By Sally Writes
Is it really possible that employee engagement and performance can be affected by temperature and humidity, and what role does HR play in this? In accordance with other workplace environment factors, such as health and safety, leadership, benefits, and Employee Assistance Programmes, it seems that the weather could be responsible for affecting engagement. With over four hundred million workers in India, it often falls to HR to initiate and maintain a healthy working environment.
Whose responsibility is health and safety at work?
Some large companies may have specified individuals, or Facilities departments, who are responsible for physical aspects of the workplace. However, often the HR department will be expected to ensure health and safety in relation to working hours, sick leave, maternity leave and even desk and computer set up. It is important to establish health and safety procedures and policies which should be communicated to all new starters. Workers in India are protected by the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 which provides benefits for a variety of issues including workplace injury and it’s vital that the workplace, regardless of whether it’s a factory or office, is safe. It’s not up to HR to physically make repairs, but they do need to work with the business or building owners to ensure safety.
Does the weather really matter?
Factors within the workplace such as temperature and humidity can affect health and performance and again it is important that HR work with the business owners to ensure that temperatures are at the right level. Some countries have workplace temperature limits and guidelines, especially for outdoor working, but there is no set global agreed workplace temperature. A study into temperature in schools suggested that higher and lower classroom temperatures had a negative impact on attention levels compared to neutral temperature classrooms. Whether the study is evidence enough, it is known that severe heat can cause irritability, lack of concentration, dizziness, headaches and stomach cramps due to a lack of salt or water in our bodies. Clearly, these side effects do not provide an ideal working environment.
Humidity is also a factor in workplace performance and engagement, as high humidity can cause tiredness, heatstroke and it has been suggested that there is a link between humidity and asthma attacks. A study in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported workers who worked in a very humid factory suffered from severe mental stress as opposed to those who worked in a factory with average humidity and suffered moderate stress levels, highlighting the possible effects of humidity on mental health.
A home or workplace weather station is an effective way to monitor exact weather, temperature, and humidity. Such weather stations will give exact details of all aspects of the weather in the workplace. So whether you are a homeworker, or are responsible for a workplace for others, then is it worth investing in a weather station to enable the correct management for the weather and for optimal workplace performance and engagement.
Whatever the workplace environment, it is important that HR understand the health and safety aspects of the workplace so that procedures can be put in place to manage and review this. It seems that employee mental or physical health can be adversely affected by extreme temperature or humidity, which again need to be reviewed and managed effectively where possible. By managing such factors the workplace environment should improve which in turn should reduce absence and turnover and improve employee performance and engagement.