Karen Balmforth, office administrator at Ecosurety, explains why her company is moving from serviced offices to more sustainable premises.
Where I work is extremely important to me and to my company.
This year, we've taken the decision to move from serviced offices that are functional but provide us with little control over the indoor environment and even less say in the appointment of facility services or energy providers, to purpose-designed premises where staff can be as sustainable as possible.
As resource efficiency specialists we advise members on reducing their carbon footprints and sourcing products and services from sustainable suppliers, and it's imperative we should be able to lead by example.
Despite encouraged staff at our current site to travel sustainably by developing a car sharing scheme called joinmyjourney, operating a company electric car, and providing a bike shed with changing facilities; and despite already separating waste into different streams, our goal is to create a truly environmentally-friendly office.
Every office leaves an environmental footprint by using up natural resources; and as a result of waste (WRAP’s Green Office guide quantifies waste disposal as costing up to 4 per cent of turnover), air emissions, noise pollution, water pollution, and traffic emissions from staff journeys or delivery operations.
As a company, we also want more space where our team can work together in a single office, instead of being dispersed over two floors as research and experience suggest this encourages healthier, happier, and more productive employees.
Staff are the most valuable asset for many organisations. Today’s job hunters demand more ethical and sustainable employers, and pleasant working environments - which is hardly surprising given the artificial nature of office buildings, shopping centres and industrial workspaces.
The sad reality is too many of us work in poorly designed facilities which contribute to worker discord and low productivity. According to a study cited by the World Green Building Council, employees in green, well ventilated offices record a 101 per cent increase in brain function tests, with disconnection from nature also acknowledged to increase stress levels.
Most companies still opt for low-cost locations that are convenient for their bottom line (including out-of-town business parks and offices that are detached from local communities), and assume nice-looking offices with modern meeting rooms and high-spec furniture or IT systems will compensate for simple inconveniences such as the need for staff to drive somewhere to buy lunch.
Indeed, the World Green Building Council sets out a more balanced set of "healthy office" priorities that many employers might do well to consider:
- indoor air quality and ventilation;
- a comfortable temperature staff can control;
- access to natural light and the ability to control lighting;
- materials that reduce noise and provide quiet spaces to work;
- a mixture of different types of spaces that suits different ways of working;
- the ability to look out over a variety of plant species;
- interiors that combine different textures to promote calmness; and
- a location near public transport with a range of different healthy food outlets.
Our office move project began in March and we are now in the middle of designing new, eco-friendly office premises, with a view to finally transferring to our new location in September.
We're also going further by checking out the environmental credentials of any facilities management and utilities suppliers - as well as ensuring we make a real difference by researching (and only working with) B Corp certified companies and organisations that are ISO 14001 Certified whenever possible.