Office Sustainability 1

How can workplaces prioritise sustainability in the post-pandemic office?

Chris Blencowe, Sustainability Manager at office fit-out and refurbishment contractor, Parkeray, discusses how workplaces can create a sustainable work environment that supports employee health and wellbeing.


It’s safe to say the pandemic has completely transformed the office environment as we know it. With social distancing measures and new processes in place to help stop virus transmission, workers are operating in a very different way.

Over the years, offices have evolved drastically to suit the different moods of workers, encourage productivity and attract top talent. Innovations in the building’s physical attributes, flexible ways of working, as well as social and cultural elements all play a big part in this.

Sustainability and CSR have certainly taken a leading role. Especially when it comes to attracting and retaining the younger generation of workers, who prioritise employers and workspaces that are responsible and environmentally friendly.

BRITA Professional recently conducted research into this trend; it revealed that Millennials and Generation Z highly value the sustainability credentials of their employer, with an overwhelming majority (86%) saying they would stay at a company longer if it reported back on how it is lowering its impact on the environment[1].


[1] Life is Better Filtered: Next Generation Workplace Sustainability (survey of 1,000 participants), 3GEM in collaboration with BRITA Professional, February 2019

Despite the pandemic shifting our priorities in a big way, it’s promising that the consumer demand for sustainability hasn’t fallen off the radar.

Health and hygiene are certainly in the spotlight right now, but BRITA Professional’s latest research shows UK adults are still switched on to environmental issues. In fact, almost half (48%) of all UK adults are now more conscious of making sustainable choices day-to-day, than they were pre-lockdown[1]. This shows there is a clear opportunity for workplaces to create a positive environmental impact whilst operating safely in the wake of COVID-19.

 


[1] Research conducted by YouGov and BRITA Professional (July 2020)

Here are my top tips for keeping sustainability on the agenda in a post-pandemic world:
Top w/ Wave Bottle

1. Ensure single-use doesn’t make a comeback

It’s inevitable that single-use gloves, masks and wipes will be used more commonly at the moment. However, amid fears that the battle to reduce single-use plastic waste is losing momentum due to the risk of virus transmission, over one hundred scientists from around the globe recently signed a statement which advised that reusable containers are safe to use during the pandemic[1].

Workplaces should consider offering employees (or encouraging employees to use) reusable items, such as water bottles and coffee cups, which can be refilled throughout the day.

What’s more, a great initiative is sharing packed lunch ideas with the workforce, so they can make sustainable lunches at home, rather than relying on convenience foods and supermarket meal deals, which are often packaged in single-use plastic.


[1] The Guardian (June 2020), Reusable containers safe during Covid-19 pandemic, say experts

Black ViTap Office

2. Office design with wellbeing in mind

When it comes to the physical environment, workplaces should investigate long-term measures for enhanced social distancing. This should incorporate hygienic focussed processes, especially in communal breakout areas and kitchen facilities that experience a high footfall.

In addition to this, dedicated spaces for hydrating and recharging should be placed more frequently around the building. This will ensure the water provision is easily accessible to workers and minimise the occurrence of queues or gatherings in the building.

Office Space - Windows and Plants

3. Bring the outdoors in

Workplaces should pay special attention to how the building’s materials and environment can have a positive impact on employee wellbeing. Incorporating plant life into the workspace is a great way to create a tranquil atmosphere and help with mindfulness among employees.

This is especially pertinent when considering how social distancing measures are likely to change the layout and working arrangements we’ve grown accustomed to, such as hot-desking or dedicated spaces previously created to encourage collaboration and interaction.

Lady cycling

4. Sustainable benefits

Many office workers were turned on to the productivity and wellbeing benefits brought about by working from home during the pandemic. By cutting out commutes and eating home cooked meals, the positive sustainability benefits were far-reaching too. In fact, pollution levels dropped dramatically as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, with average air pollution levels in London falling to their lowest since recordings began in 2000[1].

Workplaces should promote this positive impact on the environment by encouraging workers to walk or cycle to work if possible. One idea is to offer benefits, such as a cycle to work scheme, which encourages cheaper travel and better health for employees, increased productivity for businesses, as well as lower congestion and better air quality for society as a whole.


[1] BBC (April 2020), Coronavirus: Pollution levels fall 'dramatically'

Employee at Desk

Right now, sustainability may not feel like a top priority when it comes to reopening office spaces and adapting to new measures presented by the pandemic.

However, its important workplaces do not lose sight of long-term environmental and sustainability challenges. By keeping sustainability, health, and hygiene front of mind, workplaces can create a positive environment that supports employee wellbeing.

Chris Blencowe is the Sustainability Manager at office fit-out and refurbishment contractor, Parkeray.

If you have reopened your workplace, or are looking to in the near future, and require additional support in meeting the needs presented by COVID-19, please get in touch with our Dispenser Customer Service Team via 034567 496 555 or service@brita.co.uk

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