How to survive the office in a heatwave

With temperatures set to soar over the next few days, we’re sharing our top tips for keeping cool in the office during a heatwave.

Offices are heating up

This week, an amber weather warning for extreme heat was issued, with some parts of the UK expected to be close to 40C early next week. In fact, it’s possible that the all-time UK record of 38.7C recorded in Cambridge in July 2019 could be surpassed.

Unfortunately, for workers, there’s no legally defined maximum temperature for offices, so many of us will be braving our workplace in the heat. Others may choose to work from home – but without air con working conditions may be difficult there too.

Fan on desk

Staying cool in the office

While these extreme temperatures are far from ideal, try not to worry too much about the week ahead. Wherever you’re working, there are lots of tips and tricks you can try to keep yourself cool and comfortable. We share our favourites below:

1. Dress smart

No, we don’t mean don a full suit! We mean think smartly about the pieces and fabrics you choose to wear in the heat. Natural fibres such as linen, cotton and silk are your allies in warm weather, as are loose fitting garments. Shorts are a great option for men and women. If you’re worried that they’re a bit too casual for your workplace, keep an eye out for tailored options or shorts that are cut just above the knee which tend to look a little smarter.

Finding the right footwear is key as our bodies use our hands and feet to regulate our temperature. Ditch your socks if you can and choose shoes that let a bit of air in, such as sandals. Like shorts, there are some office-friendly options out there. If appropriate, you could also consider kicking your shoes off entirely. Working from home? No one will know! And if you’re in the office, you can keep it discreet by tucking your feet neatly under your desk.

If your office culture requires a dress code, why not ask your employer if they’d consider relaxing the requirements during the hot weather. Small changes – like not having to wear a tie or a particular part of a uniform – can make a huge difference.

Going barefoot in the heat

2. Control your environment

It can sometimes seem impossible to control your environment in a heatwave but there are things that you can do that you might not have even considered.

Firstly, switch on fans and air conditioners but also make sure you keep curtains and blinds closed to block out sunlight. This will really help to keep workplace temperatures manageable.   If there’s a breeze, opening windows may help. But often in a heatwave, the air outside is hotter than the air inside so consider this move carefully. Windows can be opened in an evening if required when temperatures drop.

Another top tip is to unplug any devices you are not using. Even something as small as a smartphone charger can produce heat and increase the room temperature. Have a quick scan of your office or home and unplug any electronics you’re not using.

3. Stay hydrated

NHS guidance states that we should drink six to eight glasses of water a day on an average day. So, it goes without saying that more water will be needed when it’s hot.

Importantly, don’t wait until you feel thirsty – by then you are already dehydrated. Keep sipping water throughout the day to keep your body temperature regulated. Pop a jug of water in the office fridge for an extra refreshing drink.

It might sound obvious but also think carefully about the food you choose for lunch. Avoid anything that needs heating up in an oven, stove or microwave and opt for foods that don’t require much effort to digest. Sadly chocolate, donuts and muffins are off the menu as a lot of water is needed by the body to metabolise these foods! Eating food with a high water content can also help you to stay hydrated. Cucumber, apple and watermelon are great options.

Stay hydrated in warm weather

4. Be flexible

Hot weather is a time when flexible working really comes in to its own! If you’re able to work flexibly why not adjust your working hours so you’re not at your desk during the hottest hours of the day. Start early and take a break during the middle of the day. Catch up with your hours in the evening when the sun starts to drop.

If this isn’t an option for you, try to take regular breaks. Leave your desk at regular intervals and take the opportunity to grab a drink or an ice cream. Some employees may be more adversely affected by the hot weather such as the pregnant women or those on medication. If you struggle in the heat, talk to your employer about the adjustments you might need.

Keeping safe – in the office and out

If you’re concerned about the heat, take a look at the NHS and Met Office website for advice on how to stay safe in warm weather. Keep an eye on vulnerable colleagues, family members and friends and if you have to go out in the heat make sure you’re wearing sunscreen and have plenty of water with you.

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