Heatwaves cause workers to glaze
After a few false starts it seems that summer has finally arrived. Spirits are lifted when the sun is shining and across the cities the few small patches of grass, open air lidos and rooftop bars can become so crowded they resemble a mosh pit at a concert, with people battling for the prime spots.
However, the sunny weather can bring additional challenges for businesses, and HR Teams in particular. A rise in absenteeism during the summer months is common which can impact productivity and put additional pressure on those who do make it to the office. Holiday season is now in full swing, and with parts of Europe effectively closing down for a month whilst people take time off, keeping people motivated when offices are emptier becomes more challenging.
“A rise in absenteeism during the summer months is a
common problem facing HR Teams”
Transport networks come under increased pressure in the hot weather with commuters facing delays and cancellations as networks struggle to cope with the heat. The risk of train lines buckling in the soaring temperatures result in speed restrictions and reduced services, with the knock-on effect being further overcrowding and increased risk of people being taken ill in sauna like conditions. Those with trains lucky enough to have air conditioning at least have a small respite but there are still trains, tubes and buses without air conditioning resulting in many people arriving at work hot, sweaty and irritable – hardly a state conducive with a productive working day!
FOMO (Fear of missing out) kicks in as people want to enjoy the weather – witness the packed pubs and restaurants at lunchtimes and after work as people surge to make the most of the soaring temperatures. People are less inclined to work extra hours which can impact productivity.
“Uncomfortable working environments can sap energy and
mean staff cannot work effectively”
Finally, the UK is not a country geared up for extreme temperatures. Many offices are housed in old buildings that are either not equipped with proper air conditioning or have ineffective cooling systems resulting in uncomfortable working environments that sap energy and mean staff cannot work effectively.
Fortunately, the more forward-thinking organisations can take simple steps to alleviate some of these challenges, with HR driving these initiatives to ensure a retained and engaged workforce.
“Flexible and agile working practices can ensure your
workforce remains motivated and productive”
Strategies such as flexible start / finish times to allow employees to avoid peak travel times or agile / remote working options where people can avoid the hellish commute altogether can help to minimise the impact on productivity and ensure your workforce remains motivated. Some sectors have even introduced a shorter working week during the summer months, allowing workers to finish around 3pm on Friday. There is growing evidence to show such actions can improve productivity as people work harder to finish their tasks so they can leave on time and start their weekend early.
Relaxing the dress code for the more corporate environments to allow men to wear smart shorts rather suits on the hottest days will lead to a more comfortable and productive work force - although boob tubes and short shorts are obviously still not appropriate!
Clearly nothing will be able to completely remove the impact of soaring temperatures but at least the above can go some way to reducing the misery. While none of the above is rocket science, it is amazing how many companies are still reluctant to offer more flexible or agile working options, all the while wondering why staff engagement is low. Those in the know are the ones that grow!
Practice Head - HR & Talent Management