With Summer now in full swing and temperatures on the rise, many will be looking for ways to keep cool whilst at work. Naturally, this task will be easier for some (remote workers have the undeniable advantage of reduced pressure to remain fully-clothed whilst working), but it’s the time of year where it’s important for business owners, entrepreneurs, team leaders, and HR managers to be conscious of reminding their staff to stay hydrated.

Dehydration can significantly impact productivity, health, and overall well-being. Presented by commercial heat pump manufacturer, Clade Engineering, this explores the importance of hydration and provides practical strategies to keep your workforce well-hydrated and comfortably cool.

Understanding Dehydration
Dehydration happens when the body loses more fluids than it takes in, which disrupts normal bodily functions and affects everything from muscle function to brain performance. As you can imagine, this makes it harder for us to focus and work effectively and, if left unchecked, can lead to serious health problems, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially during heatwaves.

Common causes of dehydration include inadequate water intake, excessive sweating, and illnesses that cause the loss of bodily fluids.

Signs and Symptoms
It’s important to recognise the early signs of dehydration, which include thirst, dry mouth, and a decreased need to use the bathroom. As it progresses, symptoms can become more severe, such as dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fainting. It’s important for team leaders and HR managers to recognise these signs in staff members, and encourage everyone to stay hydrated.

How does Hydration affect the body and mind?
Hydration directly impacts our brain function and, by extension, our ability to be productive. The brain, composed of about 75% water, relies heavily on adequate hydration to function at its best. A lack of hydration can lead to reduced concentration, memory lapses, and decreased problem-solving abilities, resulting in a decrease in productivity and an increase in errors.

Physical symptoms of dehydration include muscle fatigue, cramps, headaches, and overall weakness, which can significantly impact those of us in physically demanding roles. Of course, those working in less physically demanding roles may also experience general discomfort that affects their performance.

Dehydration can also negatively impact mood and morale, leading to irritability and increased stress levels - two things best avoided in high-pressure work environments. A well-hydrated workforce is generally happier and more harmonious, fostering better teamwork and collaboration.

Daily Water Intake Recommendations
When it comes to drinking water, health experts generally recommend a daily intake of 2.5 litres for men and 2 litres for women. However, these guidelines can vary based on individual needs, climate, and activity levels. Employees engaging in strenuous activities or working in hot environments may need more than the recommended amounts.

Strategies for the Workplace
Promote Regular Water Breaks: Encourage employees to take short breaks to drink water. Consider setting up hydration stations with water dispensers and reusable cups.

Provide Reusable Water Bottles: Distribute branded water bottles to staff and encourage them to keep them filled throughout the day.
Use Technology: Hydration reminder apps and smart bottles can help track water intake and remind employees to drink regularly.

Incorporate Water-Rich Foods: Offer fruits and vegetables like strawberries, cucumbers, and watermelons in the office kitchen to boost hydration.
Adjust Hydration for Weather Conditions: On hot days, remind employees to drink more frequently. During colder months, ensure they understand that indoor heating can also lead to dehydration

Strategies for Remote Workers
For remote employees, staying hydrated can be more challenging without the structure of an office environment. Here are some tips:

  • Encourage a Home Hydration Routine: Remind remote workers to start their day with a glass of water and to keep a water bottle at their desk.
  • Virtual Hydration Reminders: Use team communication tools to send regular hydration reminders and tips.
  • Hydration Challenges: Organise friendly competitions to motivate remote workers to meet daily hydration goals.

Alternatives to Water
While water is the best option for hydration, other drinks like herbal teas, fruit juices, and electrolyte solutions can also help. Be cautious with caffeinated and sugary drinks, as they can have diuretic effects. Electrolyte drinks can be particularly useful for replenishing essential minerals lost through sweat, especially during intense physical activity.

Use Tools and Apps
Hydration trackers and smart bottles can be valuable tools for maintaining good hydration habits. These devices remind employees to drink water and track their intake throughout the day.

Special Considerations for Vulnerable Individuals
Older adults and young children are more susceptible to dehydration. Ensure these groups have easy access to fluids and are encouraged to drink regularly. For older employees, set up hydration reminders or check-ins. For those with children, share tips on keeping kids hydrated.

Keep Your Staff Hydrated
During these hot summer months, creating a hydration-friendly environment is key. By recognizing the signs of dehydration, understanding the factors contributing to it, and adopting effective hydration strategies, you can help prevent dehydration-related health issues. Employers can provide accessible water sources, encourage regular water breaks, and integrate hydration into wellness programs, while those in leadership should set the tone by prioritising their own hydration and encouraging others to do the same.

Stay safe, stay hydrated!