Even the most pleasant workplaces can become a waking nightmare in the scorching heat of the summer.
With the sun blasting through the windows, computers emitting heat all day, and plenty of people crammed into an office, businesses both small and large can turn into furnaces around this time of year.
Summer is known to be the least productive time of year for precisely this reason. Captivate Office Pulse reported that productivity can drop as much as 20% between June and August as employees become exhausted and uncomfortable in their offices.
Therefore, businesses must be taking steps to combat this as the turn of the season approaches. Ignoring the problem could result in less (and perhaps far worse) work being done for your clients and customers.
But how exactly can you fight the summer heat and ensure your staff don't get burnt out?
Related Article: 6 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout
Hold Your Meetings Outside
In the blistering heat of summertime, stuffy meeting rooms are not an ideal place to be. Unless they are well air conditioned—and there's a good chance they aren't—staff will feel themselves dozing off during important reports. Furthermore, any clients visiting you will see their concentrations waver in the heat. In both cases, information will not be taken in properly and messages will be communicated far less effectively, which could have negative effects on the output from your business.
Meeting rooms may also be where the bulk of the creative thinking is done in an office; where staff will debate strategies and approaches for their business going forward. Again, in an environment where heat is causing exhaustion and tiredness, creativity is almost certainly going to be hindered.
If the summer months are making your meetings unbearable, managers could choose to take their meetings outside. Finding a bench where you can chat, taking your laptop to a nearby coffee shop, or simply going for a sprightly walk with your team could help to resolve many of these problems. The rise in Vitamin D levels and endorphins from the outdoors can help stimulate productivity and creative thinking, and the cooler weather means attendees at the meeting will be more responsive and attentive than they would be cooped up inside.
Allow Staff to Work From Home
Computers produce so much heat that, in some instances around Europe, businesses have managed to keep their office warm in the winter with only the warmth coming from screens and monitors. As you might imagine, the same effect in the summer months will cause any busy modern office to be somewhat unbearable. This is especially the case when there are lights, appliances and a large number of people adding to the overall temperature too.
Reducing the heat could be expensive for a business. It could require the installation of air conditioning or the purchase of dozens of fans for even the most modest of small-to-medium sized enterprise. Allowing certain members of staff—those who don't need to be in the office to fulfill their duties—to work from home for a few days per week could be a viable alternative. It is simpler than ever to implement as technology like instant messaging and video calling means you are never disconnected from what is going on back at base. Furthermore, there will be less bodies and fewer active computers producing heat around the workplace.
There have been some critics of remote working—most notably Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who said it reduces collaboration and communication for a major business like hers—but Stanford University instead found a 22 per cent increase in productivity. A working from home program will also boost staff morale, especially among parents whose children are home throughout the summer holidays requiring a guardian to watch them.
Related Article: Remote vs. In-Office Workers: Which Employee Is Actually Better?
Reduce Energy Usage
Almost 90% of the energy that comes from lights is given off as heat. In the summer, when heat is already going to make working in your office an intense experience, it is hugely important to switch off the lights in rooms that are not in use.
Break rooms, meeting rooms or stock rooms - making sure the lights are off will keep these places as cool as possible for when they need to be occupied. Send your staff a reminder by e-mail to make sure it doesn't happen, or put up polite signs to ensure it is implemented. Doing so will, of course, help to conserve electricity as well and cut down on your monthly bills.
Encourage a Balanced Diet
Encouraging hydration and healthy eating in the office is important no matter what time of year it is. Drinking water and eating fruit throughout the day can help staff complete more work, keep the brain active, reduce the becoming sick, combat tiredness and much more. Promoting a good diet among your staff is especially important during the warmest months of the year.
Many offices will have vending machines filled with soft drinks and snacks for when hunger or thirst take over. These can actually have a negative effect. The high content of sugar in candy may provide a temporary burst of energy but employees may later burn out. Similarly, most soft drinks contain sodium, which will draw water from body cells and increase dehydration.
Consider the benefits of installing a water cooler to make sure fresh, cool water is instantly accessible to your staff. Also, provide some free fruit which can increase productivity by more than 10 per cent for every working day.
Dress Code: Business Casual
Offices where smart attire is enforced may witness an even greater slump in productivity during the summer months. As clothing like suit jackets and trousers gather more warmth, comfort and concentration are likely to lapse. During the height of summer, productivity may be restored by allowing members of staff to come into work in casual clothing. Similarly, Leader Live reported that working relationships, staff morale and performance all increase when staff are able to work in their own attire.