Workplace sustainability still a priority

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A survey of Australian attitudes to workplace sustainability has found that people still want more sustainable workplaces and workplaces have responded by including sustainability as part of their organisational strategy.

The second wave of the Sustainability in the Workplace report is the result of a survey of 1,051 Australians – the majority of them office workers – in 2012. The survey was undertaken to help organisations gain an understanding of workplace attitudes to sustainability and how to promote positive behavioural change.

“The survey reveals that, with all the pressure Australian businesses are experiencing, employees still want their employers to deliver sustainable workplaces,” said Director of Sustainability at Work, Tania Crosbie. “This has increased by 5% in 12 months with 73% of employees saying it is very important and important their employers act in a sustainable way.”

The report also found that employees have improved their own sustainable performance at home (up 8% to 85%), improved their performance at work (up by 9.5% to 67%) with organisational performance up 10% from 57%.

“This may be due to an increase in the attention organisations are giving to environmental sustainability in the workplace, with 37% of Australian Workers feeling there had been an increase in attention. Employees are also more aware of what their organisation is doing, with 29% of employees indicating their company has a sustainability committee/green team and 41% with a sustainability policy,” Crosbie said.

Whilst there has been obvious improvement there is still a long way to go, with 28% (up from 21%) of Australian workers indicated their biggest barrier was lack of facilities, lack of ‘how to’ and lack of encouragement.

One of the most revealing findings that surprised in 2011 was that more than 75% of Australians surveyed believed their workplace productivity was being undermined by the workplace itself. Disturbingly this statistic has increased to 92% in 2012 – with the ‘perception’ that their workspace was contributing to headaches, fatigue and eyestrain, and generally having an adverse effect on their health.

“Perceptions are important when it comes to self-reported ailments or symptoms; perception is reality,” said fellow Director of Sustainability at Work, Melissa Houghton.

“What is interesting is, currently 17% of employees feel their workplace is an excellent example of a green office and the research reveals that employees in ‘green’ offices are less likely to suffer from ailments at work,” Houghton added.

Understanding current attitudes and behaviours towards sustainability and the impact it has on employees can provide insights and a platform for organisations to make meaningful change, Crosbie said.

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