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Heatwave sends France’s employees back to the office – for the air con

As France swelters under an unusually early heatwave many employees who had been working remotely since the pandemic have headed back to the office - in order to benefit from the air conditioning.

Heatwave sends France's employees back to the office - for the air con
Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP

Flexible working practices – a mix of in-office and at-home working – have become increasingly common in France since the Covid lockdowns proved that some jobs can be done just as easily from home as in the office. 

During the lockdowns, télétravail (remote working) was compulsory for those whose jobs allowed it, it then became recommended but since late 2021, flexible working practices and work-from-home has been a matter for discussion between workers and their bosses.

A study by Insurance firm Malakoff Humanis has found that 38 percent of employees in France still do at least one day of télétravail per week.

READ ALSO Can your boss force you to work during a heatwave in France?

But, with France currently burning under a ferocious early summer heatwave that is expected to send temperature records tumbling, office space is quickly filling up.

Air-con is rare in French homes, but many office spaces have it and workers are keen to avail themselves of the cool air.

“I came for the air conditioning because I didn’t need to come to work today,” one office worker in the capital told Le Parisien. “This Friday, I’m officially remote working, but I’ll be here [in the office].”

Météo France expected the temperature to reach 35C in the capital on Friday. In the southwest of the country, the mercury was expected to pass 40C in cities including Bordeaux and Toulouse.

One Bordeaux computer engineer told the paper: “At home, it gets hot pretty quickly, you can easily reach 30C. It’s much more pleasant to work with a regulated temperature, without abusing the air conditioning for ecological reasons.”

And a financial manager – working shirtless and in shorts in his top-floor apartment in Marseille – said he regretted not bothering going into the office as the heat bit. 

“If I open the windows, the hot wind blows in. When the windows are closed, I cook,” he said.

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WILDFIRES

More evacuated as forest fire reignites in southern France

A forest fire in France's southern Aveyron region has reignited, sparking the evacuation of 1,000 more people and burning a total of 1,260 hectares, local authorities said Sunday.

More evacuated as forest fire reignites in southern France

France has been buffeted this summer by a historic drought as well as a series of heatwaves and several forest fires, notably in the southwest.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

The Aveyron fire, which has been raging since Monday, appeared to be under control and dying out on Saturday afternoon when it suddenly reignited in a “virulent” manner, gobbling up 500 more hectares (1,235 acres), the prefecture said.

At least 1,000 people were evacuated from the village of Mostuejols near the city of Millau and six nearby hamlets, it said.

Some 3,000 people had been evacuated because of the fire, but were allowed back when it appeared under control. No casualties have been reported so far from the blaze.

A local man was under investigation for accidentally starting the fire when a metal part of his trailer touched the road, sending off sparks that ignited the dried vegetation.

In eastern France, police said on Saturday they were banning entry to most forests in the Bas-Rhin region near the German border, in order to limit the risk of fires igniting.

Austrian firefighters help to extinguish a fire in a forest of South Gironde

Austrian firefighters help to extinguish a fire in a forest in South Gironde, near Belin-Beliet on August 13, 2022. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP)

In the southwestern Gironde region around Bordeaux, another fire which flared on Tuesday was under control after rain fell overnight, a senior official said.

READ ALSO: Thunderstorms expected around contained French wildfire

The situation “considerably improved during the night,” Arnaud Mendousse, of Gironde fire and rescue, said.

He said there had been between 10 and 30 mm of rain in the region but on “terrain that is extremely dry”.

“We know that this offers a respite but does not signify an end to the fight. We know that if it does not rain in the next 48 to 72 hours, the risk will increase considerably.”

Mendousse said the humidity level has gone up and the temperature was relatively low at around 25 degrees Celsius, (77 Fahrenheit) adding: “The fire is not completely out and the soil remains extremely hot”.

EU members including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania have pledged reinforcements totalling 361 firefighters to join the roughly 1,100 French ones on the ground, along with several water-bombing planes from the European Union fleet.

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