How to Keep your Business Cool in UK Heatwaves

While warm weather means fun in the sun for some, it doesn’t stop us Brits from complaining about how hot and bothered we are the minute the mercury starts to climb. And with UK temperatures breaking Met Office records again this year, if you run a business it won’t just be you that’s feeling the heat – there’s your team and your customers to think about, too.

Working in temperatures over 26°C can be more than just uncomfortable. According to the government’s Health and Safety Executive, thermal discomfort hinders productivity and alertness, and may even pose a health risk. People who feel uncomfortably hot are more likely to make poor decisions, behave unsafely at work and are at greater risk of heat stress.

Hot weather can be bad for your bottom line, too. Research carried out by the United Nations on a large sample of private and public companies in the EU and the UK showed a profit margin decrease of approximately 0.16% for a one-degree increase in temperature above 25°C.

Of course you can’t change the temperature outside. But with our tips, you can help your business escape the sweltering heat, so you can all keep cool and carry on working throughout the UK summer.

1. Consider investing in air-con

Summer turning your business premises into an oven? If you thought an electricity-guzzling air conditioning system was always going to be out of your price range, you may be surprised. These days there are some very reasonably-priced options available that won’t lead to sky-high energy bills.

Take evaporative air coolers, for example. Slimline and portable, they offer much more cooling power than fans, don’t need to be vented out of a window like an air-conditioning unit and, while prices vary, you can pick one up a mid-range model for less than £100.

2. Be strategic with your windows

Heat enters a building in two ways: solar radiation from the sun and hot air. Ideally, you want to minimise both. Close all blinds or curtains in sunny rooms, but don’t leap up to open the windows or you’ll just be bringing the hot air in.

The rule is, if the outside air temperature is hotter than the air inside, keep your windows shut. But like all good rules, there is an exception. Upstairs rooms in the sun will always be warmer than rooms downstairs in the shade. Heat rises, creating a pressure difference and a cooling breeze if you’re clever. Open one window in a downstairs shady area and one window upstairs in the sun and you’ll force the warm air up and outside.

3. Grab a mop

You might not need air conditioning at all if you take a tip from property expert Kevin McCloud. Talking to the Radio Times, the presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs thinks we should make like the locals in Italian hilltop villages, who douse the pavements outside their homes with buckets of cold water to keep inside temperatures down.

He says, “They’re not doing it to keep clean. The water evaporates. To do so it draws energy from its immediate environment. So, sun heats water, water evaporates off, stone becomes cool. Air passing over stone into house becomes cool.”

To get the same cooling effect in your own business premises, Kevin advises you to mop the floors in the morning, without drying the water off. Just leave it there to slowly evaporate in the heat and you’ll soon notice a difference in temperatures.

4. Get some shade

Floor-to-ceiling glass walls and windows are great for making your working space look light, bright and airy. The other thing they’re good at? Turning your office into a greenhouse.

Reflective window film can redirect solar energy away, but that’s not the only way to keep things cool. All you really need is some shade, and there are plenty of effective, inexpensive and temporary ways to get it.

Trees provide natural shading and cooling, but if you can’t wait 30 years for your acorns to sprout, there are other, more immediate hacks you can try. Strategically placed gazebos can turn office sun traps into blissfully cool areas to work indoors, while making shady places to gather under for staff breaks outside. Quick and easy to assemble, they’re available from any large hardware store.

If certain areas of your business premises do catch the sun more than others, it might just be time to explore more flexible ways of working. Consider a hot-desking arrangement that lets staff move around your office space more freely to keep everyone firing on all cylinders throughout the day.

5. Keep staff hydrated

Watercooler moments aren’t just good for staff morale. Adequate hydration is a vital way to keep your team cool and alert during a heatwave.

Make sure your staff have access to a plentiful supply of cold drinking water so they can quickly cool themselves down and maintain a comfortable temperature.

Contact sales

Contact our sales team to learn more about how Square could help your business.

6. Get creative with ice

Water machines that also make ice can be another weapon in your war against heat. Filling hot water bottles with crushed ice makes a portable and generously large ice pack that employees can carry with them. Due to the thermal properties of the bottle’s design, it will stay cool for hours.

Bowls of ice placed near desk fans can also be used to help to generate cold air. Rather than moving existing warm air around the room, the ice will cool the air circulated by the fan, working to cool the entire room down.

7. Relax the dress code

Your staff may look smart in corporate attire, or in a uniform of matching black polo shirts, but they might be too hot and bothered to work at their best.

Dark colours absorb more energy from the sun, while tight-fitting clothes don’t allow extra space for air to circulate around the skin, raising body temperature. Uniforms made of manmade fibres can be particularly problematic, as they don’t allow the skin to breathe. Light, breathable and loose-fitting clothes are the way to go, so make staff aware they can wear more comfortable clothing during summer months wherever and whenever that’s appropriate.

8. Go unplugged

Electrical items such as computers, printers and laptops generate lots of heat. This might be inevitable with the nature of your business, but you can still make an effort to switch off non-crucial devices such as display screens, photocopiers or the office microwave. Replacing light bulbs with LEDs will also give off less heat.

Even switching off phone chargers can make a noticeable difference. In 2020, researchers from ZDNet tested a wireless charger with a thermal camera. When an iPhone 11 Pro Max was charging, the device reached 32°C, heating the surrounding air to 20°C.

9. Adjust working hours

If you can’t adjust the environment, adjust the working hours. Flexible working is well known for creating a happier, more productive workforce all year round. But during a heatwave, it comes into its own, allowing for more comfortable commutes and working from home when temperatures are unbearable.

But for outdoor workers, flexible working in a heatwave can even be a lifesaver. By allowing your employees to down tools during the hottest part of the day, they are less exposed to the harmful UV rays that can lead to skin cancer.

Contact sales

Contact our sales team to learn more about how Square could help your business.