Effective measures to stop a workplace getting too warm
When colleagues have pulled down the blinds early in the morning to keep the sun out, the boss loosens his tie, and the home office gets moved to the cellar, then we know the time has come: summer has arrived in our latitudes.
The summer brings its own particular challenges for employers and employees. This is because muggy weather and high temperatures sometimes cause considerable discomfort when working in the office, the warehouse or in production.
However, it only takes a few measures to give your summer workplace a much more pleasant setup. This guide shows you the specific measures you can take.
How heat affects the workplace
To what extent do high temperatures impair employees' performance? A study by the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) wanted to find an exact answer to this.
The study involved having the participants work on their usual activities in a very hot room while their performance and bodily functions were monitored. The result:
- Although the participants exhibited higher heart rates, skin temperatures and levels of skin moisture, the quality of work did not initially suffer.
- However, the participants had to put more effort into maintaining their productivity. Their willingness to do so decreased over time.
- Exhaustion and sleepiness increased, while their ability to concentrate steadily declined.
The conclusion: people are quite capable of putting in a good performance even when things heat up. However, they can only function at this level for a limited period of time. If employers and employees introduce appropriate measures, they can maintain a good performance for even longer, and their motivation to do so will increase by leaps and bounds.
What can be done to stop things from warming up? Measures to keep a workplace pleasant
To ensure that working when it's hot does not become an ordeal, both employers and employees will need to take action. Employers are responsible for the the conditions in the office and the technology used, should relax any rules that might otherwise apply, and must provide the necessary equipment to help combat the heat.
Employees, on the other hand, can themselves be proactive in helping keep the temperature down in summer simply by taking a very small measures. The study by the BAuA also revealed that even simple things, like drinking plenty of water, can make a big difference.
This is what employers are expected to do
Germany's ASR A3.5 workplace regulation covers the temperature of the room and recommends that the employer to take suitable measures to combat heat once the temperature reaches 26 degrees. When it's 30 degrees or more, then active measures are expected.
The regulation does not specify which exact means the company is expected to use. What is important is that they are measures suitable to successfully keep the temperature down.
In addition, there are areas of work such as warehouses, logistics or production facilities that are particularly susceptible to heat due to the prevailing ambient conditions. In these cases, the employer should monitor the situation closely and conduct a regular risk analysis to help protect the employees.
Ultimately, every operations manager is responsible for introducing the measures that prove necessary. Appropriate measures, as outlined by law, are:
- Providing and ensuring sun shading and a ventilation system is used: airing out in the morning, followed by shading and closing the windows when it really heats up during the day, have been shown to be particularly effective.
- Moving working hours to the early hours of the morning: this measure is particularly suitable when work is being done outdoors or at machines that generate heat.
- Relaxing the dress code as long as this can still be reconciled with occupational health and safety rules: changing out of safety shoes and into sandals instead? Forget it! On the other hand, employees who are allowed to take off their ties or unbutton their shirts when they are not in contact with customers will find this a huge relief.
- Offering drinks: if cool water isn't always available at the workplace, then this situation needs to change when things heat up. Employers can also help out by providing regular reminders to drink a sufficient amount of water.
- Provide appliances for cooling: fans are a comfortable way of cooling when temperatures range from 26 to 35 degrees. If the heat continues to rise, then companies are expected to install more sophisticated cooling systems, such as air conditioning, water curtains, or air showers.
Which fan is the right one for your company? Find the answer in our purchasing guide!
These measures are easy for employees to implement
When there's a prolonged heatwave, employees can, and should, take active measures to keep themselves cool. Ideally, each employee should pay attention to how they are feeling, and react early to alarm signals such as a loss of concentration, headaches or fatigue.
The following methods have shown themselves to be an effective way of maintaining your well-being when temperatures in the middle of summer start to soar:
- Heat breaks can help when working in particularly warm areas, but should be discussed with your employer.
- Running lukewarm to cold water over your hands, wrists and forearms helps to keep your body temperature down.
- Food and drink that keeps you cool can make a big difference: cold mint tea, yoghurt, lukewarm soup, steamed vegetables and other light meals won't make your body work as much as heavy pasta or meat dishes do. Nor is spicy food ideal in the heat. In any case, drinking regularly is also important. By the way, fruit also contains a lot of water. So why not snack on some melon or an orange?
- At the home office: relocate your workplace to the coolest part of your home or, if possible, do your work at times of day when it's cooler. The siesta, something that our southern neighbours are famous for, are easy to take at home.
- Avoid sources of heat and turn off non-essential lights and appliances.
Summer is a washout? Remain productive despite the mugginess
Heat is not always the only strain on your body when you're at work during the summer months. Low-pressure systems can also bring us persistent rain. A rainy summer brings its own set of challenges for the workplace climate.
Our tips will help you stay productive even if summer's a washout:
- Humid indoor air is particularly hard on us Europeans. A cooling flow of air of the type that fans or windows that have been opened “crosswise” can provide help stave off excessive sweating.
- Proper ventilation also helps to prevent the growth of mildew that is harmful to health on walls and windows. This is why it's important to air the room out three to five times a day in workrooms and the home office as well. If things are really bad, an electric dehumidifier can help.
- Loose, airy clothing, not wearing too much make-up or moisturiser, and drinking plenty of fluids will keep you feeling comfortable even when humidity is high.