How Hybrid Working Can Contribute to Sustainable Business Practices
For many people, working away from home means hours spent in the car, on the bus or train, or walking to and from home. With the increasing move to hybrid working, suddenly the demands on our time are less and we are able to balance our time more effectively.
But, what many employees don’t realize is the hybrid work model actually offers sustainability benefits, as well as advantages for a work-life balance. It’s a transition that can help individuals, and businesses as a whole, reduce their environmental footprint and save money.
What Is Hybrid Working?
Hybrid working offers a practical solution to the new normal, serving as a mix of office and home-based working. It provides employees with a better work-life balance, but also means employers are still seeing staff regularly. Hybrid working is not without its challenges for leaders, who need to be able to:
- ensure cohesion within the team
- keep communication central to all projects for better collaboration
- maintain balance between work and the personal lives of employees.
When these challenges have been overcome, hybrid working offers businesses, individuals and the environment countless benefits.
Less Vehicles on the Road
An element of many businesses’ sustainability policies is to make commuting to and from work more environmentally-friendly. For larger firms, in particular, the sheer volume of staff coming into the office everyday can mean a significant addition of vehicles on the road. In the UK, even short journeys, that could be made on foot, are typically made by car. Around 60% of 1-2 mile journeys are made by car in England alone.
Hybrid working significantly reduces the number of vehicles on the roads every day, without impacting productivity or profits, which is great news for the carbon footprints of the company and individuals alike.
From paper usage to food in canteens and packaging waste from deliveries, commercial premises can produce a lot of waste over the course of a year. It’s one of the primary ways, in fact, that companies can aim to be more eco-friendly, by working towards processes that produce less waste. A hybrid model of working can help to bring these levels of waste down, as there’s less demand on in-house resources.
Instead of buying food in single-use plastics on their lunch break every day, staff can eat and drink at home using reusable cutlery and glasses. Instead of printing out documents for meetings, staff can email them over for use on a Zoom call. With less people in the office at one time, business owners don’t need to invest as much in resources, as existing resources will last longer. Of course, there’s also the risk staff will still produce excess waste in their own homes too, so businesses should strive to encourage employees to consider their waste and recycling systems when at home, just as they would in the workplace.
Downsizing and Flexibility
Adapting to hybrid working, where work is carried out in the space best suited to the job at hand, means companies have the chance to adopt a ‘need-only’ approach to resources and also the premises they work from. Some companies may choose to ditch the office altogether and have staff work from co-working spaces instead, or they may downsize their premises to something better suited to a flexible way of working.
From power to square footage, companies can base their facilities on utilization rather than headcount, which means they can create flexible spaces to suit the needs of their employees, such as multifunctional workspaces. From a sustainability perspective, downsizing to a space better suited to a business’ needs means less wasted resources, such as energy and water consumption, which is better for the planet and a business’ finances (if it’s done responsibly, that is).
Opportunity for Equipment Sharing
When an in-house business hires a new member of the team, they have to expand their pool of equipment and furniture too – they have to supply the new employee with a desk, a computer or laptop, and any other equipment they need to do their job effectively. All that extra tech has a negative impact on the environment, from the mining for materials to the e-waste it produces when the tech fails.
But with a hybrid approach to working, there’s the chance for a business to expand its team without necessarily investing in new supplies and technology for them to work. An employee can be given equipment the business already has, since many staff will choose to use their own equipment at home, or employees can share equipment depending on when they’re in the office. This ‘hot desk’ approach to using office supplies avoids the unnecessary duplication of materials and minimizes expenses for the business.
A Sustainable Way of Working
Hybrid working is the future, offering businesses a way to cut costs, employees the chance to balance their career and personal life better, and the opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of the business in the process. The transition to hybrid working has largely been led by necessity as a result of the pandemic, and by the changing demands of workers, but there’s no reason why this way of working can’t also offer other positives in the process.
Consolidating office space and equipment, lowering energy and water usage, and reducing the number of vehicles on the road through less commuting time can all help the environment and offer advantages for staff as well.