22/07/2015

By Wayne Lysaght-Mason, managing director at IronmongeryDirect


Following the record-breaking temperatures that took hold of the UK during June, office workers are dreading the next heat wave as two-thirds of bosses fail to provide workplaces suitable for hot weather. As we enter further into the warm summer months, I will investigate the ways that bosses can create a more comfortable working environment.

A survey of 1,000 workplaces by IronmongeryDirect found that in 65% of offices workers are left feeling tired, drowsy, irritable and unable to concentrate by soaring office temperatures. And as a result the quality of their work suffers, with over half of workers saying that they are less productive in a hot environment.

With temperatures reaching uncomfortable highs, employees often find themselves struggling to deal with the stuffy conditions and are forced to open windows or even prop open fire doors in order to let in fresh air. And alongside this, many have to endure the bad smells that come with the hot weather, especially smells from sweaty co-workers.

While not every office can have full air-conditioning, bosses can clearly do more to create a comfortable working environment. According to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the temperature in all workplaces is 'reasonable' - around 13°C for manual work and 16°C if the work is less physical.

One simple measure that can be taken to let in more fresh air would be to open windows where possible, when the outdoor air is colder than the air inside. Alongside this, circulating air throughout the office is just as important as letting fresh air in. Desk fans are a good way to keep cool air moving, and ensuring that all employees have access to a fan will help to make them feel more comfortable.

The research found that 16% of office workers resort to propping open fire doors to let in more fresh air, but doing so with objects such as door-stops is illegal as this will disable the door from performing its function if left open. Fire doors can, however, be held open legally by fitting specially designed devices known as fire door closers which will close the door in the event of a fire. Simple and cheap fire door closers, such as those by Dorgard, are accepted for use by fire authorities and comply with all relevant BS standards. It can be easily fitted to keep workers comfortable and safe. It just takes a few minutes to install and will automatically close the fire door when the fire alarm sounds.

Encouraging employees to dress appropriately for the warmer weather will help to make them feel more comfortable. Wearing thick office attire can be unbearable when the temperatures are high, so allowing staff to wear items such as shorts and t-shirts will help them to feel cooler and therefore help them to be more productive. By putting guidelines in place, professional standards can still be adhered to whilst also giving employees the option to wear looser items of clothing.

It’s also important to ensure that there’s plenty of water available to keep staff members hydrated. With only 51% of staff admitting that they drink water to keep cool, it’s important to raise awareness about the risk of dehydration if they are not drinking enough water. This can lead to health issues whereby staff members may begin to feel nauseous, dizzy or weak. Employees should have access to water all day long and this can be achieved by placing several water coolers around the office.

At the end of the working day, be sure to turn off all lights and unnecessary equipment as electrical items generate a lot of heating which will build up. It is also helpful to close curtains and blinds at night to keep the cool air in so that the temperature remains low for when everyone arrives back at the office in the morning.

Working in office environments during periods of hot weather can be difficult and will have adverse effects on the productivity of employees. There are lots of simple tips that can help to make offices feel cooler and staff members more comfortable, and most are inexpensive and easy to put in place. It’s important for bosses not to underestimate how much the high temperatures can affect the workforce, and ensuring that staff members are well catered for should be high on the company’s list of priorities.