Heading back to the office, workers want green space

Work from home during pandemic boosts interest in environmentally friendly workplaces

Heading back to the office, workers want green space

Have employees heading back to the office become more “green”-minded?

Three-quarters of those who have returned to the workplace say they want a more environmentally friendly office with green spaces and eco-friendly practices, finds Essity, a global hygiene and health company.

This is an effect of workers working from home for an extended period of time, says Don Lewis, president of Essity's Professional Hygiene business.

"Working from home and in their personal spaces during the pandemic increased employees' attention on what it takes to create environmentally friendly workplaces, and employers should take note — especially those looking to retain and attract talent in this market.”

Over half (51 per cent) of employees working from an office say they became more eco-conscious while working from home during lockdown periods, finds the survey of 2,000 U.S. office workers conducted March 3 to 16, 2022.

Another 46 per cent say they feel more aware of how “green” their workplace is than when they worked in the pre-pandemic office. And they are not happy: 58 per cent feel their office is “shamefully eco-unfriendly”, with 34 per cent believing the introduction of eco-friendly practices within their workplace is usually an afterthought.

"As many as four in 10 employees prioritize companies based on their sustainability reputation and actions when looking for a new job,” says Lewis. “Increasing eco-friendly priorities in the workplace and empowering employees can create a greener office while helping drive employee engagement."

More than eight in 10 (82 per cent) workers in the U.S. express comfort in returning to the physical workplace, finds a survey from the Conference Board released in April. That was up from 71 per cent in January 2022.

Who’s responsible?

When it comes to driving the “green” movement in the workplace, nearly a third (32 per cent) of respondents believe that employers should take charge, according to Essity’s survey. However, 28 per cent feel that it should be the employees who should be responsible. Another 27 per cent say it should be a 50-50 shared responsibility between both.

Just over a third (34 per cent) of North American companies with more than 1.1 million employees have or are considering employing a chief sustainability of environment officer, while 27 per cent are considering one for the future, according to a report released in November 2021.

Sustainability is often overlooked, says Amy Bellcourt, vice president of communications, professional hygiene, at Essity North America.

“Amid the pressure to deliver workplace flexibility, competitive salaries and benefits, and in-office perks, employers often disregard the importance of sustainability in the workplace — and their employees are noticing. Creating a more sustainable workplace leads to better outcomes, for your employee base and our planet.”

Previously, Steam Whistle Brewing retrofitted its workplace in hopes of enticing workers to come back to the office, such as putting about 100 plants in the workplace.

Here are some other ways to go green, according to Bevi, creator of bottleless water dispensers for offices and commercial spaces:

  • Go paperless.
  • Unplug.
  • Install motion-activated light switches.
  • Invest in reusable silverware and serving utensils.
  • Keep the shades open during daylight hours.
  • Incentivize and appreciate green behaviours.

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