Fears of future summer heatwaves may make it harder for companies to lure their staff back into the workplace unless they take measures to make their premises more comfortable, a Derby workplace technology company has warned.
Scenariio, which is based in Siddals Road, says following the hottest June on record and predictions of more scorching summers to come, the issue of staff comfort during heatwaves has become an immediate challenge for employers.
The warning follows the Met Office’s recent announcement that last June was the hottest on record, with raised average temperatures throughout the month and one or two unusually hot days.
Climate change experts say the situation is only ever going to get worse, with extreme daytime temperatures of 40C – the hottest temperature recorded in the UK in July last year – set to become a common occurrence in Britain by 2050.
While this has serious implications for wildlife and vulnerable people, it could also make summer uncomfortable for employees who are required to work at their company’s premises each day.
A study by the UK Green Building Council found 80% of the buildings that will serve as workplaces in the UK in 2050 have already been built and so may lack the measures needed to keep them cool during heatwaves.
However, Scenariio’s technical director George Pritchard says this is already becoming a serious issue for employees who already sweltering at their desks during heatwaves or desperately seeking cool spots at work.
This in turn makes summers a difficult time for employers, with high temperatures linked to lower wellbeing, lower productivity, health issues including dizziness and migraines and more staff preferring to work at home – or calling in sick.
Although regular summer temperatures of 40C may still be some years away, George says we are still experiencing more and more unusually hot days, so employers should already be putting in measures to keep temperatures under control.
This can be achieved by fitting window blinds and issuing relaxed dress codes, or by installing technology such as sensors measuring air quality, humidity, occupancy levels and temperatures, all of which can automatically control air conditioning units or air purifiers.
George said: “2050 may be some way off, but it’s very clear that extreme temperatures are already a part of our British summer and we know they’re having a direct effect on people’s comfort, their wellbeing and productivity in the workplace.
“We aren’t used to these temperatures in this country and our buildings certainly weren’t designed accordingly, which means they can become intolerably hot during the summer.
“This could jeopardise companies’ efforts to get people back into the workplace after COVID, so employers really need to take measures now to ensure they’re comfortable places to work.”
One of the benefits of smart building technology is how it can help building owners and operators to better understand how occupants move around the workplace, with all the information available to view on an easy-to-understand dashboard.
George added: “There is plenty of technology that can help, including sensors which can monitor workplaces to show owners where the hotspots are and where staff are congregating to keep cool.
“This information can help them to understand their premises better so that they can take steps such as redesigning their layout to ensure coming into work during the summer isn’t a miserable experience and their employees would rather avoid.”
These measures will be explored when Scenariio hosts its first-ever Workplace Technology Conference in September at the Chocolate Factory in Siddals Road, a free event designed for IT and real estate professionals.
A number of companies have already signed up to appear, including event partners, network infrastructure firm Commscope and smartengine by wtec, while guest speakers will discuss issues such as the importance of technology planning and putting technology at the heart of sustainability.