03 Aug Looking after your people in the heat
In our earlier article on the new corporate governance code we highlighted the renewed emphasis being placed on fostering effective relationships with employees. In particular we highlighted board responsibility for setting in place policies and practices which both reinforce a healthy culture and lead to strong levels of workforce engagement.
Some of those policies and practices may well remain in place for some considerable time. However, there are occasions when organisations may need to be more flexible in order to respond to changing internal or external conditions. One such example came up recently in a post on the CBI website. Highlighting the ongoing hot weather being experienced across the country, the CBI is encouraging employers to be flexible in order to help their employees to stay comfortable during the heatwave.
Although we have since seen odd downpours, at the time of writing the temperature remains relatively high and with a return to above average temperatures being forecast by the Met Office towards the end of August, this advice may remain pertinent for some time. Measures suggested by the CBI include introducing flexible working to help commuters, relaxing the dress code, and ensuring that people have easy access to drinking water.
In making those suggestions the CBI acknowledge that “a common sense approach is needed, as some employees will have less flexibility than others, for example those wearing safety equipment on construction sites.” Nevertheless, in highlighting the importance of looking after employees in extreme weather CBI does raise an important point. And here we hark back to an article in June in which we reported on the Environmental Audit Committee’s call for there to be greater disclosure in respect of climate change risk.
One area which we did not cover in that article was any potential risks which may arise from the impact of adverse weather conditions on employees. When we draw up business continuity plans and look at risk mitigation it is easy to consider what may happen should employees be prevented from travelling to their workplace thanks to snow or flooding. What is perhaps less appreciated is the impact which above-average temperatures may have on employee performance. For example, being unable to sleep properly in the heat could lead to a range of issues including lapses in concentration or being short tempered. This in turn can lead to increased wastage, the deterioration in internal and external relationships and in extreme cases the delivery of a faulty product.
So when the CBI is suggesting that employers look after their people we aren’t simply talking about some kind of ‘nice to have’ message. Quite simply, your people sit at the heart of profitability and reputation. How you treat them in the end reflects how others see the organisation and its culture.