The world of work – as with everything else – has changed dramatically due to Covid-19, and the businesses that will weather the storm the best will be the ones that adapt to the new normal. Offices will have to be different when staff return, but rather than view this as a negative, it can be seen as a positive opportunity to make sustainable changes.
Britons want to live and work more sustainably
Surveys carried out by the UK Centre for Climate and Social Transformation (CAST) found that Brits made low-carbon choices during lockdown and are keen to keep these new habits. A few changes to the office environment can help keep these sustainable habits going, from cutting down on food waste to decreasing energy consumption. Here’s how.
Sustainable eating options
The days of popping out to the coffee shop to grab lunch might be over, as concerns about hygiene and social distancing are encouraging workers to make their own lunches. Bringing food from home also has many benefits for the environment. It cuts down on single-use plastic takeaway packaging, and it helps reduce food waste at home by using up leftovers.
The CAST survey found participants had bolstered their waste reduction habits by freezing and preserving food and making meal plans. In figures, food waste reduction stood at 92% during lockdown compared to 84% beforehand.
Employers can encourage this sustainable approach to eating by providing the kinds of facilities that workers need in the office, such as fridges to safely store chilled food and microwaves to reheat meals. There will need to be considerations about how to make these shared spaces and touch points safe and hygienic, like increased cleaning and designated areas.
Better waste management
Reducing food waste goes hand in hand with cutting down on waste in general, so many offices will want to introduce more recycling systems into the workplace.
Alongside recycling sections for paper and other materials used in the work itself, it will be important to add ways to separate rubbish into food waste bins that can be taken to composting sites, and bins for packaging that can be recycled rather than sent to landfill.
Eco-friendly energy options
Switching to more environmentally friendly energy practices can help reduce costs as well as helping the planet, so it’s a win-win. Of course, solar panels and green energy suppliers are fantastic, but they might not always be practical in rented offices.
However, everyone can contribute to reducing energy consumption by being reminded to turn off lights and electrical devices when not needed. The CAST survey found that lockdown had led to an increase in people doing these things – 27% of participants now “always” do this, compared to 21% before lockdown. One of the options to encourage employees keeping this tendency could be using glass office partitions to provide more natural light and use less electricity.
One of the most striking statistics in the CAST survey is related to the decrease in the amount people spent on clothes. In the three-month period of March to May 2020, 63% of participants didn’t spend anything on footwear or clothing. That is compared to a tiny 9% who spent nothing on those items during the previous three months.
Sustainable fashion choices are here to stay, with more people swapping fast fashion for slow fashion. That means most workers won’t want to buy new outfits just for the office. Employers can encourage staff to dress more sustainably and embrace the slow fashion movement by removing strict dress codes and allowing staff to wear whatever they want.
Providing reusable face masks that employees can wash at home and re-wear can also help reduce the waste caused by having to wear single-use, disposable face masks in the office every day.
Plants in the office provide lots of benefits. They can increase air quality by filtering toxins and emissions from devices such as photocopiers. They can even help with sound insulation, creating a buffer against noise.
Plants that are potted and are continuing to grow are more sustainable than cut flowers, and the care they require can also provide staff members with a positive experience of tending to them.
These sustainable habits for the office can help businesses and their staff prosper during the post-Covid-19 era.