The summer of 2018 is a bit like Marmite; you are either loving it or hating it! Looking out of the office window we once again have blue skies, albeit with a few clouds forming and a reasonable breeze today, but this has not been the case for several weeks. This summer, we have seen temperatures soar to the 30s and stay there for an unprecedented period. These unusually tropical temperatures, though lovely when we have time to enjoy it sitting by a pool with a good book, a glass of sangria and an ice-cream, are not so great when we have to go to work!
In ‘normal’ circumstances, you may well have the most committed and conscientious team, but many employees and employers are finding it downright tough to perform at their best whilst working in sweltering conditions. Heat exhaustion and resulting lack of productivity aside, the stress of having to complete projects when colleagues are away on holiday, and the underlying desire to be out there enjoying the weather in a more comfortable manner, are additional factors that make working during this period a real challenge.
So, this month, we are sharing 6 ways in which you can help your employees beat the heat, now and for all of our future tropical summers.
Help to hydrate with time at the bar
No, we’re not suggesting you take the whole team to the pub for a refreshing midday beverage or three, but rather, as an employer, ensuring their hydration and physical comfort in the workplace. You are legally responsibility for your staff’s health and safety while in your workplace. In these unusually high temperatures, it is vital that you remind staff to take regular breaks, keep cool and stay hydrated. The HSE has provided a useful publication relating to Heat Stress but what innovative ways could you explore to help support this?
How about employing a bar service company to come in a few times per week during the hot weather, providing still, sparkling and flavoured waters, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks? Maybe even ice lollies and ice cream. We are sure your employees will be grateful for the consideration, and you’ll also be contributing to proper hydration.
If your budget won’t stretch to this, pick up water, drinks and healthy snacks from the supermarket, and make them readily available in the office kitchen or a meeting room. Schedule short breaks at staggered intervals during the day, so that employees can take turns in groups to go to this area to hydrate, refresh and cool down.
Alternatively, why not invest in some smart and simply named reusable water bottles for your employees? Not only will staff be delighted to receive their own water bottles, they will also feel encouraged (and inclined!) to fill them and use them regularly while at work, AND you will have the peace of mind of knowing you have contributed to your employees’ wellbeing. It’s a win-win-win!
Invest in cool air
Consider installing quality air conditioning units in your workplace, or, if you already have them, make sure they are serviced in advance of the potential for high temperatures. If air conditioning units are not a possibility, consider providing small personal desktop fans for each member of staff; many stores sell ones that can be plugged into a socket or into a computer USB port. Fans may not cool the working environment to the same degree, but they will ensure that staff stay comfortable while seated at their desks or workstations.
If you’re fortunate to be situated near green space, consider taking your meetings outdoors. Gather some drinks, pens and notepads, and sit on the grass in a shaded area to conduct your meetings, wherever appropriate. Apart from escaping a stuffy office, getting out into the natural elements is also proven to increase productivity and lower stress levels.
Consider a walking meeting – grabbing a water bottle, a voice recorder for taking notes, and walking while talking is far more effective for creativity and productivity than being seated in an office with stuffy conditions and dried-out pastries; you will also add to your step count for the day!
Do you have staff who have to work outdoors? Take a look at their working schedules and see if there is scope to move their shifts to cooler times of the day, just while the hot weather persists. Also ensure that they have regular periods to rest in the shade and drink water. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) stresses that staff working in the heat should consume half a pint of water every 15 minutes. Making these additional provisions will not only protect employees’ health but help them maintain optimum productivity at the times that they are working.
Do you have a ‘Casual Friday’ policy in your workplace? If so, consider extending it to the whole week while the temperatures are high. Alternatively, introduce a ‘summer’ dress code that allows for clothing that is light and as loose as possible. Close-fitting, buttoned-down, formal clothes may be quite uncomfortable in the heat.
However, do be very careful to define what the ‘summer’ dress code is at the outset, and what is and isn’t acceptable dress. There is certainly no place for mankinis in the office!
Note: This tip will of course come down to the nature of your work and the culture of your employees and clients, so do only apply this as is appropriate to you and take account of any potential heat-related health issues that can come about in extreme heat e.g. respiratory/lung and heart conditions that can be affected by high temperatures.
Cooling your body temperature
Running cold water over both wrists for 30 seconds helps to cool the blood vessels and lower the overall temperature of the arms, which then recirculates into the body’s main bloodstream, cooling the body for anywhere up to an hour. Share this helpful hack with your employees and allow them short breaks to make this happen when they feel themselves getting uncomfortably warm. Working from home? How about putting your feet in a cold bucket of water; again, this will help lower your overall body temperature and reduce any swelling of your feet in these high temperatures.
Listen to your staff
Finally, listen to any concerns your employees express about their working environment and the effects of the heat. There may be factors that affect them in areas that you may not have realised or even considered.
We hope these tips will assist you in helping you and your employees stay cool, hydrated, happy, healthy and productive over the summer months.