How to Make Hybrid Workplaces More Sustainable

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sustainable hybrid workplaces

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With the in-office workforce transitioning into a more hybrid workplace model, companies large and small are reevaluating how to use their facilities best. Through more sustainable models and green-friendly initiatives, they aim to cut costs and consolidate unused square footage and space. 

One such example? The U.S. Department of Energy, which owns and manages tons of real estate for its employees (130 million square feet, to be exact), is looking for ways to reduce its operations for underutilized space.

Maintenance and operations for their buildings cost $2.6 billion yearly, so it’s no surprise they are looking for more sustainable options to reduce their carbon footprint, especially as the workforce trickles back in.

How the hybrid workplace model will affect resources is still anyone’s guess.

However, companies are already looking for ways to get ahead of the curve with more environmentally sound systems in place. Whatever the outcome, a hybrid workplace will disrupt the typical estimates of real estate values and more.

Still, it’s an excellent opportunity for those who have yet to take on more green initiatives. So, if your company wants to put its greenest foot forward, here are some tips and considerations for making a hybrid workplace more sustainable.

Offer Carbon Green Initiatives

sustainability projects at hybrid workplaces

With a hybrid workplace, you can still offer employees the more traditional green-friendly initiatives as companies once did pre-COVID. You just have to reevaluate how they are implemented.

For example, companies can still provide a company phone and accessories for remote workers to use at home, too. Compostable phone cases, along with AirPods covers or AppleWatch bands, offer staff a nice perk while they stay connected at home. 

But it’s about much more than offering Eco-friendly perks. Companies can also use carbon green initiatives inside the building as well.

For instance, even while keeping staff safely separated, you can consolidate them into zones, closing off areas of the building to conserve energy. Furthermore, you can still implement energy-efficient lighting, appliances, and technology within these neighborhoods or zones.

Using LED or CFL lighting in the workspace, reducing paper and waste, and using time-controlled HVAC and lighting can make a hybrid workplace more sustainable than before the pandemic. Plus, the company is saving money while doing so.

Create a More Energy-Efficient Building

energy efficient building - sustainable hybrid workplaces

Before the pandemic, companies used the “3-30-300 Principle” to determine the estimated cost per square foot a company would need to pay annually. This square footage cost factored in everything from a building’s energy costs to real estate costs and the cost of its employees and workforce.

Using this principle helped companies better determine operating costs. The number 3-30-300 comes from $3 in utilities, $30 for rent, and $300 in payroll for each square foot annually. 

Ultimately, this calculation led to an open office concept in the workplace, where the space was used more efficiently and collaboratively, reducing the desk space. But when employees are now asked to keep a six-foot distance from one another, it changes the floor plan once again.  

However, this standard 3-30-300 Principle has been thrown out the window since the pandemic. Today, this number is skewed as hybrid workplace models begin to take shape. Since the most significant expense — 300 — came from staff, companies strived to retain employees with incentives and a better employee experience. 

A long-term commercial lease will mean that rent will be a fixed cost, but with a hybrid workplace, the employee headcount in an office workplace fluctuates and changes each and every day, making these costs hard to predict for companies.

However, if companies provide a hybrid workplace model, they could shift the 3 of 3-30-300 into the utilities, optimizing utility costs to create a more sustainable reopening. – Read more about Hybrid remote work in this article about Treating Remote Employees Fairly in a Hybrid Workplace

Discover Suitable Sustainability Projects

sustainability projects at hybrid workplaces

Companies have used various methods to reduce energy costs and minimize their carbon footprints.

For instance, constructing a more energy-efficient building by improving thermal dynamics and installing low-energy lighting combined with more natural lighting has already proved beneficial.

However, with the hybrid workplace model, businesses must rethink these methods and find more suitable sustainability projects. 

While these energy-efficient structural considerations make a considerable impact, businesses must also address their employees’ remote capabilities.

For example, companies can find more sustainable hybrid workplaces by transitioning to digital management solutions, which offer insights through analytics. And with these analytics, a company can improve its operational ROI. 

By using analytics, facility managers can gain insight into its expenses and where they are going. Before, lease statements and utility bills were the only things they could use to evaluate.

But a facility manager can dig deeper into the issue when a company wishes to create a more sustainable workplace and reduce its energy bills. 

Through an automated building management system (BMS), a facility manager can find solutions to reduce energy consumption.

Before, companies were using ballpark figures to determine how much energy was being saved. However with a BMS, they can determine more accurate data and make the necessary changes. 

Of course, you can still create a sustainable hybrid workplace without a BMS. For example, you can use a low-cost sensor technology instead, designed to gather information and turn it into a data analysis that reveals the building’s energy consumption.

These sensors also provide additional environmental data, such as indoor air quality (IAQ), which can guarantee that the new and enhanced filter system installed in response to COVID is actually doing its job. 

Another sustainability project that businesses can tackle with analytics revolves around attendance. You can do a lot with the information by observing seating distributions and “no-show” employees during the week or month.

For example, the space might have insufficient airflow or be too noisy, affecting how employees navigate desk seating and so on.

Hybrid Workplaces Invite More Green Building Opportunities

green office

Transitioning employees into a single floor instead of keeping all three operational is just a start toward making a hybrid workplace more sustainable.

However, monitoring and understanding the data allows businesses to create a more sustainable environment for remote employees during this return-to-work phase.

Of course, how they use the data to forecast occupancy and their utilities is entirely up to the company. But, ultimately, the hybrid workplace model offers a wonderful opportunity to make some more Eco-friendly changes. 

  • Guest Author

    Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

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