Heatwaves put a strain on labor productivity, a study shows – rts.ch

A study by ETHZ and MeteoSwiss, published in the Sunday newspaper, shows that Switzerland loses around 400 million francs a year in productivity losses as a result of heat waves. That’s twice as much as seasonal flu.

Last Friday, the thermometer broke records for the month of May in several Swiss regions. In Delémont it was 32.1 degrees, in Bad Ragaz (SG) 33.7 degrees. The same heat wave also hit Western Europe, particularly France and Italy, hard. India is also experiencing an unprecedented heatwave.

>> Read about this: Heat record set for a month of May in Visp, Switzerland

If these more-than-summer temperatures have made swimmers happy this week, it’s different for companies. In fact, work efficiency in construction sites, factories and offices decreases when it is too hot. According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), when doing heavy outdoor work, performance already drops from 23 degrees. The limit is higher in offices: Seco estimates that you should be able to work efficiently up to 31 degrees.

Serious consequences

However, studies show a drop in performance from 26 degrees, reports the Sunday newspaper. And when temperatures get extreme, the consequences are even more significant. For example, in the 1940s, the British Navy found that Morse coders made more than ten times as many errors when the temperature reached 40 degrees.

If the current heat waves are already costing Switzerland more than CHF 400 million in lost productivity, these costs could increase by a further 17% by 2050 under the best climate scenario, and by as much as 58% under the worst case.

Large companies better equipped

Another study, this time dedicated to the long-term effects of temperatures in Italy, shows that large companies have adapted better to rising temperatures than small ones, which could be explained by the fact that the latter are less able to invest in air conditioning or in other ways of adapting.

The business world has already integrated this problem, shows a third study by American economists. Large corporations are adapting their supply chains and replacing suppliers with higher climate risks. For the northern hemisphere, suppliers from northern countries should clearly thrive at the expense of southern ones.

Air-conditioning and automating work

To counteract these effects, the most effective solution for companies seems to be air conditioning. Cooling workstations significantly reduces productivity losses. Work automation is also a solution.

>> Read also: The air conditioning boom is bad news for the climate

A comparison between Indian factories shows that annual production falls by around 2% for every degree Celsius warming. But air conditioning is not everything. Even with air-conditioned premises, absenteeism increases in hot weather as workers are exposed to high temperatures at home and on the way to work.

ats/Vincent Cherpillod

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