Warm days, sunny skies and time off for holidays – what’s not to love about the summer? Yet for businesses it can be challenging to ensure that products and services are delivered as usual. With a smaller pool of resources due to scheduled annual leave, how can businesses manage the strain of additional employee absence due to heat-related sickness or disruption?
The amount of time taken off in the summer increases, as many families book holidays and those with younger children must cover school holidays. Firms must carefully plan for the summer months ensuring minimal cross over of employee annual leave and recruiting temporary cover where necessary.
However, when the days get too hot, unexpected absence can create havoc for business productivity and efficiency, at a time when staff numbers have thinned out anyway.
UK employment heat alert
Heat-related absenteeism can be caused by sickness from overheating or too much sun, disruption to transportation, or some employees choose to enjoy the sun rather than be at work. The sun also increases the chances of accidents due to infringement of safety clothes and fatigue, often resulting in additional employee absence.
The UK is particularly bad at managing severe weather, with infrastructure that is not designed for extremities. Steel rail tracks cannot deal with temperatures over 46c, which occurs when air temperatures hit about 30c. This causes delays and cancellations on the railways, resulting in workers being late or unable to reach places of work.
Figure 1: University of Birmingham/Published in Railway Technology Magazine
Transport is not the only heat-related concern for businesses to consider. Many offices are not equipped with air-conditioning and those working outside can suffer from too much sun. All of which can result in sickness or create safety concerns. Overheating can mean your employees are unmotivated, with reduced concentration and productivity. Fatigue also increases the likelihood of accidents occurring.
Absenteeism costs the private sector an average of £522 per employee each year (Moorepay whitepaper). In the summer months, businesses must take steps to minimise additional heat-related absence to limit the impact of the delivery and quality of goods or services, as well as pressure on other members of staff.
Summer employer advice
Businesses can take steps to minimise absence to keep the heat off your operations:
Keep employees cool
If no air-conditioning in an office, ensure you have fans and open the windows. If working outside, encourage employees to apply sun lotion and stay in the shade where possible.
Despite the weather, safety clothing is essential for some industries to avoid unnecessary accidents that could result in longer periods off work. Only compromise on clothing rules if safe.
Time to cool off
Encourage extra breaks to have time out of the sun or away from the heat. This down time will boost productivity and safety.
Remind employees to drink lots of water to stay hydrated to boost energy and engagement.
Flexible start time
Be flexible with staff start and finish times. Travelling off peak might help to avoid transport issues or overcrowded transportation that could lead to overheating.
Allow home working if possible
Working from home avoids travel and hot conditions at the office, but businesses should ensure that they have a lone working policy in place to ensure the safety of the employee.
Businesses will feel the heat, as they try to keep the normal delivery of products and services over the summer months. Seasonal weather and holidays do impact operations, so business must mitigate the risk and prepare for unexpected absence. Create a flexible and supportive working environment to lessen the strain during the summer period and keep your cool.