The Impact of Heatwaves on Productivity

Posted in : HR Updates on 9 July 2018
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

With temperatures across the UK soaring up to 30 degrees and above of late, I struggle to remember a period of such sustained sunshine that go beyond rose-tinted childhood memories of long, hot summers. I don't know about you but I always think that the sunshine puts everyone in a good mood but is the impact on workplace productivity quite so positive?

According to research, productivity of the average British worker drops by over 60% when temperatures creep towards 37 degrees. This is due to a range of factors including uncomfortable office temperatures and lack of sleep at night in muggy conditions. But then there's the disruption to travel. Northern Ireland Railway warned of delays to train journeys as tracks threaten to buckle in the blazing heat. And what about outdoor workers, whether in construction or agriculture, who have to endure the heat more than those of us who are lucky enough to work in our comfortable air-conditioned offices?

Extreme weather in the UK always seems to catch us by surprise. School closures are common in the winter however only last week, Largymore Primary School in Lisburn had to close early for safety reasons due to concerns that rising classroom temperatures may impact children with health conditions such as diabetes or heart conditions.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 gives employees a right to go home if the temperature drops below 16°C, but there is not currently a law that sets a maximum temperature limit. That said, there are calls for regulations to be put into place that would allow workers to go home if the temperature of their workplace reaches 30°C with employers being obliged to take measures to cool the workplace down if the temperature is above 24°C. To avoid heat stress, recommendations include relaxing dress codes (good news for restrictive suit and uniform wearers), moving desks away from windows and, where possible, air-conditioning being installed.

It's not all doom and gloom however. Many employers benefit from heatwaves. Retailers selling barbeques, barbeque food and other summer goods are not complaining. Some experts argue that the loss in workplace productivity and higher rates of absenteeism are offset by stronger retail sales and industrial output therefore benefiting the economy as a whole.

Overall, while us 'Norn Iron' folk like nothing more than to complain about it being ''too hot / too cold / too wet'', at the back of our minds we wonder how much longer we will get to enjoy this glorious sunshine before we have to pack our sun cream away for another year and unearth our trusty umbrellas.

Useful reading:

Heatwave Hits The UK – What impact is that having in the workplace? 

Heat waves, productivity, and the urban economy: What are the costs?

Heatwave winners and losers 

Is The Temperature In Your Office Restricting Productivity?

This article is correct at 09/07/2018

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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