We all love a bit of sunshine, but when you’re working all week, too much heat can be more of a nightmare than a summer's dream.
Working in a lot of heat can bring with it numerous health risks, especially if you don’t take the right precautions. But what are those risks and how can you protect yourself from them while working?
- Dehydration - When we spend too much time in the heat, our bodies perspire more than usual, burning up water much quicker. This can lead to dehydration, which can be extremely dangerous.
- Overheating - Overheating can cause all sorts of health problems, including dizziness, nausea, fatigue and muscle cramps. Heat can be of particular risk to those with heart or breathing issues.
- Heat exhaustion & heatstroke - If someone gets seriously overheated, it can be extremely dangerous. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can cause serious damage to someone's health.
Impact on work
High temperatures can significantly impact your physical health, but how might it influence your working life? Studies show that too much heat can be an occupational health risk. Further to the physical health risks it poses, it can cause a drop in productivity, which can lead to higher levels of work-related stress. This means that the hot weather can take its toll on both your physical and mental health.
What precautions can employees take?
- Stay hydrated - The number one piece of advice for when the weather is hot is to stay hydrated when working. Keep track of your water intake and make sure you are drinking enough every day - these two-litre water bottles are great for that (and super chic).
- Sleep right - Studies show that a good night's sleep is key to recovery during hot weather, so try to get some good kip. A regular sleep schedule, a cool room and less screen time in the evening should help with this.
- Avoid post-work drinks - We know that alcohol can impact sleep significantly, but when you need a good night’s sleep to recover from the heat during the day, it’s even more important to be careful with alcohol. When you finally finish work and are free to make the most of the sun, a post-work drink can be a refreshing treat, but try not to go overboard.
What precautions can employers take?
- Control temperature in the office - The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states there is a legal obligation for employers to provide a ‘reasonable’ working temperature in the office, and the Health and Safety Executive stating that “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. Though what is ‘reasonable’ may be job up for interpretation, workspaces should be kept cool enough for employees to be at little risk and comfortable.
- Allow employees to dress down - Though employees should still dress appropriately for a professional environment, employers are advised to allow and encourage a slight dressing down when temperatures rise particularly high, to allow employees to wear more summer suitable clothing.
- Be aware of high-risk employees - Employers should be aware of employees that are considered high risk to heat-related illness. This includes people with heart problems, breathing problems, serious/long-term illnesses and those working outdoors. If employers make themselves aware of this, adjustments can be made for staff wellbeing as and when needed.
How to keep heat under control when working from home
Though many of us are now reintegrating into the office, remote working is on the rise, so if you’re stuck at home during those hot summer days, here are some tips on how to keep yourself safe:
- Close curtains on rooms facing the sun - If you’re working in a room that faces the sun, closing the curtains can help to stop as much heat accumulating. This helps to keep you cool and focused.
- Dress down - Make the most of working from home! There’s no dress code for your living room, so wear fewer layers and let yourself cool down. Just be sure to check you’re dressed appropriately for any video conferences...
- Take time to cool down - Regular breaks to cool down, drink water and breathe are a must when working from home in the heat. Employers should be encouraging you to take more regular time-outs and to ensure your wellbeing is a priority.
- Work outside - If you have a garden with shade, make the most of it! It can be cooler to sit outside in the shade than in your house sometimes. Plus the fresh air is great for productivity and job satisfaction!