The Workday May Shift With Climate Change

By Medscape Staff

January 05, 2022

As working during the hottest part of the day becomes increasingly infeasible in some parts of the world, work hours may need to adjust, according to a new Nature Communications study.

What to know:

  • As temperatures rise globally, workers in the hottest locations are increasingly often forced to stop work in the middle of the day due to extreme heat posing unsafe conditions.

  • Extreme heat is already impacting hundreds of millions of workers in industries like agriculture, forestry, and construction, and estimated to cost as much as $670 billion a year in labor productivity, according to researchers from Duke University, reporting in the journal Nature Communications.

  • Labor productivity lost could reach $1.6 trillion a year if temperatures increase by an additional 2 °C (3.6 °F). The highest burden of those economic losses is expected to be felt in India, China, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

  • The researchers found that 30% of the global labor losses due to extreme heat could be saved by moving that work from the three hottest hours to the three coolest hours of the day.

  • However, they noted this strategy will become less effective as temperatures continue to climb and does not account for impacts like disruptions to sleep patterns caused by shifting work hours.

This is a summary of the article "In the face of climate change, it’s time to rethink regular work hours" published by Anthropocene Magazine on
January 4, 2022. The full article can be found on

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