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Siestas in Germany? Doctors recommend mid-day break

July 18, 2023

Germany is looking to its southern neighbors for inspiration on how to deal with soaring summer temperatures. But unions have condemned employers for not being prepared for climate change.

A man taking a nap on the grass with a hat over his face in Dresden
A group of doctors have called for midday naps as a way of dealing with rising temperaturesImage: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa/picture alliance

Doctors in Germany have called for the introduction of siestas, or midday naps, as a way to deal with rising temperatures that hamper productivity.

"We should orient ourselves to how people work in the heat in southern countries: get up early, work productively in the morning, and take a siesta at midday," the head of the Federal Association of Physicians of German Public Health Departments (BVÖGD), Johannes Niessen, told the RND media network in an interview published on Tuesday.

"It is a concept that we should adopt in the summer months," he added.

Why does Germany need a siesta?

The doctors from the BVÖGD are calling for the more demanding parts of the workday to be shifted to the morning before workers get worn down by the intense heat.

"People are not as a productive as normal when it's very hot," Niessen said. "Bad sleep due to warm nights can lead to additional concentration problems."

Siesta is a Spanish term for the break many people will take, often including a nap or some kind of rest, during the hottest hours in the middle of the day. But it is a practice common throughout hotter parts of the world.

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The call to shift German work patterns to those more common in southern Europe as global temperatures rise comes as countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece are suffering from back-to-back heatwaves and extreme temperatures.

German employers 'neglecting' risks of extreme heat

Niessen also called for "sufficient fans and lighter clothing, even if the attire rules for an office don't allow it."

Workers, and people in general, need to make sure they're drinking a lot more and eating in several smaller portions throughout the day, he added.

"A cold footbath under the desk would be another option to stay cool while working from home," the BVÖGD chief told RND.

Anja Piel, a board member of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), also told the media network that employers need to carry out regular risk assessments during the summer months to protect workers from extreme heat.

"Working in the heat is demanding on employees and in the worst case can endanger their health," Piel said.

She added that the failure to prepare for climate change and extremely hot summers was an act of "neglect" by German employers.

ab/sms (AFP, dpa)