How much thought have you given to the effects of climate change on your office? If you’re like most employers, the answer is probably not that much. But that might begin to change, and soon. Employers are likely going to start seeing the effect of changes in weather patterns on their employee’s health and productivity, and their purse strings.
One of the most noticeable consequences of climate change is extreme weather. This includes both high heat and low temperatures that are out of the norm, or that last much longer than previous trends. Both extreme high and low temperatures create problems for the workplace in the following ways:
Sick-building syndrome and office staff
Sick-building syndrome is used to describe what happens when older buildings become ill-equipped to manage the outside temperatures/inside conditions in order to keep employees safe. For example, if buildings experience a lot of moisture-retention because of increased precipitation outside, excessive mold can become a problem. To further the problem, the increased use of cleaning products and poor ventilation systems further place strain on the building’s ability to provide clean air for occupants.
Once employees return to the office post-pandemic, it may be tempting for employers to limit the amount of square footage their offices use in order to save costs on air conditioning and rent. However, that temptation could put employees at risk for developing respiratory issues and/or experiencing mental fatigue, both of which will lessen their productivity and quality of life. It’s a better idea for employers to look for real estate that can support a safe workspace or invest in upgrades to existing space, if possible.
Heat stress and the outside office
If your employees work outside, it’s important to start immediately providing them with more resources to combat extreme heat, such as access to clean drinking water, clothing options that keep body temperatures down, and of course sunscreen. It may also be necessary to limit outside activity to hours of the day that are cooler, such as the early morning. If workers are exposed to heat for long periods of time, they may be subject to heat stress injuries such as heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heat stroke. Make sure supervisors are trained to recognize heat-induced injuries and take complaints seriously.
It’s still too early to know the full extent of how climate change will affect the workplace but we do know it’s an issue to take serious right away and that keeping up on how to keep your employees safe from environmental strain is of upmost importance. If you’re not quite sure where to start in making a plan, we invite you to reach out to us and learn how Eos HR can help. We’re a team of HR professionals helping small businesses navigate the multitude of recent changes to labor laws. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.
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