Ready for 6 to 2? Working hours in UK may need to be revised for deadly heatwaves

A new study predicts that Brits may need to work considerably earlier in the day to deal with ‘uncomfortable’ heat caused by climate change.

According to University of Oxford scientists, the United Kingdom is one of the European countries that will need to adjust the most to cope with extreme heat.

Following in the footsteps of several companies in southern European countries such as Spain, the British working day may begin at 6 a.m. and end around 2 p.m.

British citizens may likewise follow in the footsteps of the Japanese by abandoning the suit and tie and being permitted to dress more casually during hotter weather.

The study comes amid a blistering heatwave in southern European countries like Italy and Greece, which is being exacerbated by climate change and weather patterns.

The new study was led by Dr Nicole Miranda at the University of Oxford and published in the journal Nature Sustainability. 

Along with Switzerland and Norway, the UK is ‘unprepared for heat’, largely because buildings have historically been designed to keep in heat, not lose heat. 

The UK Switzerland and Norway will see the biggest demand for ‘cooling interventions’, the researchers claim. 

‘In the northern hemisphere in Europe, the buildings are made to keep heat in,’ Dr Miranda said. 

‘And so we are at risk in the summertime, when heatwaves come or when higher temperatures in general come that we overheat our buildings.

The scientists think changes to our the working hours would be especially beneficial for people to beat the heat if they work outdoors or in ‘greenhouse’ style buildings that are badly designed to reflect sunlight. 

Working until 2pm would be better than until 5pm because heat builds up during the day and becomes more unbearable the longer the sun has been up. 

It’s something that’s already happening in parts of Spain, said study author Dr Jesus Lizana.

‘In southern Spain, for example across Andalucia, these working patterns in summer are not new,’ he said.

‘It is quite common for outdoor workers in July and August (e.g. builders, agricultural workers) to shift to an early starting hour – like from 6am to 2pm – to avoid working during the hottest hours of the day. 

‘Even shops are closed during the hottest hours in summer, closing from 2pm to 6pm and opening again from 6pm to 9pm.’ 

The quantity of energy required only for cooling is expected to be similar to Japan’s, the United States’, and the European Union’s combined electricity use in 2016.

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