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The Hidden Cost of Global Warming Regarding Productivity

In this article, we’ll explore the potential consequences of seeking to be overly productive in the midst of global warming.
Ecology News
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In today’s society, especially in the United States, much of our value comes from our productivity – the more we get done, the greater value, success, and satisfaction we can be allowed to attach ourselves to. 

However, being “productive” may not equate to being successful to everyone – such as people struggling to work in extreme heat and the impact productivity has on the planet.

Why could productivity prove detrimental to the world as a push for a low-carbon economy and overall greater sustainability is made?

In this article, we’ll explore the potential consequences of seeking to be overly productive in the midst of global warming.

Why is productivity being slowed down right now?

It’s no secret that the past few summers have been toastier than usual, especially with the world breaking its record for hottest day ever recorded this summer – it’s evident that global temperatures are on the rise more than they ever have been before.

Still, many may not realize the profound effect that this has on our global economy – as extreme heat can impact multiple jobs such as those looking after the elderly in assisted living facilities, construction workers trying to renovate an entire city like Paris for the 2024 Olympics, and the food industry with a newfound and greater risk for food poisoning. 

👉 Extreme heat is taking a toll on the productivity of multiple industries right now as it creates an inhospitable environment for workers to be efficient in.

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As a result of these scorching temperatures, many cities have had no choice but to implement shorter working days for employees exposed to extreme heat for extended periods of time. 

Time is money, and global warming is now taking a direct hit to productivity – which means climate change is impacting all of our productivity: from our individual to corporate goals.

In order to take a stand and represent ethical human rights, strikers have decided to take action – demanding that working conditions be kept under 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or around 38 degrees Celsius). 

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How is productivity impacted with extreme heat?

A heat wave isn’t something to be taken lightly – as it really isn’t just another day under the summer sun. 

This is because heat waves and extreme temperatures can have lasting effects on our health in addition to our productivity. 

For instance, intense temperatures can elicit significant health issues, and in some events – even cause  death. Heat waves can result in symptoms like dehydration, dizziness, and nausea – all of which could limit a worker’s productivity. However, what is more concerning are the acute symptoms caused by extreme heat – such as heat strokes, heat exhaustion, cardiovascular issues, and heat related respiratory problems.

Heat requires the body to work harder, so when you go for a run on a hot summer day and feel more physical strain or difficulty breathing – it isn’t in your head. The same applies to outdoor employees who already work physically demanding jobs, such as those in construction. It’s already strenuous to lift heavy materials from point A to point B, but doing it in extreme heat exhausts the body at a quicker rate and reduces productivity.

person running with sunshine

It isn’t just the physical strain heat causes on the body that could limit productivity, but how heat impacts mental health. For instance, studies show that sleeping in a cool room can help to lower your body temperature and allow for a better night’s sleep. If consistently high temperatures ensue, it can result in someone losing a good night's sleep – which is essential for focusing at work and ultimately for productivity. 

In addition to this, extreme heat can impact mental health as it can aggravate symptoms for those who experience anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Also, rising temperatures threaten the productivity of the “happy hormone” in the brain – better known as serotonin. Without viable levels of serotonin, people can find themselves suffering from fatigue, stress, and sadness more easily – all of which are a major threat to productivity.

What could be the negative impacts of trying to maintain high levels of productivity as global warming ensues?

It may seem like a good idea for the global economy to continue optimizing working hours in terms of revenue to be acquired, but could there be a hidden cost of productivity?

First off, it’s probable to presume that more onsight working hours could result in more onsite casualties for employees in an industry such as construction. This is because continued, daily exposure to extreme temperatures could have long lasting effects on the mind and body that could wear someone down – and lead to serious health problems that could prelude death.

Businesses preoccupied with increasing their productivity don’t want to deal with a lawsuit or strikers in the midst of trying to achieve their other financial goals. In addition to this, allowing for less-than optimal working conditions will not demonstrate a company that is willing to provide employees with safe or healthy working conditions – which could come off as unattractive to future investors and actually harm the company’s financial prospects in the long run.

In addition to this potential predicament, seeking to boost productivity by allowing employees to work in extreme temperatures could require increased business. For example, costs could increase as the business may need to pay for a more premium insurance plan, which may prove difficult seeing as well-known insurance companies in the U.S. such as State Farm are deciding to limit their coverage as natural disasters have financially drained them.

air conditioner units outside

Does extreme heat have an impact on the economy?

The problem with extreme heat isn’t that it only impacts employees and their productivity, but also other industries – creating a negative ripple effect on the economy. 

For instance, the agricultural sector is bound to deeply suffer from the effects of climate change – especially as droughts continue to dry up crops or prevent fruitful planting in the first place. This can have a direct impact on other businesses such as restaurants which rely on farm-to-table service or clothing stores that seek to use materials like cotton grown on a farm. 

👉 Extreme heat doesn’t only impact the productivity of employees, but the productivity of other businesses as one industry being impacted from climate change can have a direct impact on another.

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It isn’t just plants being grown, but greater losses could ensue for other industries that are out of employees hands due to rising temperatures – such as greater risk of food poisoning for those working in the meat packing industries. Even if employees power through and are able to work around the rising temperatures, the extreme heat could render the majority of their products useless with shorter expiration dates. This creates a smaller window for when the products can be sold, meaning companies can face decreased revenue for products like these during months with extreme temperatures.

The loss of labor isn’t a small one, with the amount of employees unable to work during extreme heat set to result in a $100 billion dollar loss. In addition, employees working in developing economies are likely to take an even bigger hit – as extreme heat can prohibit developing economies from expanding. This is because workers in poor countries are expected to lose up to 5% of their salary with each working day lost due to extreme heat in comparison to those in wealthier countries – where only 1% is lost.

Is there a way to prevent all of these current and future financial losses due to heat impacting productivity?

construction workers

How can companies adapt during global warming to ensure productivity isn’t impacted?

It will be challenging to work around the impact global warming will have on a company's productivity, but thankfully – with a little help from carbon accounting companies like Greenly, it isn’t impossible.

Here are just a few ways that can help your company to retain its productivity in the midst of rising temperatures:

  • Taking a Climate Risk Assessment can help to reveal how badly climate change has impacted your business so far, such as if filing for taxes has become more time consuming or if natural disasters have stalled business. 
  • Working to build Supply Chain Resilience can help to mitigate vulnerable parts of your business that may be more susceptible to a loss of productivity with rising temperatures.
  • Seeking to implement more energy efficient measures and renewable energy sources where ever possible can help to reduce business costs that are rising due to climate change – such as the need to leave the AC on all of the time
  • Improving the infrastructure of your company’s office building can help to prevent the need for constant central heating or air conditioning, and also help mitigate the need to hire construction workers for constant repairs. 
  • Allowing employees to work remotely so that they can work comfortably from home, dress in more breathable clothing, and take breaks whenever necessary to boost productivity.
  • Ensuring Employee Health and Safety is a great way to ensure productivity isn’t affected, as it will help to educate employees on the risks of working in extreme temperatures and help them to adjust accordingly. 

Overall, global warming will continue to have a profound impact on both individual and collective productivity – meaning it’s best to implement mitigation strategies now to get ahead of these grave, continuous issues.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about how global warming is now taking a toll on individual and collective productivity has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

The continued threat climate change has on various imperative measures to your business such as productivity can be overwhelming, but don’t worry – Greenly is here to help. Click here to schedule a demo to see how Greenly can help your company to build climate resilience and remain functional during a natural disaster. 

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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