GNcareers, from Gulf News

Dubai expats 'work less when it’s hot'

Dubai expats 'work less when it’s hot'Image Credit: Supplied

One of the things that many people dread about working in the summer is the soaring temperatures. Across the Gulf, the heat can go above 50 degrees Celsius and the high humidity levels can be a source of discomfort.

It's not surprising that a significant number of expatriates in Dubai wander off to cooler climes around this time of year. But while rising mercury levels are giving the travel industry a boost, what is worrisome for companies in the region is that the hottest time of year can have serious economic costs.

Organisations contacted by Gulf News in Dubai confirmed that besides a slowdown in construction activity, workplace productivity also suffers when it becomes unbearably hot outside the office.

In a 2010 study by Solomon Hsiang in the Caribbean and Central America, it was found that productivity output among workers tends to decline once the temperatures hit more than 26 degrees Celsius. In particular, the output drops by about 2.4 per cent every time the earth gets one degree Celsius hotter.

''People generally are less productive and tire faster when it's hot,'' Hsiang said.

Johnson Alexander, HR director at Dulsco, said the pace of work is a ''little slow'' during the summer months compared to the peak months because many people are away on vacations.

''Families take a break around this time as schools are closed and head to their home countries or explore other destinations.''

However, the decline in productivity may not necessarily be due to the loss of work enthusiasm among employees.

''Generally, work slows during the summer months. However, it's not necessarily because individual employees are less productive, '' Annalinde Nickisch, human resources (HR) consultant at the Thought Factory in Dubai, told Gulf News.

''Keep in mind that in the long school holidays, most expatriates utilize the time to travel with their families. A lot of executives and decision makers are out of the country, which has a direct impact on business and sales cycles.'' added Nickisch.

But Dan Smith, head of integrated marketing for the Middle East and Africa region at Xerox, argued that managers ''are still faced with challenges of keeping employees engaged and ensuring that productivity stays at a high level'' during the summer period.

''As temperatures climb during the summertime, it's only natural for employees' minds to wander to exotic, far-flung locations and vacation days left unspent,'' Smith noted.

To keep the staff output at high levels, Smith said businesses can make simple ''tweaks'' that will help employees stay focused at work – and not the beach – during the warm months.

He said employers can offer flexible hours, giving workers the chance to choose the most convenient time of day for them to commute to and from work. In some companies, this is called Summer Thursdays (Fridays in the West).

''Allowing for flexible scheduling means employees won't have to sneak out or call in sick with pretend sniffles. Giving employees an hour or more off per week can make time in the office better spent.''

Holding friendly office competitions is another effective way of keeping the workers engaged. Companies can do a sales contest, a fitness challenge or anything that will kick employees' adrenaline into gear.

''Offer rewards such as vacations days or tickets to a movie and change up the activities from week to week. Instead of a summer slump, your staff will be energized – and who knows, the outside-the-box thinking could also result in innovation for your company.''

Another great example is organising an office dinner get together. Smith said it is important to have some relaxing time after work. ''A fund gathering with office employees will create a positive vibe and the interaction away from work will allow for team bonding, hence ensure a healthy and productive working environment.''

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Source: Cleofe Maceda, Senior Web Reporter,