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How the heatwave is impacting productivity

The heatwaves in the UK, US and across Europe are already creating transportation chaos and public health threats, and with temperatures hitting record highs, productivity levels are also taking a hit. Research from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information suggests that overall output drops by 2% for every degree over 25 Celsius and it is estimated that in 2017, 153 billion hours of labour were lost compared to 2000, as a result of the hot weather.

A report from the International Labour Organization estimates that in 2030, 2.2% of total working hours worldwide will be lost because of higher temperatures. In addition, growing heat stress on workers in agriculture and other sectors will cause a productivity loss equal to 80 million full-time jobs over the next decade. An increase in heat stress at work linked to climate change is set to have a significant impact on global productivity and economic losses, and whilst workers in all sectors will see their productivity drop when the mercury climbs, agriculture and construction will feel it the most.

Creating a suitable work environment

It appears that by 2026 the hot days in London could cost the city 1.7 billion pounds per year in gross value added, according to the London School of Economics. The hot weather can have strong effects on how productive we are, with heat stress causing a drop in concentration, fatigue and nausea. Without a suitable work environment and conditions, people are highly likely to be tired and lack motivation and creativity.

As officially recommended by the Trades Union Congress, employers should allow staff to work flexibly and have relaxed dress code during the heatwave. The union warned that hot workplaces could lead to loss of concentration, an increase in the likelihood of accidents and medical issues including fainting.

Allowing people to be able to travel at different times or work from home means a less stressful commute and more productive time spent on tasks. Leaders should also encourage their teams to take regular breaks and step outside to get some fresh air to regain focus. Over half of workers in the UK don’t take a lunch break they are entitled to, however, during the hot days it is even more important to step away from work to help increase productivity in the afternoon.

Keeping up team motivation

In addition to creating work conditions where employees can work comfortably even in rising temperatures, leaders need to maintain their focus on inspiring motivation and performance. Leaders have responsibility for fostering a positive workplace culture and active listening to address stress factors their teams are experiencing, irrespective of the weather. Authentic leaders who communicate expectations, responsibilities and performance goals with their teams and collaborate with them to ensure that they are clear and aligned, can prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed and demotivated.

Lack of productivity during the heatwave can be managed by adjusting the leadership style and work conditions, to create an environment that empowers employees to feel and perform their best. At Acumen we design and deliver tailored leadership development programmes to equip your leaders with the best skills and practices to develop a healthy and motivated work environment. For more information, please contact Simon at

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