Probably the two greatest challenges we face at the moment are the economic crisis and climate change. For businesses and public sector organisations alike the response to both of these challenges means doing more for less. Reducing costs, and reducing the use of energy and resources.
Key to this is changing the way we work. Working flexibly. Working smarter. And there has never been a time like the present to make the changes needed.
Ways to do more with less:
To make the case for change, and to understand the kinds of changes needed, organisations need to measure and analyse their current ways of working. This includes costs of buildings and facilities, levels of occupancy, work-related travel, technology costs, recruitment and retention, absence and staff satisfaction.
A traditional workplace operating standard working hours is actually only used for around 30% of the time – taking account of non-working hours, weekends and public holidays. And within that 30% of normal used time, occupancy levels are rarely above 45% in measured studies.
Waste is built in to the traditional ways of working. And there’s a big carbon cost to this too. Transforming offices to modern flexible working environments with an emphasis on collaboration rather than desk work is the way forward. And this enables organisations to shrink their space to match actual demand.
It’s also wasteful to spend so much time, money and resources commuting. Having the UK working population travel billions of miles each year to spend time using computers and telephones – which can be done from anywhere – is an intrinsically unsustainable thing to do.
A full-time worker travelling the average UK commute distance by car will spend over 200 hours on the road, travelling nearly 4000 miles and generate 1187 kg of CO2. Yet much of the work that is done can be done from pretty much anywhere there is a broadband connection. Working from home, or working in third-party workhubs closer to home, is quite possible.
Greater mobility in working creates further opportunities to shrink property requirements and in doing so shrink the carbon footprint of working practices.
Leading companies are making big inroads into business travel by using new communications technologies to replace meetings, and developing effective virtual teamworking. Aviva (cited in the recent CBI report, ‘Tackling Congestion, Driving Growth’) has installed high definition Telepresence conferencing suites in its main regional offices. This has helped them to reduce air travel by 17% and business car travel by 19%. There are many such examples, and we’ll be showcasing a number at our forthcoming event.
Using flexible work strategically
There has been a tendency to characterise flexible working as a ‘nice-to-have’, and see it as mainly about equalities and work-life balance. The key is to use it strategically, rather than responding ad hoc to staff requests. In this way flexible working becomes a powerful tool to increase efficiency and agility, and to improve environmental performance.
We’re exploring these issues further with business leaders at a conference in London on July 7th – Save Money, Save the Planet! How to align the business and carbon benefits of flexible working.