Whether you're the CEO, a Production Operative, Accountant or Cleaner there's one issue we all face that doesn't discriminate - the heat. Most of us will lose sleep, we're more likely to feel more lethargic and our tolerance of issues and other people may be lower than it is normally. The risk of people issues (absence, disputes, etc) therefore increases.
Productivity may take a dive, putting more pressure on the business to perform. Customers are humans too (in most cases anyway) so they could be more irritable. You're also a customer of your suppliers - are you going to pass on this frustration to them? It's a vicious circle - but if we think in advance there are a few things that can help:-
- More vulnerable employees - do you have employees who could be more vulnerable in hot weather? Talk to them - is there anything they need that can help their specific circumstances? For example a pregnant lady, or an elderly employee on their feet all day - would they benefit from more desk-based activities or more rest breaks? Don't generalise either - are there any employees you think may have specific challenges - for example an ailment or some medication they're taking?
- Fasting - do you have employees who may be fasting during the hot weather? Many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset as part of their faith, so long summer days that are hot will be particularly challenging. Talk to your employees - how can you best help them during this period? Can you grant them holidays based around fasting days? Can you have meetings in the mornings rather than the end of the day? Could they even change their working hours temporarily to help with the fasting?
- Water - are you providing access to fresh, cool water that's easily accessible? Do you need to get a few water bottle dispensers around more places?
- Fruit - can you provide more access to fruit? There's nothing like a nice juicy peach on a hot day!
- Dress Code - can you relax dress codes during the hot weather without compromising safety? Flip flops in a machine shop clearly won't be the answer but maybe smart sandals and shorts in an office rather than suit and tie will be OK? Re-visit risk assessments where required and make sensible decisions. Customers may like the new casual look - tell them you're doing it because you care about employees - that can never be a bad thing!
- Cool Air - what can you do to provide cooler air circulated around the workplace? If you have air conditioning great - use it. If you don't can you hire or buy temporary air-cooling systems? If not, can you open windows / doors and provide fans? Are there curtains and blinds you can close to block out sunlight?
- Customers and Suppliers - what are they doing to help their employees? Can you share ideas or even costs? Talk to them about awareness and how you'll work through issues that arise.
- Trade Unions / Employee Representatives - talk to them about wanting to make any reasonable changes that you can based on cost and ease of implementation. Talking to them upfront and involving employees will be far better than waiting for them to tell you there's an issue - plus, as we all know, employees are likely to come up with better solutions!
- Yourself and your management colleagues - all of the above applies to yourself too. Ensure you and your management colleagues are also making the adjustments you need. Each time you do though just ask the question - am I also ensuring my teams get the same?
The biggest and first step is thinking about the potential issue in advance - anticipate the issues, then challenge yourself as to why you can't make the adjustments.
Most employees will be grateful that you've given thought to this and you're trying your best to help. Of course some employees will complain that you're not doing enough - don't let these deter you from doing the right thing for the majority of people who don't expect the world!