Working from home has many advantages for our productivity: we don’t waste time on the commute, we aren’t in a distracting office and we can work with our own biorhythm more easily. However, one massive disadvantage it has is the lack of air conditioning, which, thanks to climate change, seems to be more of an issue each summer. To our US readers, you should know that AC in domestic settings is incredibly uncommon in the UK and most of Europe.
Last summer, as I tried to focus with my bump/personal oven on board, I spent a lot of time strategising and experimenting with ways to maintain a decent level of productivity when our work environment becomes unpleasantly warm.
Firstly, you may wish to change your working hours. I find that starting much earlier gives me a good few hours of working in a reasonable temperature and therefore being able to focus. This should be possible even if you don’t work for yourself if you adopt our key approach of output over availability. We could all learn from warmer countries and go for early starts and late evenings broken up with a siesta to work with the weather rather than battling it.
Secondly, particularly if you can’t change your working hours, use timeboxing to schedule in regular ‘’cooling off” periods. This could be a cold shower or bath, making yourself a cold drink or simply running your wrists under cold water for 5 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a long break (I suggest 15 minutes every 2 hours), but it’s much more effective to break properly to cool down than fanning yourself ineffectually while your brain melts. Once you feel like you’re too hot to focus, don’t procrastinate or feel guilty about stepping away from work to cool down – it’s a very worthwhile break that will make you far more productive when you get back to the task at hand.
Thirdly and finally, the heat (particularly for Brits) tempts us into some very counterproductive habits that we need to be aware of. Adopting healthy heat habits can make a huge difference. Whilst barbecues are fun and feel very summery, they’re not very helpful when it’s hot. Not only is the cooking process itself very warm, but our bodies generate a huge amount of heat when we eat meat, especially red meat. Better to opt for cooling salads which have high water content. Similarly, late evening drinks in the balmy night air might be incredibly appealing, but the likelihood is that they will leave you dehydrated and possibly hungover the next day. If you want to enjoy a late night hang, opt for non-sugary mocktails or at least have one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have.
As we head into our second mini-heatwave of the summer (in London at least) I hope this helps. In the meantime, I’m off to dunk my head in some cold water.