- June 14, 2023
- Posted by: Hannah Ingram
- Category: HR Advice & Support
8 ways HR can support employers during heatwaves
How to tackle heat at work
This summer has got us all feeling hotter than a cup of coffee.
And heat can cause problems for your HR support teams and leaders as they strive to keep your employees safe and productive.
So, let’s share some ways to keep your team energised this summer and turn hot weather into a positive that doesn’t leave us feeling like a melted ice lolly.
What is the maximum temperature allowed in an office environment?
Although there is no maximum temperature for workplaces all workers are entitled to a safe working environment.
So, you should have a plan to assess the risks for your workers and put controls in to protect them.
The TUC (Trades Union Congress), meanwhile, has called on ministers to introduce a maximum working temperature of 30ºC, and 27ºC for those undertaking strenuous activities.
Incidentally there is an approved code of practice for minimum indoor temperatures of 16°C or 13°C in environments that require rigorous physical demands.
8 ways to address heat in the workplace
Ensure there are adequate water points and cups for people who need refreshments throughout the day. Make sure your workers have adequate breaks to refill their drinks and consider offering free beverages to build good habits and adapt.
You could partner with an employee benefits company to offer treats such as ice cream or cooled drinks.
Introduce air con if possible and if not look at automated fans or small individual air cooling options. If you are leaving windows open, you’ll want to investigate potential distractions such as noisy traffic, pollution, pollen or pests (such as nearby wasps nests).
Hybrid working in the heat
Speak with your remote workers about their working environment. Home offices can reach high temperatures so make sure to mirror every precaution you’re taking in the office to help your remote teams too.
How can HR support teams in the heat?
Relaxing your Dress code
Whilst workplaces, especially those that are customer facing, may require professional clothing consider relaxing your dress code for extreme temperatures.
Make sure it’s very clear in your official policies what the rules are and use internal communications for extreme events as teammates may have forgotten what the handbook says.
Any relaxed policy shouldn’t be restricted by gender and if your workplace uses uniforms strive to make your team feel as comfortable as possible through hot weather options.
Ensure outdoor workers have sun and heat protection. Introduce extra shade areas or cover and access to suncream. Strive to creature a company culture based around safety where employees regularly reapply suncream.
Heat and Pregnancy
Ensure that any pregnant employees are protected by ensuring they have extra control over workplace temperature and consider if any pregnant employees working in a factory environment may need extra breaks from the heat. You could also temporarily divert pregnant factory employees to office based duties as an extra precaution. Pregnant employees are more susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Managing a team during a heatwave
Bear in mind that your employees are all different. Heat stress factors can be influenced by demographic factors such age, weight, physical fitness and metabolism. So different measures and allowances are needed from different people.
Ensure you have the right company culture where your employees can raise any Health & Safety or discomfort concerns caused by the heat.
Pre-existing conditions can be exacerbated by the heat such as arthritis and COPD so make sure you’re up-to-date on any healthcare conditions and look into how you can help staff accommodate them.
Developing your leaderships skills is important including adaptability for extreme weather conditions and empathy for employees who may experience heat a different way to you.
Wellbeing support for workers
As we’ll explore later the heat can raise anxiety levels in your staff. So they may be experiencing both an emotional and physical impact on their wellbeing. So keep an eye out for changes to your employee’s moods and speak to them regularly.
The effects of heat in the workplace
It’s just a bit of sun, what’s the fuss about? Actually, there’s a lot to worry about!
It’s not just worker safety that is impacted by heat. Heat makes people less productive too. In fact, in hotter years the drop in economic output is significant! As climate change takes hold this is likely to worsen as the years go on with the UK experiencing record heat of 40.3°C on July 19th 2022.
Sick days can also rise as heat can cause various illnesses caused by heat stroke. Many of these are preventable with the right measures in place.
Extreme heat can impact on the quality of work produced as well as potentially causing safety hazards as people’s focus wains.
Health and Safety
Speaking of health and safety as well as people’s cognitive function heat can also pose a danger in terms of fire risks. There can also be extra side effects from heat stress including heat exhaustion, heat stroke or rashes.
In addition, injuries can be caused by sweaty palms can cause slipping hazards and other dangers from H&S include dizziness, slippages from spilt drinks or fogged-up safety glasses.
Consider the impact of machinery breaking down in high temperatures and how you might keep things going during this. As well as downtime effecting output and hitting the bottom line broken machinery can also raise the stress levels of line managers and workers on duty as it puts them under more pressure to perform or fix things.
Roads and public transport don’t perform well in the heat. This can result in people being stuck in traffic or unable to get to work. Consider offering more flexibility in extreme heat so you don’t lose those hours and to lower the stress of your people. Look at your payroll processes and make it clear in your HR policies what happens to pay if workers get caught up with traffic problems whilst commuting.
The link between workplace wellbeing and stress
People are effected differently by the heat but typically people will experience low mood in temperatures above 70°F / 21°C and/or high humidity. Agitation and anxiety can be linked to heat not to mention aggression which can create a tinder box for workplace relationships.
A drop in atmospheric pressure can activate the superior vestibular nucleus (SVN) which effects balance and perception. This can also affect your body’s stress system before a storm making you feel extra tension and influence chronic health conditions too.
In particular older people can experience increased stress levels when the weather is too hot.
The upside is that long bright days can energise you. It can also boost your memory, make you more open to receiving new information and even improve inattentiveness for neurodivergent conditions such as ADHD. So, if you create a good environment that feels comfortable both in terms of weather and company culture then a little heat can be a real positive.
A bit of fun
Where do you like to work when it’s hot?
Our LinkedIn Poll explores where hybrid workers like to work when the sun is beaming down.
Here’s our Keeley soaking in the sun at our Belper office.
How our HR support services can help in the heat
We help companies protect their staff, increase productivity, and keep their HR policies up to date through our outsourced HR support service.
What’s more through our organisational development team we can also help you build good habits within your team and coping mechanisms to deal with increased stress during the hot weather.
If you’d like to explore how to support your team reach out to us today.
Our Talk Staff team receiving a surprise visit from the lovely Sally from Just-Ice. We’ve been proudly supporting their social enterprise work by providing outsourced payroll services at no cost for the last five years.
Last Updated on 5 months by Hannah Ingram