There's no doubt about it. Australia can be a scorching hot place to work. And with temperatures routinely topping 30 degrees Celsius in the summer months, this poses some important challenges for Aussie employers and their teams. But what can be done to minimise the effects of heat stress in the workplace?
On one hand, businesses can create retail premises or offices that are adapted to keep clients and workers cool. But aside from smart architecture and design, there are plenty of cheaper ways to ensure that your staff are productive when the temperature soars, from scheduling appropriate breaks to buying the right workwear for your employees to use.
Be proactive about breaks
First off, businesses need to establish some clear guidelines about how staff can work in the heat. Here it's definitely worth learning from the workers themselves, and the ACTU have prepared some handy guidelines to keep staff safe in extreme heat.
According to the trade union body, best practice is to mandate breaks of 10 minutes per hour when the temperature is between 30-32 Celsius, 20 mins from 32-34 degrees, 30 mins between 34-36 degrees and a total work cut-off if the heat rises above 36 degrees.
Use smart work scheduling
Another strategy which makes sense in Australia's climate is to schedule physically demanding or heat-generating activities for cooler parts of the day. So, if you need to organise a team to move earth or plant saplings, use the cooler morning hours and leave the rest of the day free for administrative work or planning.
The problem with this is that during periods of intense heat, the window of opportunity is relatively short. However, instead of extending work into the baking hot afternoon, try to plan workloads more effectively to make the most of the cooler hours. It's much better than sustaining absences from heat stress or lower productivity.
Kit out employees with the right workwear
Finally, pay some attention to what your staff are wearing. Modern workwear comes in a vast spectrum of different materials and styles, and there are plenty of manufacturers who specialise in hot weather attire.
Ventilated short-sleeved cotton shirts could be perfect for light manufacturing or client-facing posts, while in factories or construction jobs you can purchase workwear which actively wicks perspiration away from the skin, allowing staff to cool off more quickly while enhancing their comfort.
Heat stress isn't a small issue. In fact, it costs Aussie businesses around A$7 billion every year. So it makes sense to take action to keep your workers comfortable and productive and doing so doesn't have to cost the earth.