Aside from salary, a company’s benefits package and office perks are the top deciding factors for potential employees. Health care, paid time off, and other standard policies continue to be part of the norm, but there’s something else that is catching the eye of workers: sustainability. This is especially true among the millennial generation.
A 2019 survey revealed that nearly 40% of millennials have chosen a job because of company sustainability, while more than 10% of workers would take a paycut of up to $10,000 to support it. A strong environmental stance is part of the values that healthy employees prioritize most and when companies align with those values, it makes them a more alluring fit. As a result, companies big and small are adjusting their efforts to showcase that they find sustainability in an office environment of the utmost importance.
The measures and investments companies take and make to support such an initiative range depending on company size, budgets, and industry. There are already standard best practices businesses have been following for years, such as the “save paper by not printing out this email” suggestion that’s a common appearance in a signature line.
However, to meet the desires of current and future employees, companies need to be creative in their greener office ideas. They need to encourage employee involvement versus blanketly making company decisions that may not have as big or favorable of an environmental impact.
The best route to take is by starting small and expanding over time. Test new sustainability ideas and see what resonates most with your company. The employee buy-in and level of satisfaction will speak for itself. Here are several simple ways to incorporate sustainability into your office environment.
Install a Water Refill Station
Single-use plastic water bottles are polluting our land and ocean environments at a rapid pace. Since the majority of them end up in a landfill rather than recycling centers, they either decompose slowly and leak out harmful chemicals or add to the overflow of garbage that eventually makes it way to our waters and pollute the air.
Businesses are notorious for using single-use plastic water bottles and/or water jugs as their source of purified water for office employees and visitors. By using FloWater’s Refill Station instead, it eliminates plastic water bottles altogether. It uses the tap water already available and transforms it into 99% purified water that tastes great and stay cold every time it’s dispensed.
Additionally, the station’s features are energy efficient. Sleep mode, LED lights, and an internal monitoring system are all designed to keep operating costs low, less than what it costs to operate a drinking fountain. It’s self-sanitizing and auto-replenishes to continuously hold seven gallons of purified water at all times. Employees can drink as much water as they want without worrying about running out or contributing to the growing amount of plastic waste.
Design a Living Wall
A living wall adds to the aesthetics of an office space and naturally improves the air quality by producing more oxygen. The design works as a focal point for a lobby area or a source of inspiration for a conference room. It doesn’t have to be massive in size; it can be a smaller team effort where everyone who wants to contribute can be involved.
One way to decide on what the living wall will look like is to hold a contest among employees. Set parameters with regards to available space, size, and types of plants and let their creativity take over. Hold open voting among the company to allow them to feel involved with the final decision and proud of the work created.
If a living wall is too much of an investment, invest in a few plants to decorate the office. It immediately livens up a space and bring brightness to the workplace. Assign an internal design committee, if necessary, to help maintain a concept that works well with the floorplan without being disruptive.
Invite in Natural Light
The dull drum of fluorescent lighting isn’t optimal for the environment and isn’t as conducive to productivity as natural light is. When you let the sunshine in, it helps balance the body’s natural circadian rhythm and prevents people from feeling fatigued. It also limits the amount of overhead light or desk lamps necessary to see.
Reduce the use of electricity by maximizing your office space to invite in natural light wherever possible. Pick a few relaxing spaces employees can go to when they need a break or want to work without having to turn on the lights. This will reduce energy consumption and give employees a chance to switch up their environments within the office. A simple change of scenery is sometimes all it takes to increase production.
Take lighting a step further and use LED light bulbs and sensors wherever possible. This reduces the amount of wasted electricity and helps to reduce utility bills. Natural light brightens up a space immediately and creates a pleasant atmosphere to work in. Use what Mother Nature has to offer as an easy way to incorporate sustainability.
Set Up a Recycling Station
Management for many office buildings take care of both trash and recycling. Maintain separate bins for employees to use on a regular basis. Set up different sections for glass, cardboard, and plastic. Having an area that’s clearly marked with what can be recycled serves as a reminder to employees to take the extra second to put their waste in the right bin.
In addition to following recycling policies in the office, donate gently used office furniture to local charities versus throwing it away. Or, allow employees to take home items they’ll use or repurpose. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Getting additional use out of products and materials promotes sustainability best practices.
Once you have a recycling station in place, communicate the updates with the company. Add it to the employee handbook as part of your office’s sustainable policies when onboarding new employees as well. Consistency is important when it comes following recycling initiatives. Make sure all of your employees are well aware of the expectations of what can be recycled.
Eliminate Single-Use Supplies
To follow along the same lines of recycling, repurpose supplies when possible. Reduce the amount of paper and plastic utensils used. Encourage your team to opt for online or in-person communication as much as possible rather than printing out documents. Also, replace one-time use utensils with silverware or products that are made of recyclable materials. These simple swaps can significantly reduce the amount of waste in an office in a short amount of time.
Review the office inventory before ordering new supplies and choose to have them shipped in as few boxes as possible, which is an option with most vendors. This attention to detail is part of what helps to maintain sustainability in an office environment without requiring too much extra work when there’s a set system in place.
Stockpiling supplies that are no longer needed is common within companies and eventually leads to unused or wasted products and a reduced amount of space. Tracking how much goes in and out of your company gives you an idea of the amount of waste being produced and helps to maintain budgets.
Take Part in a Team Outdoor Cleanup
Get the whole company involved and outdoors by participating in a beach, park, or neighborhood cleanup. This serves as a way to enhance the employee experience in an educational way and provides a chance for them to give back to the community and the environment. There are multiple non-profit and city organizations that work with companies for these types of events.
It allows people to feel like they are making a difference and shows how even the smallest contribution can result in the biggest impact. Ask for input from your employees for ideas on which organization they’d like to contribute to. If there are multiple suggestions, rotate them every quarter to allow people to feel better connected to the cause.
Seeing their work in action is a team building opportunity that spurs inspiration and pride by giving to others. Plus, it’s a way to “practice what you preach” in addition to incorporating sustainability within your own office.
Greener Office Ideas for a Greater Workplace
Being environmentally-conscious is an important value for many and is changing how candidates assess future employers. Green initiatives range in cost and complexity, but these are several easy, inexpensive ways to implement greener office ideas. To achieve long-term success with sustainability in the office, ask for input from your employees on a regular basis. Create a plan and maintain consistency even as plans evolve.
The first step may be to install an office water filter system or add a few plants to your office space. Your “green” design ideas don’t have to be implemented all at once to be effective. Incorporate them into your culture where they are visible to your team and align with your company’s core values. The more you invest in these initiatives, the more sustainable they will be.