Heat waves weigh labor productivity, study shows – rts.ch

Every year, heat waves lose about 400 million francs in Switzerland due to declining productivity, according to a study by ETH Zurich and MeteoSwiss, published in SonntagsZeitung. This is twice as much as seasonal flu.

The thermometer for May broke records last Friday in several Swiss regions. It was 32.1 degrees in Telemont or 33.7 degrees in Bad Rocks (SG). The same heat wave hit Western Europe, especially France and Italy. India is also experiencing unprecedented heat.

>> Read about it: The heat record for a month in May in Switzerland was equaled by Wispi

If these have made swimmers happier this week than the summer temperatures, it’s different for businesses. In fact, work efficiency decreases when it is too hot in construction sites, factories and offices. For severe outdoor work, performance decreases as the temperature reaches 23 degrees, according to the State Secretariat for Economics (Seco). In offices, the limit is high: Seco estimates that one can work efficiently up to 31 degrees.

Substantial effects

However, studies show that performance decreases from 26 degrees, according to SonntagsZeitung. And as the temperature intensifies, the effects are significant. Thus, in the 1940s, when temperatures reached 40 degrees, the British navy discovered that Morse coders made more than ten times as many errors.

If the current heat waves had already lost more than 400 million francs of production capacity to Switzerland, this cost would be 17% more, and at least 58%, by 2050, in the most favorable climatic conditions.

Larger companies are better suited

Another study, dedicated to the long-term effects of temperature in Italy, shows that large companies have adapted to higher temperatures than smaller ones, which can be explained by the fact that the latter may invest less in air conditioning systems. Other methods of adaptation.

The economic world has already integrated this problem, according to a third study conducted by US economists. Thus, large groups adapt their supply chains and replace suppliers with greater climatic risks. Clearly, for the northern hemisphere, the suppliers of countries in the north must prosper at the expense of those in the south.

Air conditioning and automated work

To deal with these effects, the most effective solution for companies is air conditioning. Cooling workplaces significantly reduces productivity loss. Work automation is also a solution.

A comparison between Indian factories shows that one degree Celsius of warming reduces annual production by about 2%. But air conditioning is not everything. Despite being on air-conditioned premises, absenteeism increases in hot weather as workers are exposed to higher temperatures on the way home and to work.

ats / Vincent Cerbilot

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