08 Oct 2021

How to bring sustainability to your workplace

by Joan

As the world steams ahead to end COVID-19, companies are rethinking their office strategies. There’s no better time to put all of the pieces into place. All of those to-dos and office changes you wanted to implement while your office was packed full can be tackled with few to no employees on site.

One thing COVID has taught us is that less is more. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been commuting less, using fewer utilities, and spending less on resources. Most companies have found their productivity to be relatively stable, or even improved, during the pandemic.

The truth is, we don’t need to expend excess resources to do our jobs well and the world is realizing this.

Why sustainability is a priority

It didn’t take long for scientists to start seeing dramatic improvements in air quality soon after COVID struck. With most companies initiating work-from-home mandates, emissions went down worldwide.

What’s more, with fewer emissions people have been healthier. They’ve been feeling better on many fronts: breathing in cleaner air; stressing less about commuting; getting enough sleep for the first time in years. During the pandemic, nitrogen dioxide emissions — a widespread air pollutant that affects air quality — were reduced by 40 percent in China and 20 to 38 percent over Western Europe and the United States.

Carbon emissions fell 6.4 percent globally. In comparison to nitrogen dioxide, this number might seem small. Yet, the United States experienced a whopping 13 percent decrease, mainly due to fewer vehicles on the road. COVID-19 has demonstrated that, not only can we function more sustainably, but more sustainable business practices are within our reach.

The pandemic has sparked a renewed interest in the environment. Not only do sustainability efforts help preserve the earth, but they better our wellbeing as well.

These days, employees relate sustainability with caring: a company that prioritizes sustainable practices is seen as a company that cares. Recent evidence shows job seekers are more attracted to organizations with sustainable practices. Why are people attracted to sustainable companies? There are four key reasons:

  • A feeling of community. When a company supports certain values in the workplace, employees feel like they’re a part of a community, rather than just a cog in a wheel.
  • A sense of caring. A company that cares for the environment emanates a sense of caring for people too, improving employee retention and attracting job seekers.
  • A harmony of values. Most millennials have been raised to care about sustainability and feel connected to companies who value sustainable practices too.
  • Forward thinking. Companies actively moving toward sustainability look in-the-know, modern, and all over forward thinking, which is attractive to career-driven individuals.

Environmentalists have been saying it for years and the pandemic has finally proven it: sustainable practices are in your best interest from utility bills to wellbeing and employee satisfaction.

How to include sustainability in company culture

One of the key benefits of sustainable work habits is the culture the habits create. According to a study conducted by UN Global Compact, 93 percent of CEOs believe sustainability is important to the success of their company. Yet, creating a sustainable work environment isn’t as simple as implementing a new workflow.

It takes a community to change habits. The struggle arises when employees are asked to change their day-to-day processes. In the short run, sustainable practices don’t improve productivity. However, in the long run, productivity will rise as employees grow healthier, old talent sticks around, and your company gets the best of the job seekers.

According to Network for Business Sustainability, “a culture of sustainability is one in which organizational members hold shared assumptions and beliefs about the importance of balancing economic efficiency, social equity and environmental accountability.”

It’s one thing to know what a sustainable workplace culture is, it’s another to implement it. How do you get everyone else invested? Here are some ideas.

Be engaging. There’s a reason football teams have cheerleaders and the hockey announcers are so zealous: they infatuate the crowd. That’s not to say you should hire a cheer squad or shout through the halls, but be infectious with energy toward sustainability. Promote employee engagement by organizing company-wide sustainability challenges, providing openings for feedback, inviting others to share ideas, or engaging in Earth Day.There’s no faster way to grow a community than to share common goals and sentiments.

Start simple. It’s true that the pandemic has given us a boost: a reprieve to come up with a sustainable gameplan. However, implementing all of your ideas at once can make returning to the office even more stressful for employees. Support a smooth transition by showing employees that the move toward sustainability won’t burden their already hampering workloads. Even if you have lots of ideas, keep them simple.

Share the vision. There’s a juggling act between keeping things simple and sharing the whole vision. Share the vision in a straightforward, to-the-point manner that leaves the finish line in clear sight. Back to our hockey analogy, hockey fans know the apex of the game is the final score. They wait on the edge of their seats hoping and praying their team succeeds. Make sure the employees know what they’re cheering for.

Share the results. The best way to help employees feel good about a job well done is to share the results of their work. This nurturing encouragement is why many companies host quarterly meetings to share their business successes. As your company moves toward sustainability, share the progress and changes. Generate excitement about the results and anticipation for the future.

All good companies are well versed in nurturing their employees. Developing a community around sustainability requires the same approach managers and CEOs use to foster camaraderie and passion about your company’s well being. Use the same practices for the environment and you should be all set.

Steps to a sustainable workplace

Despite most employees working from home for the past year and a half, many companies simply need their employees in the office long term and some employees work better on site. One way or another, there will still be a need for office spaces.

Here are some tips for making your office more environmentally friendly.

Implement a recycling program. Implementing a recycling program isn’t as simple as placing out black and blue bins. Make sure you put up proper signage identifying what waste goes in which bin. Also, consider having a composting program for food waste instead of sending it all to the landfill.

Invest in sustainable technology. The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to invest in low-energy devices with excellent longevity. For example, Joan is the only meeting room booking system that offers e-ink displays. These displays last months on a single charge and create a paperless yet paper-like feel to the office.

Support a paperless workplace. On the lines of paperless, encourage employees to use PDFs or other paper alternatives wherever possible. Make sure they have the right technology to support paperless habits, such as Joan’s e-ink displays to replace wall-mounted paper signage.

Promote sustainable commuting. Encourage biking or walking challenges among the office goers or offer financial support for public transport or carpooling. Overall, make sustainable commutes more attractive than driving into work.

Support sustainable suppliers. Your company can work hard to reduce its environmental footprint, but if you’re supporting another company’s unsustainable habits, is your company really making a difference? Scout out your regular suppliers and check if their sustainable interests align with yours. To make the biggest impact, support companies who stand out from the others in their environmental aims.

Set sustainability targets. If you have access to any tangible data, monitor your sustainability progress and set goals. Something as simple as knowing your energy consumption via your utility bill can help track how well your company is progressing toward its goals.

Educate your staff. There are two reasons to educate your staff. First, to keep them updated and excited about the progress their in-office community is making toward sustainable practices. Second, so they know how to make a difference. Put up signage or encourage open discussions about the changes in the office.

Takeaway

Transitioning toward sustainable practices can seem like a lot. It can look intimidating like a tidal wave coming for your office. Yet, in reality, the task is no different than nurturing relationships and loyalty within your office. The only difference is that sustainable practices take time to come to fruition.

Nonetheless, companies pushing toward sustainable practices will thrive in more ways than one. Jump aboard the sustainable revolution and set up your workplace to flourish in the long-term.

For more information about Joan’s devotion to the environment, check out our commitment to sustainability.