As temperatures began to rise this week, the Employee Benefits team received a flurry of press releases about steps employers should be taking to help employees cope with the heat during summer. With UK temperatures expected to top the hottest on record for July on Thursday (at the time of writing, we were still waiting to see if this prediction would come true), the heat inevitably posed a challenge for us Brits. After all, as a nation, we are arguably more acclimatised to cooler weather and rain.
While many of us look forward to warmer weather and sunny days, when these are spent at work, they may prove more challenging to cope with. How to ensure employees continue to feel happy, motivated and productive through the heatwave, therefore, is a question many employers will have asked themselves.
Allowing staff to work flexibly in order to avoid scorching commutes seems to be the most popular suggestion of how to deal with the heat. And, in the light of analysis of Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) data on the UK’s most time-consuming activities, released by Mecca this week, which showed that Brits spend an average of 58 minutes per day commuting, allowing staff to work from home or travel outside of peak periods may well be appreciated.
This also brings the debate round to the issue of employee wellbeing, given the potential for any anxiety or negativity an employee has towards their journey to and from work to be heightened during extreme (for the UK) weather, as well as the widely understood benefits of flexible working patterns on employee work-life balance and wellness in general.
Employee motivation aside, employers therefore have also had to consider the physical effects of the weather on their workforce. For example, heat exhaustion can quickly lead to the more serious heat stroke if not recognised and treated quickly.
While all employers should be mindful of such conditions, this is of greater concern to those with a workforce either primarily or wholly based outside. For such groups, support with hydration, proper breaks, the provision of shade and sun protection are all vital.
As climate change continues to advance, how to deal with such weather is likely to rise up corporate agendas in the coming years.