Go Green For a Healthier And More Productive Workplace
The science is in: an environmentally friendly overhaul of the workplace is more than just ‘doing a good thing.’ Green initiatives not only help the planet, they can also tip the scales when creating a healthier, more productive work environment for all employees. Plus it’s not that hard.
After the disruptions of 2020, businesses now have an opportunity to review their greening agenda and tighten their embrace on sustainability.
Researchers from Harvard discovered that working in green-certified buildings resulted in employees performing 26 per cent better in cognitive function tests, displaying 30 per cent fewer symptoms of “sick building” syndrome – fatigue, lack of concentration – and a 6 per cent higher sleep quality score. Employees also reported feeling happier and more positive about work.
While a Green Star office fitout may not feasible for many businesses, the evidence is clear. A greener working environment can have a positive influence on employee wellbeing and performance, boosting the bottom line.
Creating an eco-friendly workplace is one that is sensitive to the environment, manages resources effectively and is socially responsible. This doesn’t have to put a financial strain on the business, but it does need employee engagement to integrate a green company culture.
Building a sustainable culture requires all employees, from executives to floor workers, to engage in day-to-day eco-friendly efforts. Executives should lead by example and implement collaborative policies that educate and engage employees. Employees must be empowered to be part of the conversation, to contribute suggestions and feedback, and apply their personal experiences of what works and what doesn’t.
Some businesses have even adopted green champions or green teams to help drive an eco-friendly agenda.
Here are five accessible and cost-effective green initiatives to implement in your workplace.
Invest in greenery
Plants in the workplace raise productivity and performance, improve job satisfaction, lower stress and reduce the amount of time taken off as sick leave according to research by the University of Technology Sydney study. Exeter University confirmed these findings, showing a plant-filled office improved employee engagement and concentration levels, resulting in a 15 per cent boost in productivity.
Our predisposition to love plants has a name: Biophilia. As Australians spend around 90 per cent of their time indoors it makes sense to introduce elements that are vital to health and wellness, especially when plants play a key role in improving air quality and minimising noise.
Plants help to dampen workplace noise as their leaves reflect and absorb acoustic energy. What’s more, indoor plant life can save energy during the summer months. Plants cool their surrounding environment slightly and with each additional plant, the impact of this increases. A green wall or vertical garden made up of hundreds of plants can significantly reduce the temperature of a room.
Five considerations when adding plants to a workspace:
- Engage employees in the greening process to promote ownership of ideas
- Provide choice, from small plants to bold leafy ones and include care instructions i.e. watering and lighting
- Choose low maintenance plants especially for a desk
- Place randomly through the office so it looks natural rather than uniform
- Hire a professional to care for the plants or create a ‘green team.’
Implement recycling and reduce waste
Waste reduction strategies don’t need to be costly or time-consuming to implement. A workplace recycling plan requires planning on where waste is generated, how to dispose of it and how to promote it. A first step could be as simple as introducing an easily identifiable recycling bin in the office kitchen area or near the printer or copier – wherever recycled waste is generated. Each employee could opt for a small paper-recycling bin at their desk.
Does the workplace use recycled supplies? There may be options to save money by buying recycled products. Next, look into the safe removal and recycling of larger products such as ink cartridges, computers, and other electronics. According to PlanetArk commercial and industrial waste makes up a third (20.4 million tons) of the total waste generated in Australia, with 58 per cent of the waste being recycled.
Look at options within your office for eco-friendly solutions such as encouraging reusable mugs and reusable bottles. Office merchandise items may be a solution, offer company travel mugs and stainless-steel water bottles to promote waste reduction.
Promote a paperless office
Paper is still a reality for most companies but with the right tools you can certainly drive down paper usage. Define your objectives and goals then assess where you use the most paper. Break down solutions into actionable steps to help everyone develop the habit of using less paper. Make your environmentally friendly initiative a company-wide commitment.
Educate employees to promote ‘healthy’ print habits and reduce the amount of paper used. Review your current suite of paperless digital solutions and consider expanding options such as online forms, cloud storage, promote devices for meeting where employees need to take notes and switch to e-signatures.
Encourage energy conservation
Create a policy for conserving energy within the office. Turning off lights and switching off electronic equipment at the end of the working day will conserve energy, saving businesses a significant amount on the electricity bill.
Promote use of the hibernation feature on all computers and to be successful, ensure conservation practices are communicated alongside the benefits to promote buy-in from employees.
Install energy-efficient LEDs, which use less energy than halogen bulbs and consider sensors so lights automatically turn off when the room is not in use. If the business is due to replace older office equipment, select new certified energy efficient ones.
Promote natural light
Substantial savings can be made if businesses reduce the use of artificial light and harness the power of natural lighting. Removing blinds, moving desks and even including mirrors can help. Technology such as daylight sensors can adjust the artificial lighting, according to the amount of natural light in a room, which can reduce electricity use by up to 40 per cent.
A survey by HR advisory firm Future Workplace found that access to natural light and views of the outdoors are the number one attribute of the workplace environment. The study also found that the absence of natural light and outdoor views can impact an employee’s wellbeing.
Look at options to reconfigure the office space. Often the brightest areas with the best views are kept for meeting rooms or oversized foyers, or for executive offices. Adapt these spaces to provide employees with better access to natural light and create light filled break-out work spaces.
References and further reading:
Planet Ark: Business recycling
Future Fitouts: Sustainability in the workplace