to stay hydrated. Ensure your water coolers are full and refilled regularly. Make sure your staff have water bottles with them and that they are keeping them filled.

Cool treats

If the mercury is really rising, consider a cool treat for your staff. Maybe provide a cool box filled with ice creams and lollies. Perfect on a really hot Friday afternoon when everyone is starting to wilt.

Aircon matters

Air conditioning – if you have it – should be well maintained so that it can cope with extreme temperatures. And if you are lucky enough to have it, windows need to be kept shut, so the air con can work as efficiently as possible.

For buildings without the benefit of air con, circulate the air by opening windows – and bring in some oscillating fans to help.

Turn it off

Finally – it may seem silly, but turn off the lights! Keep the heat down by turning off non-essential electrical items – that includes lights, unused computers, photocopiers and so on.

If you would like to discuss the subject of trust or flexible working further and how it could help your business, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 769 282 or contact us here.

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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.