Author: Elizabeth Bennett

How will extreme temperatures and heatwaves change how we work?

Source(s): British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

As record heat descends across the world, changing weather stands to shake up work as we know it.

Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization recorded the hottest week on record. The scorching temperatures have not abated as heatwaves continue in Europe, North America, Asia, North Africa and more.


Working indoors and out

Workplace changes will generally be divided into two categories, say experts.

The first is outdoor and non-cooled environments – such as agriculture or manufacturing – in which high temperatures are not controlled. In 2022 a Madrid street-sweeper died from heat stroke after working in extreme temperatures. Accordingly, academics say some of the biggest changes will likely happen in these types of work environments, to protect workers.


The role of employers 

Employers may also introduce new measures for workers.

Soomro says some employers are conducting periodic heat-risk assessments to identify some of the groups most vulnerable to spiking temperatures, including the aging workforce, pregnant people and employees with disabilities. “These people can then be given allowances and additional leverages when they need it," he says. He expects more employers will begin to carry out these checks as extreme heat persists.


A July 2023 report from University of Oxford highlighted an  “unprecedented surge in cooling demand”. Their research indicated that the energy required for cooling by 2050 is predicted to be equivalent to the combined electricity capacity of the United States, European Union and Japan in 2016. The research also shows locations unaccustomed to extreme hot weather were the most unprepared with the analysis – the most affected countries include Ireland, the UK and Finland.


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