Record-Breaking Heat Waves Impact Small Businesses and Employees


Extreme heat waves have been sweeping across the United States, and the effects are being felt by small businesses and their employees. According to a recent report, the scorching temperatures have forced many small businesses to close early, resulting in reduced working hours for employees. This article delves into the impact of extreme heat on small businesses and explores the measures taken by employers to mitigate the effects.

In the past few weeks, the South and Southwest regions of the US experienced historic highs in temperatures, leading to extreme heat advisories for hundreds of millions of Americans. These dangerous conditions have not only kept consumers indoors but have also compelled small businesses to adjust their operating hours. The report by Homebase, a small business payroll company, highlights the impact of the heat wave on local economies.

In the first two weeks of July, small business employees nationwide worked 0.9% fewer hours compared to the previous two weeks in June. This decline in working hours is a standard seasonal change that typically occurs during the summer months. However, cities that experienced the worst of the heat wave saw significantly higher slowdowns, up to five-and-a-half times. This highlights the profound effect that high temperatures have on local economies.

The impact of extreme heat on small businesses varies across different regions. In cities like New Orleans and Memphis, where the heat wave was particularly intense, small business employees experienced a reduction in working hours of 5.7% and 5.1%, respectively. Business owners in these cities had to shorten their operating hours to adjust for the decrease in customer footfall and to protect their employees from excessive heat exposure.

On the other hand, cities that experienced shorter heat waves, such as Boston, were able to increase their hours of operation and the number of employees working. Boston, with only two days of temperatures in the 90s, saw the largest month-to-month increase in the number of hours worked by employees, at 7.8%.

The impact of the heat wave is not limited to reduced working hours; it also affects the overall business operations and the well-being of employees. Danah Lee, an employee at Willie’s Taco Joint in Phoenix, experienced this firsthand. In Phoenix, the National Weather Service recorded the longest consecutive streak of temperatures over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in history. Lee observed a significant decrease in foot traffic, and the indoor dining areas consistently reached temperatures of 95 degrees or more, despite the restaurant’s efforts to keep things cool.

The heat not only affects the business but also takes a toll on the employees. Working long hours in such extreme heat is challenging and can lead to heat exhaustion. To mitigate these risks, employers in labor-intensive outdoor industries are shifting workers’ hours to earlier in the day when temperatures are relatively lower. However, the lack of federal oversight means that some contractors are not obligated to make these accommodations, leaving workers vulnerable to heat-related injuries.

The lack of federal oversight regarding heat safety in the workplace is a concerning issue. Travis Parsons, the director of occupational safety and health for Laborers International Union of North America, expresses his concern about the vulnerability of workers to heat-related injuries. Parsons highlights the importance of federal regulations that require contractors to make accommodations for extreme heat conditions. Without these regulations, workers in certain states are left unprotected.

“It’s more relevant now than ever. It’s always been an issue in my 20 plus years, but it seems to be really in the spotlight,” said Parsons. The spotlight on this issue calls for immediate action to protect workers and ensure their safety in extreme heat conditions.

Small businesses and employers across various industries are finding ways to adapt to the extreme heat and protect their employees. Some businesses have opted to shorten operating hours, allowing their employees to work in cooler conditions. Others have decided to shift working hours to earlier in the day when temperatures are less intense. These measures aim to mitigate the adverse effects of extreme heat on employees’ health and productivity.

However, it is crucial for employers to implement these adaptations voluntarily, as federal regulations regarding heat safety in the workplace are lacking. Employers should prioritize the well-being of their employees and take proactive measures to ensure their safety during heat waves.

Extreme heat waves serve as a reminder of the importance of embracing technology and productivity strategies to combat the challenges faced by small businesses. Investing in efficient cooling systems, automation, and remote work capabilities can help businesses maintain productivity despite extreme weather conditions. Small businesses should also consider implementing flexible working arrangements and providing adequate rest breaks for employees working in intense heat.

Extreme heat waves have significant consequences for small businesses and their employees. The heat not only reduces working hours but also affects overall business operations and employee well-being. The lack of federal oversight regarding heat safety in the workplace is a concerning issue that leaves workers vulnerable. It is essential for small businesses to adapt to extreme heat conditions by implementing voluntary measures and utilizing technology and productivity strategies to ensure employee safety and maintain business productivity.


Q: What are the consequences of extreme heat on small businesses? A: Extreme heat can lead to reduced working hours, decreased customer footfall, and challenges in maintaining a comfortable working environment for employees.

Q: How do small businesses adapt to extreme heat conditions? A: Small businesses can adapt by shortening operating hours, shifting working hours to cooler times of the day, and investing in technology and productivity strategies.

Q: Is there federal oversight regarding heat safety in the workplace? A: Currently, federal regulations regarding heat safety in the workplace are lacking, leaving workers in some states unprotected.

Q: What can small businesses do to protect their employees during extreme heat waves? A: Small businesses can prioritize employee safety by implementing voluntary measures such as providing adequate rest breaks, implementing flexible working arrangements, and investing in cooling systems.

Q: How can technology help small businesses during extreme heat conditions? A: Technology can help small businesses maintain productivity by automating processes, enabling remote work capabilities, and improving overall efficiency.

Q: What are some productivity strategies that small businesses can adopt during extreme heat? A: Small businesses can consider implementing flexible working arrangements, providing training on heat safety, and offering rest breaks to ensure employee well-being and productivity during extreme heat conditions.

First reported by REUTERS.


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