UK Summer: 5 things employees could request from their leaders in the heat

If you’re living in or visiting the UK at the moment, you’ll be familiar with the following conversation starters (which occur approximately every 1.2 seconds):

  • It’s hot, isn’t it?
  • Today is even hotter than yesterday
  • Is my hair on fire?
  • I’ve heard it’s hotter here than Greece / The Seychelles / Mars
  • At least it’s not snowing, I suppose
  • It’s so muggy*

*Muggy is a term favoured by the British to describe a hot, humid, overcast day. This can often be heard in use alongside ‘it’ll burn off,’ ‘we need a good storm,’ and ‘I’m melting.’

As a nation, we’re known for our obsession with the weather. A quick look at Google Trends tells us what many people in the UK are thinking at the moment; the search term ‘what temperature is too hot to work?’ has spiked dramatically over the last month. You’ve probably seen a few news articles circulating on the subject too, sharing information on when UK workers are legally allowed to leave the office in the heat and offering advice on how to keep cool.

While there’s no guidance on maximum temperature limits in the workplace, gov.uk states that all UK work environments must ‘keep the temperature at a comfortable level’ to adhere to health and safety at work laws. The Trades Union Congress has called for a maximum temperature to be instated – of 30 degrees for indoor work, and 27 degrees for strenuous work.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated in the heat, we’ve put together a few ideas to help you below. Requesting the following from your leaders could help you to be more comfortable during the heatwave, and ensure you don’t suffer as a result of the weather:

Consider flexible working

Even if your employer has taken the correct measures to ensure your workplace is comfortable, you may still find yourself struggling with the temperature. If flexible working is an option, why not consider it during the summer months? This might mean a change in start and finish times, enabling you to work during the cooler periods of the day. Alternatively, you could opt to work from home – where you won’t need to worry about wearing business attire or annoying your colleagues with an industrial cooling fan.

To find out more about your right to request flexible working, take a look at the information provided by Acas here.

Request a change in dress code

What’s the dress code in your office? Most companies have unwritten, general rules about office attire, though many also adopt a strict ‘no shorts’ rule for men. There’s divided opinion on whether or not this item of clothing should be allowed in the workplace; some feel it puts men at a ‘professional disadvantage’ (because the wearer appears ‘too relaxed’)  – while others believe that comfort should come before dress codes.

The Health and Safety Executive lists six basic factors which can cause discomfort at work in hot weather. There are environmental factors (such as air temperature and humidity), and personal factors – including clothing insulation. The HSE states that ‘wearing too much clothing may be a primary cause of heat stress,’ though ‘many companies inhibit the ability for employees to make reasonable adaptations to their clothing.’

If you’re finding your usual workwear too uncomfortable in the heat, speak to your employer about any temporary adaptations that could be made during this period.

Make the case for more breaks

Staying cooped up in an office during the heat is no fun for anyone. Even if you absolutely love what you do, spending eight hours a day in a hot, stuffy office can leave you feeling exhausted. Could you alter your routine, to spend more time outside during the day?

If you usually have a morning and afternoon break of 15 mins each, and a lunch break of an hour, could you split this time more evenly to suit you? For example, you could take three 30-minute breaks through the day, or five 18-minute breaks. This would allow you to get outside more throughout the day, to enjoy the sun, cool down, and clear your head.

Alternatively, if there’s an outdoor area you could work in, why not consider spending some of your working day outside? If you can’t work outside all day, try to find ways to fit the outdoors into your schedule. For example, you could hold meetings outside, rather than in the office – or if you’ve got reports to read or proofreading to do, find a quiet spot nearby and get some air while you work.

Ask for support

During the summer months, many of your colleagues will be heading off on holiday. Sometimes, poor timing can mean there’s a lot of work for the people left behind in the office. Although many of us will want to help our leaders and co-workers, taking on too much can be stressful (as well as being detrimental to our own projects). This situation + the heatwave could = disaster.

If you’ve been asked to pick up a few things while your colleagues are away, make sure you take time to consider how and when you’ll be able to do the things they’re asking. If you know your co-workers have holidays coming up over summer, ask them to give you ample notice of the things they might need help with while they’re away. Give yourself time to review any requests, and decide if you’re able to take on any more work – as well as considering what needs doing now, and what can wait. Finally, speak to your team leader and co-workers to ensure everyone’s prepared for any change in project ownership – and if you need any assistance, seek support from your leader or colleagues to make sure you’re not overwhelmed.

Ask your employer for a solution

Above all, remember that it’s your employer’s responsibility to provide a comfortable working environment. That means they have to ensure that the temperature is ‘reasonable’ in order to meet the requirements of UK health and safety laws.

Hopefully your leaders are doing everything possible to ensure employees are comfortable during the summer months. However, if you feel that your employer could (or should) be doing more, speak to them directly about the issues affecting you and your colleagues.

You can find out more about your rights via The Health and Safety Executive, and gov.uk.

How is your workplace coping with the heat? Have you changed your work routine to manage the hot weather? We’d love to hear all about it – let us know via Twitter, or in the comments section below.

 

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