Flooding, blizzards, storms. These are perhaps the type of events that first spring to mind when we think of adverse weather, but conditions on the other end of the scale can also have a major impact. So as the UK experiences its hottest day of the year so far, we need to consider what effect this could have on our organizations.
Of course there will be many businesses that love this weather – beer gardens will be thriving, as will ice cream sellers, supermarkets will experience a spike in the sales of barbecue equipment, and garden centres will be enjoying a roaring trade. But for many organizations, a heatwave can be extremely disruptive.
A study by the Charles Darwin University in Australia last year estimated that the impact caused by heat stress in the workplace was costing the Australian economy AUS$6.9 billion each year. And it's not just those working outside that are affected by the heat, the study found that indoor workers were impacted as much as outdoor workers. In total, 70% of respondents to their survey stated that heat stress reduced their productivity at work.
So how could your organization prepare for a heatwave?
First of all you need to think about the health aspects, especially when you consider that the 2003 heatwave cost the lives of almost 70,000 across Europe, and put an enormous strain on healthcare services. While your staff may be fit and healthy, and therefore not considered 'at risk', high temperatures can still take their toll. Ensure your staff have a comfortable working environment with cooling measures in place such as air conditioning or fans, and encourage staff to keep hydrated. Make sure there is a plentiful supply of drinking water.
Transport infrastructure can also become disrupted as rail tracks buckle, flights are unable to take off and roads begin to melt etc, so it may be worth considering whether staff need to travel, or could more flexible arrangements be put in place that allow them to work elsewhere.
As the office heats up, so could the IT infrastructure. Make sure that you have effective arrangements in place to keep all your IT equipment below the temperature that could stop it working. Ideally your servers should be kept in a temperature controlled environment. Turn off any equipment that could generate heat if it is not needed.
The UK has experienced 14 of the 15 hottest years on record since 2000, so this isn’t a problem that is going to go away any time soon. Organizations need to prepare themselves for the likelihood of a heatwave, and more importantly prepare themselves for the consequence of such an event.
Andrew Scott is the Senior Communications Manager at the Business Continuity Institute who joined after a brief stint working as the Press Officer for a national health charity. Prior to that he had over ten years at the Ministry of Defence working in a number of roles including communications and business continuity. During this time he also completed a Masters in Public Relations at the University of Stirling. Andrew took his CBCI exam in November 2014 and passed with merit.