It’s hot, hot, hot! This week the temperature in parts of the UK will be greater than in Rome, Florida and Rio. But while people in those locations can cool off in the pool or ocean, workers back in the UK have fewer remedies for the heat. Unfortunately for many UK companies, extreme weather – hot or cold – can be bad for business. We can’t beam you a fan or bottle of ice cold mineral water over the internet, but with our useful Heatwave Survival Kit we can highlight some handy tips to getting the most out of your workforce, whilst keeping them comfortable when hot weather strikes.
1) Relax the dress code – A quick win for you. Feeling hot can be distracting, bring on lethargy and is generally not pleasant – hardly a recipe for getting stuff done. So consider relaxing dress code. Maybe a balance will need to be struck for customer-facing staff, but ties, tights, and long sleeves will likely do more harm than good in sweltering conditions.
2) Hydration – Adequate drinking water should always be provided anyway. But remind staff of the importance of staying hydrated and, if you don’t have one, consider a water cooler. The NHS recommends the equivalent of eight glasses of water a day for women and ten for men in normal conditions. This will rise during heatwaves. Poor concentration and tiredness are both symptoms of dehydration so get the message out to keep drinking (water!).
3) Keeping the temperature down – If you have air conditioning, then brilliant – although we know that the temperature controls can be a battleground in office politics. Make sure the units are well maintained, as there is little point in having them if they break down as soon as the sun comes out. If you do not have air conditioning then fans are essential to keep everyone comfortable.
4) Windows – Obviously these will stay shut if the air conditioning is on. However, if you do not have air conditioning and require them open to let in fresh air, then make sure they do not pose a security risk – people getting in, or confidential papers blowing out. And also manage safety. Could someone fall out? Some form of window restrictors may be necessary. Blinds can be a good way to keep the office cooler by blocking out direct sunlight and you can also get reflective films that help keep sun rays out.
5) Working times – Flexible working could be a useful tool. Allowing staff to come in a little earlier or later may help them avoid congestion in a stifling commute, and thus show up fresh faced and more ready for work. More frequent breaks may also help staff cope with hot weather.
6) Summer sickies – A correlation has been identified between heatwaves and increased absenteeism. They have even been referred to as ‘summer sickies’. Follow standard procedure for short-term absences: the employee should directly notify the line manager before, or in the first hour of the time they were due in, to explain the reason and expected length of absence. On their return they should be interviewed before completing a self-certification form. If you feel it necessary, you can investigate further.
7) Holiday requests – You may well get a surge of legitimate holiday requests too, as people want to get out and enjoy the sun. If you receive requests that clash you can prioritise, but be fair and consistent in your decisions.
8) Holiday pay – One of the big HR stories of the last 12 months has been holiday pay specifically regarding how commissions and overtime should be taken into account when calculating it. Whilst the retrospective cost to employers has been capped at two years, ensure you calculate holiday pay correctly going forward.
Get all this right and you will be well on the way to having a productive summer. Remember the HR Dept is here to help you prevent people problems, so give us a call if you need further help. And please don’t forget to get out there and enjoy the sun!