The recent heat waves across much of Europe have caused considerable disruption, not least to the workplace. As temperatures continue to rise, research suggests that these heat waves are going to increase in both frequency and severity. With this in mind, here are some tips to ensure that your workplace remains a safe and comfortable environment for your employees when the temperature rises.
1. Allow for flexibility
Employers can take steps to ensure the safety and comfort of their workers by allowing for increased flexibility. Those working outside or in already warm places like kitchens and foundries are particularly at risk, so changing shift times to avoid the hottest periods of the day can provide a welcome respite from the heat.
Companies should also take into account the differing needs of a workforce, making sure that people with a disability or health condition, for example, feel safe, comfortable and supported in the working environment.
2. Ensure the workplace is as cool as possible
A major UK insurance company recently warned that glass curtain walls and floor-to-ceiling windows, while popular for office buildings, are notably poor at keeping out heat, and can create kiln-like conditions.
It is vital to ensure that a place of work is comfortable enough for people to focus on the job at hand. Ensuring that air conditioning is installed and functioning is a great place to start, but other measures such as turning off heat-emitting appliances like printers and large screens can also reduce the temperature.
Employers could conduct a heat risk assessment to reflect on how safe and conducive their offices are.
3. Consider those working from home
Check-in regularly with those working from home to ensure that they are coping. Many houses and apartments are ill-equipped to deal with the heat, so if possible, try to make some funds available for employees to purchase or rent cooling measures like fans or air conditioning units. Something that is a relatively small financial cost for a business could make a huge difference when it comes to both wellbeing and productivity.
Those working from home should ultimately have the same level of provision and care as those working in the office. Staff shouldn't be coming into the office just to get access to the air conditioning!
4. Rethink your dress code
Trade unions have recently been making headlines in light of the blistering heatwaves demanding more flexibility with regards to work attire. Why not anticipate the needs of staff and get ahead of their requests? If your industry requires a formal dress code, then consider whether it would be possible to relax it when the temperature exceeds a certain level. Likewise, if uniform or protective equipment must be worn then think about the impact that this may have on an employee and consider whether alternatives are possible.
5. Stay up to date on legislation
Governments have varying legislation on working limits during extreme weather, so ensure that you are fully aware of any mandatory changes in hours or working provisions – and at which temperatures they apply. The recent heat wave has already brought about legislation changes, most notably in Madrid where unions demanded a maximum working temperature of 39C for manual street cleaners following the death of a worker.
Many other jurisdictions across Europe are now expected to follow suit, however if you think the temperature or conditions may put your employees at risk then do not wait for legislation to make alterations.