We all know what that means: either working from home in a stuffy room or being stuck in an office without aircon. No wonder, then, that searches in the UK for being ‘too hot too work’ have recently jumped 1150%, so clearly many of us are struggling and productivity is being impacted.
It’s been a scorcher of a week and even the the sunshine may be interspersed with heavy cloud cover (hello, hayfever) and the odd torrential downpour, that doesn’t mean temperatures are dropping. In fact, it just means the weather is becoming even more muggy.
Online, the tried-and-tested hack of sitting in front of a bag of ice and a fan has been doing the rounds again, along with the more creative idea of building a fort using a duvet cover. (Pin it down, put a fan in front of the end that opens up, watch the cover billow and climb in).
The lengths some people will go to stay cool at home or in an office has us thinking: is it possible that it’s too hot to legally make people work? (Sadly, think again).
Christine Macdonald, director of HR and management company The Hub Events says: “Many employees will be struggling with the heat this week, but the question everyone’s asking – “Is it too hot to work?” – is a complicated one and difficult for HR to answer.
“Whilst there are laws preventing staff from working in conditions that are too cold, the legislation when it comes to hot conditions is less clear – with Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 simply stating that temperatures inside buildings ‘shall be reasonable.’
“This does mean however that employees don’t have many rights when it comes to working in hot conditions. With that in mind though, there’s plenty employers can do to help, and some small hacks for employees to take on too.”
These are her top tips for trying to beat the heat at work.
Ask to change your hours
This might be a tricky one, depending on how rigid your boss is or how essential your working time is.
Christine says: “Speak to your boss about changing your hours. This may not be possible, but managers have learnt to be flexible during the Covid-19 crisis, and working from home does allow for looser working conditions. If you’re really struggling to work during the day, see if you can work earlier – 6am before the sun really gets hot – or later, after 6pm when things start to cool down. Many managers will be flexible, especially if it’s only for a couple of days.”
Keep the sun out
Though it may be tempting to have your curtains pulled back all day during the heat, it’s actually best to shut your curtains and blinds, because covering up the windows will help block the sun from getting in.
Instead, open your windows at the start and end of the day to let cooler air in. Genius.
The head, wrists and feet are areas we lose heat the quickest, so cooling these parts of the body down can have a greater effect on the body overall.
“Freeze a hot water bottle overnight, and keep it by your feet during work-hours. That might sound weird, but cooling your feet is one of the quickest ways to bring your entire body-temperature down. Keep a cool flannel against your neck too,” Christine advises.
Go easy on yourself
Most people struggle to be their most productive selves in the heat – you’re not alone in that lull in motivation.
Christine says you should ease up on your expectations: “We all want to stay at our most productive, but try not to beat yourself up if you’re not working at peak performance right now. Putting aside the heat, we’ve all had an extremely stressful year – it helps to step back, take a little breather and get through what you can without causing yourself any extra stress.”
Cut caffeine and schedule water breaks
Anything iced is the way to go right now.
Christine says: “This might not be the advice you want, but stop drinking so much coffee – it’ll only raise your body temperature. Swap out for cold versions if you need the fix. Aim to drink more water. When you’re getting stuck into work, it can be easy to forget to drink. Set a timer on your phone if you really struggle.”
Rearrange video calls and dress down
“The benefit of WFH is that you’re not tied to workplace dress codes,” Christine explains. “Wear as little as you need to stay cool – if possible, rearrange calls for the days when the heat isn’t so bad. Remember everyone is in the same boat.”