7 ways to keep you business cool this summer

UK warm weather

The UK has experienced a surprising spell of warm weather these past few days, so it’s safe to say that summer has truly arrived!

While most of us are well equipped for colder times, we may find ourselves puzzling on how to cope with the heat, especially during working hours.

Here are 7 top tips to help keep your business and employees cool during working hours.

1. Dress for summer

Allow employees to dress more casually, to help them keep cool and productive throughout the day.

However, even if staff are required to enter the office suited, there are still ways to prepare for the heat, by wearing breathable materials and loose fitting clothes.

2. Find a cool commute

You don’t want to be arriving to the office hot and bothered, so plan a commute that is cool. Try leaving home a little earlier to avoid overheating when in a rush to get ready.

Also, avoid rush hour when catching public transport and if you’re walking to work, make sure you’re on the shady side of the street.

3. Keep the cool air in

Insulating your business premises doesn’t just keep the cold air out in the winter, it also prevents hot air from getting in during the summer.

If using air conditioning, remember to keep windows and doors shut to keep the cool air from flowing out.

4. Turn off appliances

Turn off all equipment that is not in use!

Leaving appliances such as printers and monitors on standby can use up almost as much energy as when they are switched on. This createsheat in the office and contributes substantially to your overall energy bill.

5. Stay hydrated

You shouldn’t need reminding, but don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day. Drinking enough water is important, especially during summer! Always keep a bottle of water at your desk – the more chilled, the better.

6. Use sun-protecting window film

Window film vendors discard up to 75% of solar heat. The best window films are also registered as Carbon Negative, reducing the emission of CO₂.

7. Eat smaller meals

Rather than consuming a lot of food at once, eat smaller meals and eat more often.

The bigger the meal, the more metabolic heat your body creates breaking down the food.

Believe it or not, spicy food can also help cool you down. Curries and chillies help stimulate heat receptors in the mouth, improve circulation and cause you to sweat, which in turn cools the body down.

Also read: Summer energy tips: How to cut down on costs






Smartphones: More powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969

High quality Earth image. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

“Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon.” (Michio Kaku)

It seems hard to believe, but this statement is in fact true – a handheld device we all own has greater computational capabilities than the machines used for guiding spacecrafts through outer space some 45 years ago.

Numerous IBM System/ 360 Model 75 mainframe computers, costing around $3.5 million apiece, all while taking up a lot of space were running at NASA at the time.

These machines could perform a couple hundred thousand-addition operations per second, with their total memory capacity in the megabyte range.

As for the 32 kilogram Apollo Guidance Computer, which the Apollo 11 Command Module had on board, it was a machine that had 64 kilobytes of memory and operated at 0.043MHz.

The iPhone 5s, which can easily fit into any pocket, has a CPU running speed of up to 1.3GHz, which can execute millions of calculations per second.

The phone also includes 1GB of RAM, which can easily store the 6 megabytes of code that NASA developed to monitor the status of its spacecrafts and astronauts in 1969.

A couple years later, in 1975, a supercomputer called Cray-1 emerged. It was capable of 80MHz, and generally used for scientific projects, such as simulating the interaction of fluids. This device helped render the CGI for the first Tron movie, which was released in 1982.

However, the Cray-1’s raw computational power of 80 million floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) is nothing compared to the standard graphics unit inside the iPhone 5s, which produces around 77 GFLOPS – almost 1000 times more.

10 years after the Cray-1 was created, the Cray-2 was released in 1990, and was the world’s fastest supercomputer. But even with a performance of around 1.9 GFLOPS, the machine still ranks behind the iPhone when it comes to GFLOPS ratings.

So, when you consider all those amazing manned missions to the moon, and what it required to get there, remember that had the complexities of the final AGC been understood when the NASA began to design it, they would have likely never started, as they would have considered the computer far outside the available technology of the day.

In years to come, people will look at the iPhones and smartphones of today, so obsolete and so out-of-date toys that humans had to deal with to communicate.

Also read: Space-based solar power: Powering the earth






£4 billion cost-saving energy investment opportunity

gab elf

A survey by British Gas business identified the barriers to energy investment and a £4bn cost-saving opportunity.

British Gas was the headline sponsor of the Energy Live Future conference at the Leicester’s National Space Centre, which took place on 7 June.

The event attracted more than 200 of the UK’s largest energy users, experts and innovators who shared their views on the future of energy with Gab Barbaro, Managing Director of British Gas business.

Both businesses and public sector organisations expressed their concern that political uncertainty and difficulties gaining boardroom approval are presenting major barriers to making energy investments.

They also described the growing pressure to reduce costs and convince senior management about the need to take control of their energy needs.

More than a third (38%) of delegates at the event, agreed that reducing energy costs remained the central energy issue for large organisations. This was closely followed by the challenge of convincing business leaders to allow investment in new technology (35%).

Nearly half (48%) of delegates suggested that political uncertainty, caused by the General Election, Brexit and changing regulation, could make it even more difficult for them to make significant energy changes.

Despite these challenges, British Gas business urged UK businesses and the public sector to embrace the disruptive trends and technologies that are transforming the UK’s energy landscape, as they present a unique opportunity for large energy users.

Barbaro said: “My challenge to business leaders is to get smart and be more proactive about their energy use. Businesses must think long-term rather than be swayed by current political or economic uncertainty – there are countless opportunities for organisations to save money on their bills today, by getting to grips with how it’s being used and taking action where it’s being wasted.”

When asked what would be the biggest energy trend of the coming decade, more than half of delegates (56%) believed that battery storage would be most important, followed by using demand-management technology through the Internet of Things (31%) and generating all of your own energy from on-site generation (12%).

space centre

British Gas business showed delegates how to overcome their energy issues by adopting three principles:

1. Smarter buying of energy

2. More intelligent use of energy resources

3. Greater control over energy use through initiatives such as on-site generation or demand management technology.

A variety of new and emerging energy technologies were on show at the event including the latest generation and storage products on offer to customers through Centrica’s Distributed Energy & Power business.

Several other influential businesses took part at the future-gazing event, including Microsoft, EY and Tesla. Delegates learned how to make use of block chain technology and the smart grid, and gave their verdict on current energy technologies during the ‘Energy Tech Tinder’ session.

Stephen Church, Partner at EY, said: “The industry is changing at a pace that has never been experienced before. This is the age of the empowered customer – and disruptive technology is at its very heart. Now the industry must rise to new challenges and embrace this change and disruption if it’s to make of the most of the ever arising new opportunities.”

A new record for renewables in the UK

Renewable Enegy UK

Renewable energy sources have generated more electricity than coal and gas in the United Kingdom for the first time.

According to a report from National Grid, power created from wind, solar, wood pellet burning and hydro supplied 50.7% of Great Britain’s energy on Wednesday 7 June, during lunchtime.

Add nuclear power to the mix, and by 2pm low carbon sources were supplying 72.1% of electricity in the UK.

These weather conditions on this day were perfect for renewables being both sunny and windy. Currently, records for wind power are being set across Northern Europe.

The National Grid tweeted: “For the first time ever this lunchtime wind, nuclear and solar were all generating more than both gas and coal combined.”

On the day before (Tuesday 6 June), a tenth of the UK’s power came from offshore wind farms – a first for the energy sector where cost dropped far faster than expected.

In fact, wind turbines generated so much power that prices dropped to a tenth of their normal level.

Emma Pinchbeck, who heads up renewable energy trade body RenewableUK, said: “National Grid is confirming that low-carbon sources are generating 70pc of our electricity – with wind power the star amongst these sources.”

She said the “incoming government should be proud of what the wind sector has achieved in the UK, and work with the industry to ensure that these record-breaking days for wind energy generation become our new norm”.

This is truly a milestone for renewables, and a step towards a low carbon economy.

Storage is of huge importance. For low-carbon sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectricity their efficiency is completely dependent on the weather.

The key is to be able to store excess energy produced – feeding it into the national grid as and when it’s needed.





The 10 leading European countries in renewable energy

Wind farm at sunset moment, Egypt

Climate change and the need to manage diminishing fossil fuel reserves are, today, two of the biggest challenges facing the planet.

In order to secure a future for generations to come, we need to reduce energy consumption and substantially cut down on greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Renewable energy technologies are clean sources of energy that will not run out. Ever. They also have a much lower environmental impact than fossil fuels..

Here is a look at 10 European countries where renewable energy is becoming an increasingly important part of the country’s energy mix.

10. Romania – 24.8%


Almost a quarter of Romania’s total energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources. The country surpassed its national target of 24 per cent and easily exceeded the European target of 20 per cent.

9. Lithuania – 25.8%


An important pillar of Lithuania’s energy policy, renewable energy accounted for 25 per cent of the country’s gross energy consumption. At the start of this year, Lithuania was home to more than 2,500 power plants from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro.

8. Portugal – 28%

Portugal has become one of Europe’s leaders in terms of renewable energy sources – specifically with wind and micro-generation.

7. Estonia – 28.6%


Oil shale and renewable fuels meet a large part of Estonia’s energy needs. Renewable energy plants are becoming more available in the country, with 28 per cent of energy consumption coming from renewable energy resources.

6. Croatia – 29%

Croatia copy

Hydropower forms a huge part of Croatia’s installed renewable capacity with wind and solar power following behind.

5. Denmark – 30.8%


Denmark relies heavily on wind power – with more than 31, 000 people working in the industry in 2015.

4. Austria – 33%


Austria is home to more than 2.4 gigawatts of installed wind capacity and 900 megawatts of installed solar capacity. However, hydropower is the largest supplier to the country’s renewable energy, contributing more than 13 gigawatts of installed hydropower capacity.

3. Latvia – 37.6%


Hydropower and gas provide the majority of domestic electricity supply for Latvia, with wind and biomass also contributing to the energy mix. In 2014, hydroelectricity produced 39 per cent of the country’s total electricity generation.

2. Finland – 39.3%


Bioenergy, hydropower, wind power and ground heat are among the largest renewable energy sources in Finland.

1. Sweden – 53.9%

Sweden renewable energy

By quite some way, Sweden is the leading European country in terms of renewable energy, with over half of its energy supplies coming from renewable energy sources.

In 1970, 75 per cent of its energy supplies consisted of oil – this figure has now fallen to roughly 20 per cent today.




Image credit: Romania | Lithuania | Portugal | Estonia | Croatia | Denmark | Austria | Latvia | Finland | Sweden

Pets in the workplace: why an office dog is a good idea

Office Dog

Research has shown that brining your four-legged friend to the office can improve staff wellbeing and productivity.

Imagine working alongside canine colleagues? Well, some companies out there allow pet parents to bring their pooch along to the office.

Many small businesses today have an office dog, to hang around during working hours with the important role of boosting the teams’ morale.

Although most companies are yet to allow pets to come to work, it’s a growing trend, and there is even a Bring Your Dog to Work Day, which will take place on 23rd June this year.

Generally, businesses with creative, open working environments are more likely to allow an office dog – and the presence of the canine in the workplace is thought to help improve the office culture.

Apart from many small businesses, large innovative companies such as Google, Zynga and Purina don’t just allow an office dog – they encourage dog owners to bring their furry family members to work every day. The aim is to improve work-life balance, manage stress and improve productivity.

Nestlé’s corporate headquarters near Gatwick allows its 1,000-plus employees to bring their dogs to work daily. The company established a “pawthorisation” process that requires employees to complete a detailed questionnaire about their dog’s habits and behavioural evaluations. An independent dog specialist then examines this.

If everything is in order, the dog joins Nestlé’s PAW (Pets at Work) programme and gets its own “passpawt”.

Employees can choose if they want to bring their canine colleagues to meetings in designated dog-friendly rooms and even have the option to let them stretch their legs in garden specifically created for them.

Forbes, an employee at Nestlé’ and owner of Reggie the beagle says: “It’s like having a member of your family in the office. There’s something about it that feels so right.”

Nestlé also owns the pet food brand; Purina – thus presenting the company as one that is dog friendly. This is great for PR and also attracts animal-loving employees which makes perfect business sense.

Forbes believes that “the atmosphere in the office is warmer now and more sociable.” She adds: “People will stop you in the corridors to stroke your dog so you start talking to someone in a different part of the company who you’d never normally have spoken to, or have only encountered over email.”

Gemma Gillingham, owner of Max the Labrador cross, agrees: “People will ask to come and see him, and find out where you sit. You end up getting to know so many people in different parts of the business, which can be useful.”

According to research by Reed.co.uk, about 8% of employees in the UK are allowed to take their dogs to work.

Mars Petcare – who own Pedigree, Whiskas and Sheba – started allowing employees to bring pets into the office in 2008.

Allowing dogs in the workplace is believed to boost morale and lead employees to think better of the company that is offering the benefit – and what’s better it costs employers next to nothing.

While an office dog or canine colleague may not be practical for every business, many companies have seen that they help employees bond, motivate good work and bring talent to their business.

Apart from bringing your pooch to the office, employees at Brewdog are allowed to take puppy parental leave.

You may just one day find yourself typing away in your office alongside a border collie.





Champions League final: how much energy can players produce?

Madrid vs Juventus

This weekend Juventus face holders Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final at the National Stadium of Wales in Cardiff.

While the hype may be around the team line-ups and who will come out on top, have you thought about how much energy players will produce this weekend?

A game of football is characterised by intensity – short sprints are mixed between periods of walking, jogging and moderate-paced running.

Let’s take a look into this maximal intermittent form of exercise and see just how much energy football players will produce…

Intensity and distance covered

During a football game all three types of energy would be used, as intensity changes from low to high.

However, because it’s not clear just how fast, how many and how long the sprints are, as well as how easy and how long the intervening periods are, it’s not easy to determine which of the energy systems are most important.

In 1976, two English researchers, Thomas and Reilly analysed the patterns of football players in the old first division.

They worked out that a player would change their energy activity every 5-6 seconds, and on average would sprint for 15 meters every 90 seconds.

According to SportVU the average distance covered by a football player is 15km.

Thomas and Reilly found that of the distance covered over the 90 minutes, the average football payer’s energy could be broken down into the following intensities:

  • 25% walking – 3.7km
  • 37% jogging – 5.55km
  • 20% running (below top speed) – 3km
  • 11% sprinting – 1.65
  • 7% running backwards – 1.05

Calculating the energy used

If we take the average distance to be 15km over a period of 90 minutes with the average weight of a player being 70 kg’s – the energy usage per player would be 1575 kcal (6615 Kjoules).

With this total, we can then work out how much power is generated by converting this figure into a unit for measuring electricity.

By converting this figure to watts and then kilowatts, 1,575 kilocalories would be 1.84 kWh. A team of 20 players (excluding the 2 goalkeepers and reserves) would generate 36.8 kWh.

What could these 20 players power?

Using the total of 36.8 kWh, 20 football players competing in the Champions League final could power:

  • A coffee machine for just under a year (if used 10 minutes everyday)
  • A microwave oven for up to 20 weeks (if used for 1,5 hours per week)
  • An LED TV for 7 months (if used 4 hours a day)
  • A low-energy light bulb (12W) for almost 3 years (if used 5 hours per day)
  • An electric shaver (8 -12W) for 123 years (if used 5 minutes every day)

Of course this is not an accurate measurement, as each player’s work rate differs. However, it does show the potential energy that can be created by footballers.

Human energy generation won’t save the world’s energy crises anytime soon, but they remain a foundation for generating clean energy in the future.

Self-powering gym workstations are currently one way the human body can help produce electricity.






Image Credit: Sky Sports

Unusual Staff Benefits: No official work hours

No official work hours

Whether you’re working for a small business or a huge corporation, some things you’re probably familiar with include: tracking your hours, monitoring your annual leave and getting expenses approved.

However, for some salaried employees these are things they don’t need to worry about…

Netflix: No official working hours

Since 2004, employees at Netflix have been allowed to take as much holiday leave as they please.

They can choose when to show up for work, when to take time off and even decide how much time it will take them to complete a job.

As far as the company’s success goes since instituting the policy, Netflix has grown its market capital to over $51 billion (£40 billion).

The flexibility of the company doesn’t mean it lacks accountability. Employees at Netflix have to keep their managers up-to-date and the work that they produce is expected to be of the highest level.

In fact, high performance is so integrated into the business culture that employees are rewarded with a generous severance package.

Rather than micromanaging how people go about completing their work tasks, the leadership focuses only on what matters—results.

Netflix found that providing people with greater autonomy creates a more responsible culture, and without the distraction of rules, employees are able to focus more on productivity.

When the company still operated with the typical time-tracking policy, employees asked an important question:

“We don’t track the time we spend working outside of the office—like e-mails we answer from home and the work we do at night and on weekends—so why do we track the time we spend off the job?”

Management listened. They couldn’t deny the simple logic behind the question.

Netflix employees work when work needs to be done, from wherever they are.

That’s “after hours” out the window….

Agent Marketing: 6-hour working days

Not quite like ‘working whenever you want’, but a British company based in Liverpool, Agent Marketing, has shortened its working day from eight hours to six – inspired by Sweden’s 6 hour working day model to boost wellbeing and efficiency.

Employees, who usually attend work from 8:30am until 5.30pm, have shifted this to a 9am until 4pm day with a compulsory one-hour lunch break where they have to leave their desks.

Ben Spencer, the company’s head of creative says: “It was strange. In the middle of winter, when we leave the office its already dark, but an early finish meant I was coming out of the office into daylight.”

The extra time means that employees have more time to enjoy hobbies. “I like to snowboard, so one day I finished early and went to an indoor ski slope in Manchester which meant I beat the evening rush,” Spencer says.

“It was brilliant – I pretty much had the whole slope to myself. It’s also nice to be able to go home and spend a bit more time with my fiancée and daughter,” he added.

Should every company approach working hours in the same way?

While these working modules work for Netflix and Agent Marketing, they may not work for every business.

Netflix itself acknowledges that the high-performance culture is not for everyone — especially those who “value job security and stability over performance.”

The key, however, involves hiring the best people you can, and clearly identifying what the overall goals are — so that employees can take things into their own hands and understand what needs to be achieved.

Also read:

Sweden introduced six-hour working days and sees benefits





Volcano power plant can generate 10X more energy than oil or gas wells

Iceland's Thor volcano

Iceland’s “Thor” volcano can generate 10X more energy than oil or gas wells by tapping into liquid hot magma.

Geothermal energy is nothing new, but Iceland’s volcano will take things to a whole new level.

Named after a Nordic god, “Thor” is a rig that symbolises Iceland’s leading-edge efforts to produce powerful clean energy. Engineers plan to drill nearly 3 miles into the live volcano to tap liquid hot magma.

The extreme heat and pressure at this depth makes the water take the form of a “supercritical” fluid, which is neither gas nor liquid.

The aim is to generate electricity from the heat stored inside the depths of the volcano by creating steam that causes turbines to move and generate power.

The well is anticipated to be the hottest hole on earth, containing magma that averages 427 °C (800 °F). The hole, completed in January this year has begun production – and if successful, the clean energy source will be able to generate ten times more energy than standard oil or gas wells.

Albert Albertsson, an engineer at the Icelandic energy company HS Orka, involved in the project says; “we expect to get five to ten times more power from the well than a conventional well today.”

The geothermal well is expected to generate enough energy to supply electricity and hot water to the capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, with a population of 212,000.

Usually, you would require 30-35 conventional wells to generate enough energy for a city of this size, however, if Thor performs as expected, it would only take 3 – 5 wells.

The volcano is situated not far from the Blue Lagoon – a stream attracting more than a million tourists last year.

Thor also overlooks craters formed by the last volcanic eruption that took place 700 years ago, covering part of Reykjanes peninsula with a sea of lava.

Scientists and engineers working on the “Thor” experiment have two years to determine its success and the economic feasibility of the drill project.

 Thor Iceland

Also read:

Britain achieves first ever coal-free day ‘since Industrial Revolution’






Image source: inhabitat

Summer energy tips: How to cut down on costs

Save on energy costs during summer

The summer season couldn’t be closer, and while you may be welcoming the warmer weather with open arms, your energy bills can quickly add up.

With temperatures rising, there are several things you can do to make sure that your energy costs don’t rise with the heat.

Here are some tips to help your business some money this summer.

Keep the cool air in

With the hot sun beating down on us, many businesses will crank up the air conditioner without second thought.

If you have an existing air conditioning system in place, you may want to think about servicing or repairing it to help keep the system running smoothly and efficiently.

Insulating your business premises doesn’t just keep the cold air out in the winter, it also prevents hot air from getting in during the summer. If using air conditioning, remember to keep windows and doors shut to keep the cool air from flowing out.

According to the Department of Energy, you can also save 10 per cent a year on your cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 7°- 10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.

Service your boiler

Summer is the best time to make sure your business boiler is in good shape before winter. An annual service by a Gas Safe registered engineer should help catch any problems, keeping your business safe and warm throughout the year. If it turns out that your boiler needs a little more than just a service, it’s much easier dealing with it in summer when it is warm, when you’re not as dependent on it.

Preventing problems with your boiler helps avoid unnecessary hassles to your business routine. A faulty boiler could waste you money on energy and might even start leaking poisonous carbon monoxide.

Make the most of natural lighting

It may sound obvious, but many businesses still struggle to achieve maximum efficiency when it comes to office lighting.

Apart from using fluorescent bulbs that use around about 75 per cent less energy than standard light bulbs, you can make use of natural light coming into your office.

You may need to figure out where the sun will be and when, and rearrange the layout of your business space accordingly. Move desks around so that they are not in direct line with the main window when the sun is beaming in throughout the afternoon. This way you can keep your blinds open and your lights off.

What else?

Here are some easy other ways you can help feel more comfortable during the summer months:

  • If there is a heatwave, relaxing business dress may help staff morale
  • Using a fan can help increase the efficiency of an air conditioning system
  • Turn off anything which creates heat when not in use, such as printers and monitors
  • If you’re not making use of air conditioning, open windows and doors to prevent stuffiness

Many business leaders tend to pay more attention to their energy consumption during the winter months, however for every pound that they save on lower heating bills, they’re likely to be spending the same amount, if not more on air conditioning.

Also, don’t assume that you have to wait until the winter before you take serious control of your energy usage. Start today!

You may also want to read:

Checklist: 10 ways to save energy in the workplace