Although the weather is starting to cool down, Australia recently experienced some of the hottest days on record in the past summer. This meant that the heat was truly unbearable on some days and, for many workers who spend these days working indoors, this severely inhibited their productivity levels. Office workers, in particular, can often spend their time at work sitting in poorly ventilated offices or wearing uncomfortable and stuffy work wear.
Whilst our bodies are good at maintaining a general temperature of around 37º, when the temperature outside is higher than that of our body temperatures there is a whole host of health issues which can occur. Some of the main risks are dehydration and overheating, so if you are a business, looking after your employees during these heatwaves is vital.
Travelling to work
Generally speaking, warm weather shouldn’t affect your employee’s journey to work too much. Sometimes, cramped conditions on public transport may make the internal temperature rise slightly, so it is important to reiterate to your employees that they should stay hydrated on the journey to and from the office.
Often, many people who faint or feel unwell during their journey to and from work do so because they are dehydrated or are running late, which causes them to rush around and increase their heart rate. If the temperature becomes warmer than usual, you could consider letting your employees start later and finish a little earlier to miss the bulk of the congestion.
In the case of extreme heatwaves, many public transport services can suffer. Encourage your employees to check both their route to and from work frequently to keep up to date with cancellations or delays.
Keeping cool in work
Although employers don’t need to legally provide air conditioners or ventilation systems, they are expected to provide a reasonable working temperature. Complaints about the AC and heating in offices is a common grumble; it’s either too hot or too cold and the temperature can vary throughout the day. Whilst the temperature in the office can affect how your workers feel, there are no regulations in place for what you must or mustn’t do.
Being sensible with what you think is appropriate action is the most important thing to consider. Open windows to ensure that there is air movement and the humidity levels don’t get too high and buy desktop fans to keep your employees comfortable. If you do have an air conditioning or ventilation systems in place, it is wise to get this checked over at the beginning of summer, especially if you haven’t used it during the winter months.
If your employees are suffering, especially in the afternoon, then consider getting some cold treats as a “pick me up”, such as cold drinks, snacks and ice creams. Moreover, if you have the space and amenities to work outside, then consider letting them do so. It’s important that employees drink plenty of water and employers must provide suitable drinking water within the workplace. Remind employees to regularly drink water and not wait until they are thirsty, as this means they are already dehydrated.
Dress code alterations
Many workplaces have a dress code in place for many reasons, such as health and safety or a company uniform. Many office workers usually wear smart business dress or smart/casual clothing, and this can become an issue should the temperature begin to increase. Whilst employers are currently under no obligation to relax or alter their dress code or requirements during warmer weather, it is your decision whether you choose to allow employees to wear more casual clothing or allow for dress down days. Whilst this doesn’t mean you have to allow shorts and thongs, you can relax rules regarding business and corporate attire, like suits and ties or work dresses.
Keep an eye on vulnerable workers
Warmer than normal weather can make most workers feel tired and less energetic, but for those who are older, pregnant or on medication or disabled, then the weather can sometimes make work feel unbearable. Employers may give these workers more regular rest breaks and ensure that they are sat in a well-ventilated area, either by sitting near a window or providing fans. It may be appropriate for the dress code for these workers to be relaxed slightly, but this is at the employer’s discretion.