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For a healthy mind, body and business

How to keep cool in a heatwave when you work from home

keeping cool working at home in heat. Windows open
Image: Eli Sommer, Pexels

For all the benefits of working from home, there may be occasional days when you wish you were heading to the office. They might be on freezing days when you’re wanting to keep warm and save money. Equally, they may be on those scorching days when you’re looking at how to keep cool when you work at home and the office air con is appealing.

These simple tips can help you to keep cool without spending a fortune on expensive fans or air conditioning. While it won’t lower the temperature outside, they can help minimise heat rising inside and keep you cool while you work. This will help you stay productive when you’re working at home. We also look at what employers need to legally do if it becomes too hot in the office.

DIY air conditioning

Even if you just have a basic small fan, if you place a bowl of ice in front of it or drape a cool cloth over it, it chills the air and you’ve created your own air conditioning!

You can also find rechargeable fans that aren’t running on power in the day or small ones powered through your computer USB port.

This simple fan hack can save you a little money and keep you cool while you work from home.

Light and loose

Wearing natural fibres such as cotton, linen, bamboo and even merino wool (yes even superfine wool can be lightweight and helps to wick away moisture) will help your skin to breathe.

When it comes to your work from home wardrobe, try to avoid fabrics such as polyester, nylon and lycra which breathe less well and can make you feel hot.

Think about the style and fit as well. Loose, flowing garments such as skirts, wide-leg trousers and shorts will help to keep you more comfortable and cool when you work from home.

The upside of not being in the office is nobody needs to know if you need to sit in your underwear! (Just remember to change before a video meeting!)

What to close, what to open

It might seem counterintuitive to close windows and blinds but this prevents hot air coming in. Keep your curtains and blinds pulled at the hottest part of the day to prevent direct sunlight penetrating your sunny rooms.

Once the temperatures dip later in the day, you can open up and fling wide the windows to let in some cooler air.

It can also be a good idea to open up loft hatches so there is somewhere for the hot air to rise to and escape through the roof. On scorching days, this helps to keep the top levels of your house cooler, great if your home office is upstairs.

Water and more water

When chatting to remote work expert, Rowena Hennigan about self-leadership, one of her daily must-dos is to keep a bottle of water on her desk.

It is simple, but on a hot day, even more essential. We understand we need to stay hydrated but most of us don’t drink enough. Depending on what you read, between 50-80% of us don’t adequately hydrate. Having some water at your desk to sip throughout the day can help you to stay focused and productive. Dehydration can lead to you feeling foggy, tired, and unfocused.

Water is not just to drink. A small spray bottle filled with water is a great way to stay refreshed as you can gently spritz yourself. Another great tip is to have a bowl or tray of water under your desk to dip your feet into. This helps to keep you lovely and cool.

Skew your hours

Non-linear work days are even more important when it’s hot. If you have flexibility and control over your schedule then consider working earlier in the morning or a little later in the evening when temperatures are more comfortable. This means you can take a break during the hottest hours in the middle of the day.

In summer, when the dawn breaks earlier, it is a little easier to wake early and make the most of the cooler daylight hours.

woman working from home in the garden
Image: Adobe Stock

Change locations

One member of The Homeworker community did once admit to working from her bathroom! The tiles on the floor were a cool alternative and made homeworking more comfortable.

While we are not suggesting taking your Zoom calls from the bathroom floor, do think about moving your workspace to a cooler spot. Shadier rooms or those on the north side of the house tend to be cooler. If you have a small table, portable desk or console table you can use as a desk, this is ideal.

If you can find a shady spot with some breeze, working in the garden could be a great alternative to keep cool when you work from home.

One of the best hacks we like is to take the ironing board out and use it as a standing desk. Portable, good for your posture, and easy to pack away!

Switch off to keep cool

In this instance we are talking about appliances. Many electrical appliances give off heat. The obvious one is the oven so try to limit cooking with the oven. (We generally want to eat cooler foods such as salads in the heat anyway). Save clothes washing until the evening and make the most of the energy and cost-saving as well. Some energy suppliers have better tariffs for using your appliances overnight to help you save money.

Duty of care of employers

For remote workers, employers have a duty of care to ensure their workers have a safe and healthy environment.

Legally, there is no maximum working temperature limit as some work environments are exposed to high heat. However, managers still need to consider how the heat could be impacting their staff.

“The legal responsibilities in respect of health and safety in the workplace still apply and this means carrying out a risk assessment and ensuring that employees work in temperatures that are reasonable and do not place their health and safety at risk,” says William Walsh, partner in the employment team at law firm, DMH Stallard.

If people are working from home, the health and safety obligations still apply to that working environment.

“The risks should be much lower, as home workers are unlikely to be undertaking physical tasks and, even if they were told to stop working, those individuals would still be in their same home environment. But the issue should not be discounted altogether.

If, for example, it was known that an employee was working from their home office set up in a small box room up in a loft conversion, where it could get uncomfortably hot, they should be encouraged to move and, if necessary, given flexibility around their tasks to allow them to do so.” 

Embrace homeworking life

Finally, let’s look at how to make the most of remote working on a hot day.

There may be a few sneaky benefits to working from home in the heat that help you to be more productive.

A quick dip in the children’s paddling pool, a quick hose down or spray in the sprinkler, and of course, no judgement if you are wearing a costume or trunks to work in!

While heat can be uncomfortable, you may be someone who loves the sunshine so being able to take lunch out in the garden or work outside for a short period are all wonderful benefits.

Find a shady spot and enjoy a wealth of interesting articles and inspiration for your mind, body and business.

Get The Homeworker magazine in print. Each volume is packed with quality content, relevant, insightful, and thought-provoking articles that will help you make healthier work-life choices.

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About the author

Louise is an award-winning journalist and speaker who focuses on working from home, remote work and wellbeing. She is the founder of  The Homeworker, which is dedicated to helping you thrive when you work from home. The Homeworker publishes articles that are designed to keep you healthy, happy, fulfilled, and more productive in work and life.

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