June 19, 2024

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Keeping your staff and IT systems cool when the mercury rises

Across the globe, temperatures have soared and summer has delivered a glorious heatwave.

Of course, this is the perfect weather to sit by a pool sipping cocktails.  Unfortunately, for most of the 32.39 million people who work in the UK, that isn’t an option.

While the first few days of sunshine sees the spirits lift and brings cheer to the workforce, after a prolonged heatwave people get tired and grumpy – and warm employers and line managers will be suffering alongside their workforce.  However, even in the warmest places, good management will help managers motivate their teams and keep productivity high.

Here’s some tips for managers to maintain morale when the mercury rises:


Plan in advance

Don’t wait for the mercury to rise, prepare in advance!  Hands up all the managers who found their aircon wasn’t working on the first really hot day – planning for summer is essential, so if your hand is up, resolve to get it checked in February next year.  If you are sticky and uncomfortable reading this – and waiting for the ‘cooler men’ to arrive – book next February’s service in the diary now!


“Over 25 degrees and you have to send us home!”

Know the rules surrounding temperatures at work.  Despite what you’ll hear in the pub, there isn’t a legal maximum temperature for any workplace.  However. that’s no excuse for not maintaining a comfortable temperature, after all, you want to get the best from their staff.  Doing what you can to keep the workplace temperature comfortable will maintain morale and productivity, so make sure you have plenty of fans available, and instruct the first people to come in the office to open windows and get the air flowing (unless you are lucky enough to have aircon in your building).


Be aware of Dehydration Symptoms

If you really can’t keep a workplace cool, be aware of the risks of dehydration, especially in very hot places like kitchens, furnaces and even hospitals.  Make sure all your staff have regular access to cold drinks or even just water.  Rotate staff where possible and keep an eye out for any signs of dehydration.  Where the environment won’t permit staff to drink at their place of work, consider offering short hydration breaks every hour.


Relax your dress code, but only to a reasonable level

Your brand is important and your dress code sets the tone for your business.  However, your customers will understand some flexibility in this weather, after all, they are experiencing it too, so while it’s not time to give everyone carte blanche to work in beachwear, if staff are rolling up sleeves or leaving long sleeved suit jackets at home, a little tolerance on your normal dress policy will go a long way.


Use flexible and agile working where appropriate

In certain circumstances, flexible working can be useful where working in the office would be uncomfortable.  Many employers now use cloud based software and servers, like Nutanix, which enables employers to allow remote working with complete accountability and no risk to data.  However, flexible working embraces more than just working from home.  Think about, for example, offering more flexible start and finish times, enabling staff to avoid commuting on congested roads at peak times.


Reinforce your annual leave policies – and stick to them

Be prepared in advance for some of the employer challenges that arise from warmer weather – for example, how will you handle a sudden influx of annual leave requests, when everyone wants the day off after the big match?  It’s a good time to remind your staff about your annual leave policy, especially in the midst of World Cup hopes.


How to handle summer sickies

HR Managers will tell you that Summer brings its own set of heat-related casualties, from barbecue-itis to sunstroke, but the heat can also exacerbate existing health conditions.

Whilst managers can be sympathetic to summer illnesses like hay fever and heatstroke, it’s still important to ensure your absence management policy is demonstrably fair.  Most line managers using an informal absence management system admit they ‘skip’ recording the odd sick day if they empathise with the reason – it’s important to record everything and treat everyone fairly.   It is good practice to record disability related absence separately and not count it as part of your disciplinary system, but it should still be recorded.


Be creative and encourage staff to have fun at work

If your staff are hot and bothered, small fun gestures go a long way and can re-engage staff.  Whether it’s a trip to the ice cream van or going the whole hog and creating an indoor beach in your staff room, complete with a paddling pool and non-alcoholic cocktails, taking time to do something different from the norm will be really appreciated by your team.


Think about cooling your IT systems too

It isn’t only your staff that can overheat.  Electronic equipment, from your mobile phones to your IT systems don’t like being too warm – and your can’t buy your computer a cold drink.  Overheated equipment is often less reliable, so avoid expensive downtime by placing business-critical servers in cool locations, or speak to ITCS about server management so your critical business systems don’t let you down.

ITCS Managing Director Brian Stokes, who treated his team to ice cream in the warmer weather, says:

“We can’t do anything about the heatwave, but we’ve made provisions to keep our staff and our IT systems cool, including putting back up and portable air-conditioning where we can, buying extra fans for the offices where we can’t install aircon and even buying an extra fridge for the staff kitchen! 

However, it’s probably the ice cream that was most appreciated.  Employers don’t have to spend thousands, they just have to show staff they care, and that’s the same at any time of year – our ice cream was a good way to show that!”