Summer is fast approaching, and with it (hopefully) a rise in temperature. While we generally think of warmer days (and longer evenings) as an overwhelmingly positive thing, a hot and stuffy work environment can often be anything but enjoyable.
How would such an environment impact our productivity levels? That was the question posed by a team of Australian researchers, who wanted to test how the extreme Australian summers can affect the productivity of employees exposed to it.
The results highlight how heat can affect us, with roughly 75 percent of respondents revealing that they had suffered productivity falls at work because of heat over the 12-month period covered by the study.
How Heat Affects us at Work
The study, which was published in Nature Climate Change, revealed that nearly three-quarters of people had suffered at least one day of reduced productivity due to heat in the last 12 months, with seven percent revealing that the heat had caused them to be absent from work during the same period.
The researchers surveyed a pool of 1,726 Australian employees aged from 18 to 65 to understand how heat was impacting their performance at work. They found that the cost each year of reduced performance and absenteeism added up to around $655 for each employee.
"This represents an annual economic burden of around $6.2 billion for the Australian workforce," the authors explain. "This amounts to 0.33 to 0.47 percent of Australia’s GDP."
The research coincided with an especially warm period in recent Australian history, with 2013 emerging as the hottest year on record, whilst 2014 was found to be the 3rd hottest.
The authors believe that their findings underline the importance of providing a comfortable workplace for employees and that organisations should be doing all they can to reduce the impact of the heat as much as possible.
They believe that if organisations fail to do this, not only will the health of employees suffer, but the overall economic performance of the nation will be hit too. This is especially as climate researchers believe heatwaves are likely to become more frequent in the coming years.
The paper reveals that excess heat at work can cause us to lapse in concentration, which can increase health and safety risks. While at the same time also impair our decision making abilities and make us feel sluggish and tired, both of which will hamper our productivity.
Suffice to say, Australia is one of the warmest places to work, so it’s possible that your own workplace won’t experience the kind of heat levels the Australian employees did. If you do feel your office is getting unbearably hot, however, the following are some good tips to help you avoid heat stroke.
How to Avoid Heat Stroke
- Stop doing anything too physical and find a cool place to relax
- Drink plenty, especially fluids that have salt and electrolyte in so as to replace the fluids lost via sweat
- Try using a cool compress to lower your temperature
- Don’t be afraid to seek medical assistance if you don’t feel any better
How hot does your own workplace get in the summer? Does your employer offer help in keeping cool?