Hot sunny weather can hit productivity and sickness absence.
We asked absence management expert Adrian Lewis from welsh HR software firm Activ Absence for his tips on keeping staff engaged when the temperature goes up.
“The good weather can impact on productivity and sickness absence – but it doesn’t have to.
“Effective planning, good preparation and the ability to ‘go with the flow’ a bit can go a long way to increasing the ‘feel good’ factor and can even provide a useful opportunity to re-engage staff.”
Here’s Adrian’s tips for how managers and HRs can maintain both attendance and performance in warmer weather:
1. Avoid falling victim to the ‘maximum temperature myths’ by knowing the facts! We’ve all heard them from time to time – ‘if it goes above 25 degrees you are supposed to send us home’! The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 says that your employer must maintain a reasonable temperature where you work, but it does not specify a maximum temperature. There is, however a minimum temperature of 16°C, or 13°C if your work involves considerable physical activity.
2. Plan ahead! A lot of businesses don’t test their fans and air conditioning until a hot spell arrives – how do you know they will still work if they have been stored since last summer? Smart bosses will have tested them in February or March ready for a warm summer.
3. When the mercury rises, be aware you could receive a sudden increase in annual leave requests. Whilst being fair, it is important to maintain essential cover. Our automated system will allow you to set triggers and restrict leave for key personnel, but if you are using spreadsheets just make sure your human ‘holiday planner’ is aware of business needs, and keeps other team members informed. The last thing you need is a large delivery arriving with nobody working in your warehouse to unpack it!
4. In hot weather, it is important to make sure your staff have access to cold drinks – hydration is important so consider giving staff extra breaks to rehydrate if they are not allowed to drink at their desk, or consider relaxing that rule for water.
5. Even where image is important, relaxing the dress code a little in hot weather will make staff more comfortable, think about short sleeved shirts and no ties – customers will understand as they will be warm too!
6. However, employers cannot unfortunately compromise with PPE. Where safety permits, allowing sandals or flip-flops in offices will be appreciated by staff – but bear in mind that in some environments, this may create a health and safety hazard. Protective eyewear, too can be a problem in the warmer weather. Despite 90% of eye injuries being preventable by PPE, researchers found that 24% of staff will remove eye protection if it is uncomfortable. Prescription PPE eyewear will significantly increase comfort, and the cost is far lower than sickness absence or reduced productivity. Removing PPE in warm weather isn’t an option, so where PPE has to be worn in warm weather, think about offering additional breaks for staff to cool off.
7. Senior leaders should think about pre-approving small gestures from line managers to motivate their teams. Give them a small budget, enough to cover say canned drinks, strawberries or ice cream for the team now and again – those little gestures go a long way and will be really appreciated.
8. Have some sympathy for hay fever sufferers, who may struggle and sniffle through summer. This could impact on productivity, as well as increasing sickness absence. Employers can help by making sure that the environment is kept as dust free as possible, with regular cleaning. It is also important to encourage staff to seek medical attention if you notice the problem getting worse – it may not be ‘just hay fever’. Finally, for hay fever sufferers expected to wear PPE goggles, having to wear goggles over normal eyewear could be the final straw of discomfort that leads them to either remove their eyewear or phone in sick.
9. Warm weather will generally increase the risk of sickness absence. Not only are staff much happier to stay home in the sun, they also spend their weekends getting sunburned, and there is an increase in car accidents in warm weather. Managers should handle summer sickness absence in line with your absence management policies and make sure that your absence processes are visibly fair. Don’t just assume everyone is an absentee, but equally do what you can to reinforce your sickness absence policies and treat all levels of staff equally.
10. Flexible working arrangements are another way to improve productivity. Offering flexible start and finish times will help staff avoid stifling heat while commuting at busier times. Why not allow home working for those staff who are able? If, however, you do this, make sure everyone is aware of who is working, where and when and make sure sickness absence and staff holiday is still both accrued and deducted for remote workers.
Overall, there is much that managers can do to harness the sunshine feel-good factor and help staff enjoy the warm weather.
Engagement is the key – keeping staff happy and more productive offers a win/win for employers and employees.