Sustainable working: How we can protect the environment right from the office

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Woman sitting at her desk with a smile
The most important facts about working sustainably

reading time: ca. 5 minutes

  • Sustainability has environmental, social, and economic aspects. All of them are relevant for companies to be credible and innovative in the long term.
  • In today's working world, performance pressure is omnipresent, especially when it comes to deadlines. This makes it increasingly important to focus on a "healthy workplace".
  • Even with small changes in the office, a lot can be done for environmental protection.
  • We also reveal why in the home office, sustainable working is important to separate private life from work.

In our private lifes, we try to live more sustainably, for example by buying regional food or avoiding plastic bags. But does it automatically mean that the working world will become more sustainable? Sustainability also needs to be considered at the workplace. This is why we should critically question our habits and check which of them can be changed.

Of course, sustainability is linked to the environment, but social and economic aspects should not be ignored at all. Only if all three factors are practised in business, a company will become more sustainable in the long term.

Why is sustainability important for companies?  

Sustainability is much more than environmental protection and should be anchored in the corporate values. Climate change, scarcity of raw materials, and rising energy costs affect everyone and are gaining more and more importance. A resource saving way of working is crucial when it comes to project execution or the development of new products. The goal should be a long-lasting use that does not come at the expense of our environment or society.

An important component for companies is ecological effectiveness, which is all about actively tackling environmental problems. Today, it is no longer enough to plant trees to compensate for environmental damage. Rather, companies should take effective measures against the greenhouse effect or soil acidification, for example.

In addition to the ecological component, the social component is highly relevant for a company to act in an authentically sustainable way – beyond greenwashing. This includes topics such as fair salaries and working conditions, equal rights, cultural commitment and leadership style. If both, the social and the ecological components, are driven forward, it increases employee satisfaction. 

Four young people give each other a high five in a team meeting

As employers, companies can act as a place of inspiration for their staff. Through commendable corporate actions (and therefore acting as a role model), they can positively affect the employees‘ private consumption patterns. In addition, employees can actively contribute their ideas and experiences at the workplace. This creates a win-win situation for both sides. This is why, in the long run, sustainability management strengthens the credibility and innovative power of companies.

Health in the workplace as a sustainability factor

The question, whether work is sustainable or not is heavily influenced by the people involved. It is important that a company’s employees are healthy and feel good. In today's working world, performance pressure is omnipresent, especially when it comes to deadlines. Also, phases of excessive or insufficient workload can threaten an employee’s well-being at work. Burnout, boreout or depression are only some of the possible consequences. This is precisely why the individual should always be in the focus.

In order to create a good work-life balance, regular breaks and relaxation phases after work, on the weekend or during the holidays are essential. In addition, the workplace should be ergonomically designed. This goes from the height of the office chair to the keyboard and mouse. In addition to pleasant lighting in the office and a quiet working environment, plants and pictures can also contribute to everyone‘s well-being.

This is how environmental protection is done at the office

Each measure can have an impact. All in all, a lot can be changed in the working world to make it more sustainable. This does not have to happen overnight, even small changes in our everyday workinglifes are worthwhile.

Many tips seem self-evident – but are they really taken into account? You will certainly notice one or two things in your office that could be more environmentally friendly.

  • Think before print: Do we really need so many copies? Or is a shared presentation on a large screen also doing the job? Everything that can be stored or sent digitally does not have to be printed. If you decide to print though, do so on recycled paper.
  • Stand-by also consumes electricity: If a device such as a laptop, screen or printer is not needed, switch it off. This is especially true at the end of the working day. Because even in stand-by mode, devices consume electricity.
  • The journey is the reward: Not commuting to work by car can make a crucial difference. Get to the office by bike or public transport instead – or even walk there, if possible. Alternatively, carpooling can be a good idea. 
  • Get reusable lunch boxes: Ordering lunch and enjoying it together in the office is great for teambuilding. But afterwards, the bins are full of (often plastic) packaging. Wouldn't it be better to get reusable lunch boxes for the office kitchen and grab food from a restaurant near-by? Advantage: You’ll have a nice joint walk to get there.
  • Save energy: Reducing the office’s room temperature significantly lowers CO2 emissions with each degree. If you finish your work at the office and switch to your home desk for some days, turn off the heating completely. However, if there is a meeting in your office the next day, the heating should be turned down, but not off. The energy consumption would be much greater to reheat the cooled-down room the next morning.
A man sits in an online meeting in his home office
  • Separate waste: Throwing banana peels, notepads, and plastic bags into the same bin? No, waste should be separated for better recycling. A simple trick: If there is no bin in the room, no one will be tempted to throw everything into one bucket
  • Create awareness: In every office, isn't there a person who walks through the corridors and turns off the light when there is no one around? Or asks over and over again whether so many printouts are really needed for a meeting? This person should be encouraged. Because the more people participate, the more sustainable our work will be.

With all these aspects mentioned, the environment is not only better protected, but costs are also reduced. Therefore, environmental protection pays off twice for companies.

Working sustainably in a home office

Working from home has a great ecological advantage: It reduces the carbon footprints of all workers who would usually commute by car. But people can also work more sustainably in their home office – here's how: If possible, private and work life should be separated physically, true to the motto: We don't live in the office, but work at home. Also, employees are well-advised to set up firm working hours to work productively.

A good time management is also helpful in the home office. For example, employees can work in time blocks: In working time blocks, private topics are taboo. In private time blocks, other issues, such as doing the laundry, making phone calls or taking out the waste are pursued.

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