We’re not sure if you’ve noticed, but the UK is currently enjoying (or suffering from, depending on your point of view), a prolonged heatwave. Whilst countries on the continent are used to higher temperatures, our summers usually consist of sporadic sunny days that are interspersed with rain.
In typical British fashion, we’ve gone from lapping up the sunshine to moaning in the corner as we melt away. Of course, it’s easier to fight the heat when you’re at home, or in a pub garden, than it is in the office.
If you’re struggling with the boiling heat, you may have started to believe that it is simply too hot to work. While there is a minimum temperature (16C, or 13C if your work involves “considerable physical activity”), as The Sun explains, there isn’t actually a maximum legal temperature. The Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations Act 1992 states that employers must maintain a reasonable temperature in the working environment.
According to the Health and Safety Executive: “A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries.”
Severe heat, such as we’ve been experiencing, can not only have serious implications for public health, it can also hamper productivity. So, what can businesses do to try and combat the heatwave?
It has been the source of office disputes since time immemorial, but it seems the answer may in fact lie with air conditioning.
Researchers from Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health found that a lack of air conditioning in heatwaves makes people sluggish and more likely to under perform in cognitive tasks, Sky News reported.
The study focused on young and healthy students living in dormitories in Boston. They collected data over a 12-day period in the summer of 2016, in which the first five days consisted of normal temperatures, followed by a five-day heatwave, and two cooler days.
They found that those living without air conditioning performed worse on cognitive tests than those with air-conditioned dorms. It impacted five different areas of cognitive function, including reaction times and working memory.
Those without air conditioning experienced 13.4% longer reaction time on tests matching a colour to a word and 13.3% lower scores in simple arithmetic tests. Imagine what impact this heatwave has been having on office workers!
Dr Joseph Allen warned that you shouldn’t be tempted to switch off the air con as soon as a cloud passes over: “Indoor temperatures often continue to rise even after outdoor temperatures subside, giving the false impression that the hazard has passed, when in fact the ‘indoor heatwave’ continues.
“In regions of the world with predominantly cold climates, buildings were designed to retain heat. These buildings have a hard time shedding heat during hotter summer days created by the changing climate, giving rise to indoor heatwaves.”
Heat is one external factor that can hamper staff productivity levels. Office design can help you create an environment that fosters productivity, whatever the weather! Get in touch with Kerr to find out more.