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Working in the Heat and Managing Hay Fever - sanity and safety tips from the ILFM!

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Summer has arrived at last and the ILFM have top tips on how to stay cool whether you're working from home or the office.

Working from home challenges concentration on the best of days, never mind the surge of hot weather we’ve had recently. It is important to look after yourself to prevent heat stress injuries and the most serious injury, heat stroke.

It may seem obvious, but staying hydrated is key, it’s recommended to drink at least a litre of water throughout the day, in the heat it is advised to drink even more. As professionals at work, it’s tempting to continue to rely on coffee to keep us going throughout the day, however, in the heat caffeine is possibly the worst substance to rely on! It can cause severe dehydration and headaches which is not feasible when working in the heat.

A reminder that compliance and anti-money laundering vigilance is paramount, criminals don’t bother with sun bathing!

ACAS advice for working in the heat

It’s really important to listen to advice whilst working in the heat; at the ILFM we protect our employees and their health is paramount to us as a “team”. We therefore look to ACAS for advice and the Chief Executive, Susan Clews, for her top tips to employers to ensure their business is productive during the heatwave, whilst protecting staff too.

Susan brings to light that

 “certain workers may be adversely affected by the extreme heat, such as pregnant women and elderly employees”.

This is crucial for employers to consider as we have many members of staff that have been loyal to us for a number of years, and therefore, because of their age, may be more at risk in the hot weather. Therefore employers should allow them more rest breaks and suitable ventilation and cooling to prevent any complications from the heat. We all have our own body copy mechanisms so if someone you work with looks like they’re struggling, bring it to the attention of your HR or practice manager. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies!

Firstly, if you are wanting employees to come into office space, it’s important to keep the temperature cool enough to be able to work inside, especially if staff require it to be so. This can be done by switching on fans or air conditioning to keep the temperature comfortable for employees to work in. In addition to the temperature itself, blocking out sunlight is important where it’s hindering work. Nothing more irritating than a blinding light shining on a screen especially when ensuring numbers are being balanced!

If you're working outside, it might seem a no-brainer, but please use sunscreen to protect from sunburn and other harmful complications and try to work indoors between 11 to 2pm as the sun is intense then.

Dress code is hard to balance because as employers, we want our staff to look presentable and professional, but when a heatwave strikes this can often become compromising. We totally understand that many law firms still consider that dressing a certain way gives off an air of professionalism and therefore expect all their departments to dress accordingly; so check with your manager, or HR Director if you’re at the office about what is acceptable.  If you’re at home then just be aware of Zoom calls and attire!  #

The ILFM isn’t saying that if you are an employer you should relax dress code requirements, but where you can, you at the very least could consider relaxing the rules for wearing suits and ties, or dresses with jackets. Flip Flops….now that’s another debate!

Working from home - do you get distracted by the sun?

Unfortunately working from a pool isn’t so professional whilst having your daily finance call on zoom - although we all would like it to be! So, how to stop procrastinating in the sun and concentrate on your work? Take much shorter breaks but more frequently - instead of taking the whole lunch break at once, it’s much more productive when working from home to take breaks little and often.

As covid restrictions ease, you can choose how to work best, whether that’s returning to a ‘totally office-based structure, paring back on office space or adopting a hybrid architecture’, says Deborah Witkiss, our colleague at Insight Legal.

Driving to work? Is your car cared for?

The hot weather is great for fun outside, but not so great when you’re commuting to work in stacks of traffic on the motorway or trundling along in the rush hour. Many of us don’t have an automatic with great air con.

The AA provides easy tips to keep everyone cool on their commute. One of these tips is to wear thin shoes with a flexible sole in order to grip the pedals, our feet can get a bit sweaty (nice) and slipping because of this could cause accidents, so it’s important to drive in the right footwear.Never, ever wear flip flops when driving.

The positives of a normal working day is that the commute in the morning will be during the cooler times of the day, alleviating any chance of your car resembling a greenhouse at that time!

Always travel with a fresh water supply - you may need to use the bathroom more, but you’d rather that than passing out!

Public Transport and Commuting

If you require your fabulous employees to commute back to the office, please be considerate of travel times because public transport is affected by the hot weather plus there are still so many people off work owing to Covid, this all has an impact of getting to work on time and stress free.

As the ILFM and many of our member firms and legal firms in general, move into a hybrid working environment, it’s important to consider how working in the office really is, because it could compromise your employees’ health at the cost of merely being in the “official” working environment. You probably all know that my team at the ILFM are my priority so I’ve adopted a hybrid approach in office working, in the office on the days we need to be for various reasons, whilst working from home at other times. Some of our  tutors and EC continue to work from home as it best suits them.

When considering which working structure to adopt, I’d advise any HR Director, Practice Manager, or Senior Partner that it’s crucial to listen and take on board how best your employees work during these circumstances. Heat and covid is a weird and challenging mixture!

Rain, Heat and Pollen

So we finally get the summer we’ve all been waiting for…now the rain comes! The rain doesn’t offer relief from the heat, just gives us super muggy weather which creates a worse environment to work in!  When the rain comes it’s easy to forget to stay on top of hydration, but as we at ILFM encourage, staying hydrated is the key to working in hot conditions.

As if heat isn’t enough, how about sneezing every few seconds?!

As per Allergy UK, hay fever affects 10-30% of the population making it an issue amongst many of us in our working conditions. The Met Office confirms pollen count has been higher than ever this year due to heavy rainfall in Spring; the current heatwave has caused this build up of pollen to be released, making it much harder for us employees to carry on working whilst sneezing, itching our eyes, having headaches and much more. Throw hayfever into the mix with VAT and SRA updates, double ledger workings, balance sheet problems, clients complaining and fee earners struggling - it makes a day’s work super challenging.

Dr Naveen Puri at Bupa Health Clinics has confirmed that due to increased time spent indoors because of lockdown, it means we, as a nation, have lost some immunity to hay fever because we have not been exposed to as much pollen. We can’t win.

So, what to do?

Hay fever is most commonly treated by over the counter medicines such as antihistamine tablets, sprays and eye drops. However, whilst working at home, we encourage closing windows, showering regularly and washing clothes consistently to remove excess pollen. It’s difficult to work inside in heat like we’re experiencing, but exposure to grass in your garden can make hay fever symptoms worse, so consider using a fan indoors to alleviate this.

Reminder of our top tips for keeping cool at work

Hydration, hydration, hydration.

No matter whether you are working from home or in the office, when the weather is this hot it’s important to drink water so you don’t let heat complications get the better of you!

Know yourself and your employer/employees and maximize productivity by altering working conditions to suit the relevant colleagues.

That’s why our members love the ILFM, it’s overall support and chat, yes of course we love to train and qualify our members, but you know, sometimes it’s just the general “life” we work in that we can also help with.

If you’d like to talk about ILFM membership, get in touch with our team to work out a plan that’s flexible for you.