Contemporary office culture has come a long way since people first started talking about green solutions. Here are a few things to consider when you’re taking steps toward creating more sustainable office practices.
Don’t Forget Your Tech
In today’s office world, suggestions like “recycle your paper” are swiftly becoming much less relevant than energy saving tips involving technology. Although, of course, it’s still important to recycle waste paper, or choose recycled paper in the first place, in increasingly paperless offices it pays to consider the energy use of your electronics. If every person in your office is using a computer, imagine the impact of a company-wide policy governing their energy usage.
Program all computers to enter sleep mode after ten minutes of inactivity, and shut down your computer completely at the end of each day rather than allowing it to enter sleep mode. And if you’re still using screen savers, skip it—screen savers are a vestige of the early days of computers, when the image of your desktop would eventually be burned into your screen if left on too long. A static image—or better yet, black—requires much less energy to run than a moving screen saver. Or better yet, if you’re walking away for a few minutes, just turn your monitor off completely. It won’t affect your computer’s memory, performance, or state in any way, but saves energy just like turning off a light switch.
Choose Energy-Saving Appliances
There are many upgrades you can make in your appliances that will go a long way toward saving power, many of which are already becoming the new standard. Just as energy efficient light bulbs are the new norm, LCD monitors have been swiftly replacing the CRT monitors of the past, and if you haven’t made the change yet you should as soon as possible—not only are they three times as efficient, but the upgrade is inevitable. It’s also worth it in both the long and short run to invest in efficient hardware—when buying your computer processors and accessories, look at Energy Star 4.0 ratings or high EPEAT marks.
There are many things offices don’t even think about that can be made more efficient with upgrades—for example, using virtualization technology to consolidate your servers, reducing your need for multiple physical servers (which are huge energy suckers).
Consider Green or Alternative Buildings
The amount of resources used for brick-and-mortar buildings and traditional methods of construction are often overlooked. The Construction Materials Recycling Association estimates that the construction and demolition industries account for 250 million tons of waste each year (which doesn’t include roads or bridges), and these C&D materials make up approximately 35 percent of all waste generated annually. Luckily, there are greener modes of construction for office space. LEED-certified buildings are increasingly becoming a popular trend in CRE. Through LEED, developers and owners are provided with measurable solutions for creating more sustainable buildings. There are also alternative options, especially if you’re feeling a bit more creative, such as such as PVC fabric buildings, which require a fraction of the construction materials or transport, allow greater amounts of natural light to enter, and are made of entirely recyclable materials.
Telecommuting is more feasible in the workplace now than ever before. With dozens of ways of instantly communicating through video, audio, and computer screen shares, the necessity of in-person meetings has been largely reduced. If your employees or partners can work from home, they save a bundle in terms of the energy that would otherwise be spent on commuting. If you have meetings with clients or partners that would usually require someone driving for miles, consider having digital meetings whenever possible. You might want to allow employees to work from home a day or two out of the week. You’ll save money on your office resources while also saving some gas. 44 million Americans currently telecommute full-time, and that number is growing daily because it offers so many practical and environmental advantages.
In this constantly evolving modern workplace, the ways we think about going green need to keep evolving as well. What are some other things you implement to make your office greener? Let us know in the comments below!
Let the Sunshine In! – Adjusting Light and Temperature
These may seem like basic necessities for any office space, but the benefits of maximizing their potential are often overlooked. While people are naturally more enthusiastic when they’re comfortable in their environment, as no employee wants to be stuck in a sweltering, dark space, recent studies have shown that fine tuning these two factors can actually have a direct impact on a person’s levels of motivation and fatigue – two key elements of workplace productivity.
For example, one study tested subjects with both daylight and artificial light throughout the course of several days. From that, they found that those who had daylight exposure had significantly better performance than those with artificial light exposure by the second day. Additionally, another study from Cornell showed results indicating that office productivity actually improves as room temperatures approach a predicted thermal comfort zone.
When considering your space, it is important to learn the details of how the HVAC system works so that temperatures can be adjusted according the day and season (as opposed to leaving the settings at a fixed point, as found in many workplaces). Additionally, employees should be situated near spaces with as much natural lighting as possible, particularly if their work quality is heavily reliant on productivity markers. As the cold reign of noisy, blinkering fluorescent lighting comes to an end, many innovative new lighting options have appeared, including those that serve emulate sunlight itself – which are often useful options to invest in if your work space lacks access to natural lighting.
Turn Down For What? Better Office Productivity!
While it’s true that some of us are more sensitive to noise than others, it’s generally agreed upon that excessive noise is a distraction to most people while trying to work. Unsurprisingly, studies have been performed where up to 99% of those sampled reported that their concentration was negatively affected by various office noises, such as incessantly ringing telephones and constant background chatter.
In addition to being a general annoyance, workplace noise is a serious threat to overall productivity, and is an issue that requires attention now more than ever as offices frequently choose to adopt an open floor plan – less walls does equal more opportunity for noise to travel. Luckily, there are practical ways to control sound in the work space, in order to create a more peaceful and productive environment for employees.
Regardless of your floor plan, it’s always a good idea to create areas of refuge within work spaces where workers can go to focus their concentration, such as a privacy room, a quiet section in a corner outside of all the usual busy distractions, or a sound-proofed conference room – solutions that can usually be enacted without a great deal of time or cost. Other noise reduction options include everything from larger scale projects like sound-masking systems, to smaller solutions such as communal play lists comprised of music that employees can all agree to. At the end of the day, even taking the first step of simply being mindful of the noise levels and looking for solutions can be a great first step towards improving the workplace environment.
The Benefits of A Thoughtful Floor Plan
The debate about the superiority of open floor plans vs closed ones is ongoing, and remains as heated as ever. However, there are certainly ways to make improvements to productivity that work under both options. In it’s most fundamental sense, this comes down to striking the right balance for your space, and being attentive and thoughtful in regards to creating a layout that serves to help employees in achieving their specific work goals.
If you’re in an open space, as mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to create spaces where workers can go to concentrate away from the high-traffic areas. Conversely, if your main work space is primarily closed, having open collaborative areas where workers can get together to brainstorm, discuss, and interact with each other in a personal manner can be a boon as well. Optimally, the goal should be to foster an environment that allows for both privacy and collaboration, as each is needed.
In addition to these conceptual tips, there are also more practical things that can be done, such as organizing the work pace so that people don’t have to constantly walk across the entire room (and thus distract others) in order to access a commonly used area or piece of equipment. A little bit of observation and consideration can go a long way when planning an office layout.
Love Your Body – Ergonomics and Workplace Flexibility
While this ‘tip’ might be commonly known, it’s still important not to underestimate just what good posture and functional desk space can do for productivity levels. Ensuring that your office is equipped with appropriate equipment (chairs, desks, the right technology, etc.) is always a worthwhile investment. Taking this a step further, many companies of late have been giving the option for workers to choose from a variety of different setups – from standing up with an adjustable desk, to sitting on a medicine ball, as well as all the more conventional options in between.
Sometimes we all need a change in scenery to get our brains going, or a chance to get up and stretch, and in this regard workplace flexibility can be a significant step toward providing better overall productivity. Many companies even allow for telecommuting, which is great when possible, but improving workplace flexibility can be something as simple as creating a space where workers can move around and refresh their minds and bodies if needed.
In the most basic terms, efforts to make the office space an enjoyable, comfortable, and efficient place to work can do wonders for performance and productivity. So whether you’re searching for your next office space on OfficeSpace.com or simply looking to spruce up your current office, taking the time to give proper attention to some of the factors discussed above can be a great first step towards improving any type of working environment.