The Sustainable Workplace

Source: Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

The current situation changed the way we live. And the way we work. In January, being quarantined for months would have seemed rather unlikely. Now staying home and working from home are everyday business. Because what used to be impossible at the beginning of 2020 needed to become possible.

A good example for this is the possibility of working from home. Most of the companies in Germany did not think that home office would be such an urgent and essential matter this year. And because of that almost nobody was prepared for it. Neither the companies, nor the employees.

So, solutions needed to be found. And in the end, it all worked out. It just needed a little bit of improvisation from both sides. But now a lot of people are very happy about the opportunity of working from home. So why take it from them? Why don’t the companies take the current concept of home office, combine it with the everyday business in the office and furthermore, try to make it sustainable? Because in the end, shouldn’t that be the goal?

In the following video we want to take a closer look on the current situation and the future:       

Sustainability at the workplace has been a crucial topic for years. And corona forced us, making some baby steps towards an environmental workstyle. Now that we already started getting used to digitalisation changing the way we work, why should we stop the process?

Over the last few months, it was just not possible to hop into your colleague’s office and pass the latest memos to him/her. You had to write them down digitally and send an email or share the document with them via cloud systems. This way of working can save a lot of time since there’s no need to store the memos or to look hectically for them a few days later, because you didn’t. And the possibility of searching through all the memos at once to find something you wrote down weeks ago, will save you and your colleagues a lot of time![1] Moreover, with digitised workflows, a lot of paper can be saved.

And while talking about saving paper why not settle for a paperless office altogether? It will save you money on the long run – even though starting with it could get a little expensive. Many errors like unvalidated data, illegible writing and incomplete forms can be avoided[2] and employees don’t have to start a new fight with the printer every morning.

But every argumentation has its positive and its negative sides. Let’s have a look at the negative ones for a change. When having a paperless office, a security breach is way more dangerous for your company[3] and if your network ever occurs to be offline, your employees won’t be able to continue working. This would especially be a problem for the people working from home. Without access to their documents and files, it is not possible for them to work properly.

Home office in general, sounds like a great opportunity to take a break from the office for a few days without spending your vacation on it. But most of the German company managements aren’t as dedicated to that idea as their employees are since it’s very hard to check whether they’re as productive as they would be while working in the office. Furthermore, a few days in home office seem like a nice thing. When being forced to work from home for a few months, it can be very challenging and mentally draining. And being in home office for such a long time has a great impact on the environment since every office must be warmed up or cooled down individually[4]. So, in order to make home office green, you should always unplug your devices when not using them, use energy-efficient LEDs, reuse papers and don’t print out unnecessary documents[5]. With these easy steps, even working from home can be sustainable and help you change your habits in your everyday life.

But you don’t have to change all your routines today. Little steps can go a long way, and everybody needs to find their own sustainability problem they want to work on. For example, talk to your employer and try to digitise your company a bit. Even small changes, like having a digital filing system can help the environment. Or you could suggest using technologies that replace printing. E.g. starting to use e-signatures or digital note taking programmes[6]. Change begins with the little steps.







Article and video by Alina Klingel, Carina Krug, Jessica Langer, Kathrin Weberndörfer and Vanessa Dörr.