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Cold homes lead to productivity losses

Three quarters of employees will keep heating switched off or on a low temperature to save money this winter

The majority (75%) of homeowners will keep their heating off despite saying that it will affect their productivity, according to a survey by builders’ merchant Jewson.

As the UK experiences a cold snap, 62% of respondents think a cold home will affect their productivity and concentration.

However, three quarters will keep the heating switched off or set to a low temperature to save money.

Steve Herbert, wellbeing and benefits director at Partners And said employers should be aware of the difficult financial decisions workers are currently making.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Although energy prices have broadly stabilised in 2023, they are still almost double where they were in 2021. 

It follows that with winter seemingly already here, there will be many home workers facing some difficult decisions to keep warm.  

“Employers should be alive to this particular concern, not least because the cost-of-living and cost-of-borrowing crises remain very real issues for millions of workers.”

Read more: What are employers' duties in cold weather?

The research found 57% experienced adverse side effects from cold homes, including health concerns.

Over two thirds (67%) said heating their  home will become more difficult in the next five years.

Lou Campbell, director at Wellbeing Partners, said managers prioritise open communication about how employees are dealing with the cold and if they need support.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Line managers should check in with their team members to ask how they’re coping with the cold weather, and if there’s anything they can do to be supportive.

"Giving employees a forum for voicing their concerns, especially as adverse weather conditions can have an impact on wellbeing, is always a good thing for managers to do.”

Herbert added that employers could offer a cost of living payment to help home workers with energy costs.

He said: “There is nothing to stop employers from making a small bonus payment in extreme weather to those who are home workers to help them manage their extra heating costs during their working day. 

"Yet such a policy is likely to be expensive, and has the potential to be seen as discriminatory by those based on-site who would not be eligible for this extra payment. 

“Another option is to encourage those homeworkers based close to company premises to travel to work so that they can benefit from the company heating and hot water during cold periods.”

Read more: Winter wellbeing: Top tips for supporting employees

Chris Last, strategy director at Vivup Employee Benefits told HR magazine that HR could also implement discount schemes and signposting.

He said: "Running the heating at home all day may be costly, so with various eligibility grants available HR could pull a list of support mechanisms together for employees and make it easier to find information and help.

"Utilise discount schemes such as Lifestyle Savings or Home and Electronics to save money on items such as heated blankets that are cosy but affordable to run for long periods, often these items can be delivered the very next day.

"If employees need urgent support with things like boiler repairs or servicing, employers could either offer benefits that allow employees to access salary already earned to pay for urgent repairs or create a small loan fund that ensures employees can have repairs completed quickly and easily and not have to worry about finding the money immediately for important repairs."