Siesta during heat waves: we have to rethink work in the future


New, hot world of work: Good ideas to combat the heat are in demand

Jan Dörner, editor in the politics department

07/18/2023, 18:33

| Reading time: 4 minutes

Because of the heat: medical officers encourage the introduction of siestas in Germany

Because of the heat, medical officers encourage the introduction of siestas in Germany

It already exists in southern countries, and now public health officers are also suggesting it for Germany: the siesta.

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It is not possible to work outdoors in scorching heat. We have to adapt to this – and discuss ideas like a siesta.

Berlin. A break in the middle of the working day? For a long time, many in northern Europe looked at the Spanish siesta with slightly mockingly wrinkled eyebrows. Today we look into the hot summer sun ourselves: the higher and the more frequently the thermometer display climbs into the red area at these latitudes, the more understanding we have for the southern sun time out at noon. It is not a silly debate to think about the new, hot world of work in the face of climate change.

Also read: Extreme heat: left with new solution for outdoor work

The corona pandemic has just turned professional life upside down. In many industries it is home office – at least for part of the working week – normalcy. What served to protect against infection during the pandemic still has many advantages: working from home means that numerous jobs can be better combined with family, visiting craftsmen or our free time. Climate change is also likely to change working in certain professions – but hardly for the better.

Heat affects jobs that often involve hard physical labor and low pay

According to forecasts, in the coming years the number of hot days increase, where temperatures of well over 30 degrees are to be expected. This primarily affects jobs that did not benefit from the retreat to the home office during the pandemic: It is about employees in garbage disposal and street cleaning, employees in agriculture and gastronomy, workers in construction and in gardening companies, the drivers of overheated buses.

Also read:Work early, rest in the afternoon? Doctor recommends siesta

The garbage can is not emptied from the home office when the heat softens the asphalt. It’s about jobs that often mean hard physical work – and often outdoors. And it’s about jobs that usually don’t earn big money. Employers, trade unions and politicians must now come up with concepts on how to protect those employees from the dangers of climate change.

Anyone who can neither retreat to the darkened study at home nor go to the cooled office on particularly hot days can have very high temperatures temperatures be harmful to health and, in an emergency, lead to sunstroke, heat stroke or even death. With great heat, the risk of lack of concentration and thus of work accidents increases. Long exposure to direct sunlight also increases the risk of skin cancer.

It doesn’t have to be a siesta – but creative solutions are required

It doesn’t have to be the officially proclaimed one siesta but working hours shifted to off-peak times and thus longer lunch breaks or shorter shifts are an option. Equally relaxed dress codes – why should police officers not be allowed to wear uniform shorts on patrol? Companies can call on their employees to take drinking breaks, distribute sunscreen, and hand out sunglasses, hats or work clothing that protects against UV radiation.

Also read:Brutal heat: China opens bunkers for its people

Where feasible, companies can also seek shade in outdoor workplaces. Finally, it should be discussed whether it is particularly physically demanding Work sometimes fail when the temperatures rise to the sweltering heat range.

Objectivity is required in the debate, and in the future, too, temperatures will be in a range on most days of the year in which work outdoors is easily possible. Creativity is also required in the search for practicable solutions. Climate change will demand this from us in more and more areas of life anyway.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023, 6:33 p.m

More articles from this category can be found here: Politics

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