The Vanishing of the 9-5 Work Schedule: A Potential Consequence of Climate Change

**Working Hours and Climate Change: Adapting to Rising Temperatures**


Dolly Parton’s famous call for “workin’ 9-5” could become a thing of the past, as climate change continues to wreak havoc on the planet, and with it, the workforce. Research from the University of Oxford suggests that as the world becomes hotter, businesses may need to switch up their staff’s working pattern to cope with “uncomfortable” heat levels. In this article, we will explore the implications of rising temperatures on the workforce and discuss potential solutions and adaptations.

**Adapting Working Hours to Beat the Heat**

According to the experts from the University of Oxford, U.K. workers will need to start their shift at 6 a.m. instead of the traditional 9 a.m., in order to finish by 2 p.m. and beat the afternoon heat. This recommendation means that individuals with an hour-long commute may have to start their day as early as 4 a.m. during the warmer months. The study highlights that Britain, unlike its Mediterranean neighbors, lacks working cultural norms influenced by hot weather, such as siestas.

**The Impact on Business and Workers**

The study published in the journal “Nature Sustainability” identifies Britain as one of the European countries that will have to adapt the most to cope with sweltering temperatures. Businesses will need to consider implementing new working patterns to mitigate the effects of heatwaves. It is crucial to consider the implications for various industries, especially those that involve outdoor work or buildings not designed to withstand extreme temperatures. Even in air-conditioned office spaces, there is a “vicious cycle” where air conditioning uses more energy, contributing to climate change and intensifying the need for cooling.

**Embracing “Summer Hours”**

Many businesses have already embraced “summer hours” as a means to engage and motivate workers. Companies like L’Oréal, Asos, and Nike allow their staff to leave work between midday and 3.30 p.m. on Fridays during the summer months. However, the University of Oxford study emphasizes that summer hours should be seen as an adaptation strategy to prevent staff from annually overheating, rather than just a perk or reward.

**Learning from Spain**

Southern European countries like Spain, where temperatures during heatwaves can reach extreme levels, are already leading the way in implementing alternative working patterns during the summer months. Businesses in Andalucia, for example, have long-established practices where outdoor workers and shops shift their working hours earlier to avoid the hottest parts of the day. This adaptation has become common for builders, agricultural workers, and shop owners. The experience of Spain serves as a model for other countries facing similar challenges.

**Retrofitting Buildings and Planting Trees**

In addition to changing working hours, the researchers suggest other measures that can help mitigate the impact of rising temperatures. Retrofitting buildings to include ventilation measures that can retain heat during the winter months is one solution. Planting more trees next to buildings to create shade and lower surface temperatures is also recommended. These measures can contribute to reducing the need for excessive air conditioning and its associated environmental costs.

**Copy Japan’s “Cool Biz” Policy**

Japan has long implemented its “Cool Biz” policy to reduce energy usage and combat global warming. The government encourages workers to dress more casually in the summer months, allowing them to stay cool without relying heavily on air conditioning. Recommendations include wearing short-sleeved shirts, setting office thermostats to 28°C or above, coming to work earlier, taking longer holidays in summer, and banning overtime. Other countries can follow Japan’s lead and adopt similar policies to reduce energy consumption and minimize the impact of rising temperatures.

**Conclusion and Future Outlook**

As climate change continues to pose challenges, adapting working hours becomes an essential step for businesses and workers alike. The University of Oxford study highlights the need to revise traditional working patterns to combat rising temperatures effectively. Implementing early start times, embracing “summer hours,” and adopting policies like Japan’s “Cool Biz” can help alleviate the impact of heatwaves and create a more sustainable and comfortable working environment. By proactively addressing the effects of climate change on the workforce, businesses can ensure the well-being and productivity of their employees in the face of a changing climate.

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