Working hours may change in cities like Mumbai and New Delhi due to global warming

The pandemic left us with little choice but to change the way we work when it forced us to adapt to working from home – a.k.a the “FMH model”. Many appreciated the change; many did not. Now, even as we are still caught in the throes of the global health crisis – thanks to Omicron – scientists have predicted that our working lives may undergo another change. This time, the driving force is not the new coronavirus, but an older, familiar, man-made phenomenon we know as climate change.

According to a new study published in Nature Communication, rising temperatures may force us to shift our work schedules to cooler times of the day, such as the evening or early morning. As a “night owl,” the latter seems to me to be the more difficult alternative, but then again, I’m not sure I want to spend my evenings working either. But soon it looks like we may no longer have a way to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.

“There are physiological limits to the heat / humidity combinations that humans can tolerate,” the study notes, indicating the reason our work schedules may need to be revised in the future.

Rising temperatures will affect people’s ability to work in all fields – from “light” work (defined to include “services”), to “medium” work (defined to include “manufacturing”), to “heavy” work “(defined to include” agriculture, forestry, fishing and construction industries “). However, this study specifically focused on the impact of rising temperatures on “heavy” work, which would be most affected – especially since a significant portion of it involves spending time outside, away from air-conditioned rooms.

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“Many workers in the tropics already stop working in the afternoon because it’s too hot… Fortunately, around 30% of this lost workforce can still be recovered by moving it early in the morning,” Luke Parsons, climatology researcher at Duke’s Nicholas School. Environment, which participated in the study, said in a statement. The thought of stopping work in the afternoon – for a nap, perhaps – doesn’t seem like a terrible change to get used to.

“But with each additional degree of global warming, the ability of workers to adapt in this way will rapidly diminish as even the coolest hours of the day will quickly become too hot for continuous work outdoors,” Parsons warned.

Sadly, this means we are heading for a loss of workforce, which could lead to economic losses worth $ 1.6 trillion worldwide. In fact, the world is already losing between $ 280 billion and $ 311 billion each year “because of workers struggling in hot and humid conditions,” according to the researchers.

They explained that each degree of temperature increase would result in “exponential, not linear, losses in labor productivity.” Basically, with the rise in temperatures, the optimal working hours will eventually decrease.

Unfortunately, according to the study, India is particularly vulnerable to labor losses due to rising temperatures. “[W]We find that the high population countries of South and East Asia experience the most lost working hours, both during the cooler hours… and during the full working day… loss of labor. of work – 162 hours lost [per] anybody [per] year, ”notes the study.

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That’s not all. “Heat exposure is also implicated as a potential contributing factor to an epidemic of chronic kidney disease of unknown aetiology in otherwise healthy and relatively young workers in [countries like] Sri Lanka [and] India, ”the authors wrote.

They pointed out that in addition to kidney disease, exposure to extreme heat can also increase the risk of workplace injuries and morbidity from heat-related illnesses. In addition, poor sleep due to increased heat can also be detrimental to people’s health, in addition to decreasing productivity.

“The impact of climate change is being felt and can be seen … To build adaptation, [we] need to plan for short and long term changes in working hours [like] create infrastructure … to rest during peak days, and create knowledge and skills [to help] when people succumb to heat stress, ”GV Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Hyderabad, told Hindustan Times.

Given how interrelated light, medium and heavy work can be, especially from an economic perspective, it is likely that all of our working hours will change. So, are you already ready for an overhaul of your professional life?

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