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If you're unlucky enough to be stuck in the office during the current heatwave, you may be struggling to work as temperatures rise. We are currently enjoying (enduring) our third summer in sunny Spain and over the last couple of years, we've learnt some tricks to help stay cool during hot weather.

Obviously, if you work in an air-conditioned building there's little to worry about. Just make sure you bring suitable clothes to switch between climates. Air-conditioning removes water from the atmosphere so don't forget to keep drinking to stay hydrated, and you might find eye drops help to prevent tired eyes after a day of looking at the screen. 

 

Your office environment

For regular offices and working spaces, the first thing to consider is where your desk is positioned. Are you sitting in full sun? The air next to a window can really heat up and the bright sunlight can dazzle your eyes so if possible, move your desk to a darker, cooler part of the room. 

Here in Spain, we play a constant game of juggling the weather outside with the temperature inside. Earlier in the day when it's cooler, we have the windows open at each end of the building to encourage a breeze. Be sure to stop doors so they don't slam shut and weigh down paperwork so it doesn't blow around. As the day progresses, the air heats up until the breeze outside is hotter than the air inside; at this stage, we close the windows and pull down the blinds.

Floor-standing or desk fans are relatively cheap and they can make the office environment much more bearable, but try to avoid pointing it into your face as it really dries your eyes out. We made a conscious decision to rent a flat with air-conditioning. Mostly we use this at night time, but it will go on for a couple of hours to give us a bit of respite if it's a particularly hot day.

You may not notice it until it gets warm, but your computer puts out quite a bit of heat. We have reduced the energy consumption and the heat output of our office equipment by switching from desktop computer towers to laptops and our shared office computer with a tiny Linux file server. If you aren't able to do this, see if you can move your computer as far as possible from your desk and make sure the fan is pointing the other direction (while still cooling the computer, of course). If you have additional computers on a network, do they need to be in the same room as you? 

 

Dress code

Wear light-coloured, loose clothing. Summer clothing doesn't have to be casual or just for the beach. Choose loose-fitting, lightweight fabrics.

Natural fabrics like cotton or linen can be more comfortable but synthetic materials or blends are often designed to wick away sweat and cool you down.

A plea to business owners: most companies have moved with the times and have very relaxed dress codes these days, particularly for back-office staff, but some still cling to traditional dress codes.

Please make sure both men and women have options to wear something cool; nobody wants to wear a suit or socks and shoes in hot weather. 

 

Get a round in

Drink plenty of liquids. We keep bottles of tap water in the fridge; a chilled drink is much more refreshing than one that's room temperature with a couple of ice-cubes. Water is great but if you are sweating you will continue to dehydrate unless you replace lost salts. We keep sugar-free, pre-mixed isotonic drinks on hand. You can buy rehydration salts and hydration tablets from sports and outdoor shops.

Another alternative is to drink non-alcoholic beer in the office, it's naturally isotonic and can help with rehydration - you might get a few funny looks from co-workers though. 

Everyone has heard the received wisdom that drinking hot drinks in hot weather can cool you down. I'd love to believe this but the reality is that as much as you want to, beyond a certain temperature it's unbearable. Mat only drinks espresso shots so this doesn't really affect him but I love a mug of tea (and a tea break!). For my tea fix I make weak black tea (it's the one thing that Spanish tea bags are good for!) or jasmine tea, then slightly sweeten it before chilling in the fridge. If you insist on drinking hot tea make sure it cools down a lot more than usual before consuming it.

 

Burning question

I know there's one question that will be vexing people more than anything - how does Stanley cope?

He has a great shaggy coat and while he's no husky or malamute, he's not a natural sun-worshipping breed either. The answer is that he does struggle but he seems to love it!

He drags us out for a two-hour walk every morning and though he returns panting, he's keen to go out again in the afternoon. We don't walk in the middle of the day and of course, we make sure he has lots of water available.

We've tried various tricks like low-salt chicken stock ice-cubes and a cool pad, but he's generally suspicious of anything we try to offer him. His favourite cooling-off method is a swim or paddle in one of the many ponds and fountains in the park.

Tagged under: Remote working   Health