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IIM-A study says worker productivity depends on temperature level

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July 4, 2016: A study conducted by Prof Dheeraj Sharma and Prof Rajesh Chandwani of IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on "Heat Stress and its effect on Psychological Aspects of Workers in India" suggests that there is a direct correlation of thermal comfort at work place and its effect on productivity of the workers. The research also highlights the urgent need for the policymakers and concerned organisations to extend the scope of climate change and ambient temperature discourse to include workers' concerns.

Concerns about heat stress have become especially relevant with deteriorating climatic conditions. Tropical countries like India are likely to suffer the most from health hazards and productivity losses due to rising temperatures. Studies have shown that heat stress can not only cause physical health hazards but can also have negative impact on the mental and psychological health of the workers and hence it calls for immediate attention by state and central government, policy makers, employee welfare bodies and organizations to address this issue. The insights of the study hold importance as the Indian government is attempting to emphasize the growth of manufacturing sector through 'Make in India' initiative for sustainable growth in the economy.

"Little attention has been devoted to the effect of increasing temperatures on worker productivity and health. Our study attempts to quantify the improvement in productivity that can be gained through establishment of cooling solutions at indoor workplaces. Indeed, according to our study, worker productivity can be enhanced up to 12% by increasing the level of thermal comfort at the workplace," said Prof Dheeraj Sharma, IIM-A.

"Though there is substantial evidence that extreme temperatures in the workplace can adversely affect performance, there is little consensus regarding an ideal temperature at workplace. The optimal temperature for worker performance may vary. However, in the tropical countries, most of the studies have found that the optimal range of ambient temperature for enhanced worker productivity is about 25- 30 degree Celsius," said Prof Rajesh Chandwani, IIM-A.

Key insights from the study

The rising environmental and workplace temperatures due to climate change have been a major concern for a decade now. The recent UNDP report (UNDP 2016) reiterates the fact that higher workplace temperatures will lead to significant loss of productivity. If the global temperature change continues at 4 degrees Celsius (business as usual), India will lose about 13.60% of daylight work hours by 2085 for work at 300 W. Our study attempts to quantify the improvement in productivity that can be gained through establishment of cooling solutions at indoor workplaces. The insights are significant as the Government is attempting to emphasize the growth of manufacturing sector through 'Make in India' initiative for sustainable growth in the economy.

IIM-A study on worker productivity

Following are the key insights from the IIM-A study

1. Worker productivity can be enhanced by up to 12 per cent by increasing the level of thermal comfort at the workplace.

2. The study emphasizes the regulatory support for preventive measures such as use of Information and communication technologies and other technologies for encouraging modernized agricultural practices.

3. Regulatory bodies should encourage environment friendly and feasible measures for cooling solutions such as high capacity industrial coolers, solar panel driven cooling.

4. Organizations, especially those which employ machineries that lead to increased workplace temperature such as textile industry, bakeries, steel need to monitor the ambient temperature at workplace regularly and

5. Such organizations should provide cooling solutions, wherever feasible, to reduce the workplace ambient temperature.

6. The organizations should regularly monitor the employees' morale and psychological state at workplace to make sense of and address the workers' concerns regarding effects of workplace temperature.

7. The organizations need to invest in

  • Educating the workers about heat stress and its effect on physical health
  • Training on methods to mitigate the effects of heat stress
  • Ensure supply and encourage the use of PPE (Personal protective equipment).

8. Provide additional facilities at workplace such as plenty of drinking water and other hydrating solutions, and ensure appropriate clothing for preventing heat related health hazards like dehydration.

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