Flexing Your Green Muscles

How green you are, or are perceived to be, is now likely to have a direct impact on how competitive you are. Consumers are voting with their feet and boycotting companies that are perceived to be ignoring their environmental impact. What can you quickly and easily do to make a dramatic difference to your impact whilst also improving the quality of life for your employees and even save on costs?

The biggest culprit for producing greenhouse gases, for most companies, is commuting to and from work and cutting the amount we all commute is not as difficult as we once assumed. One legacy of the London Olympics is that employers and employees have found that they are able to adapt and work more flexibly without it impacting on the productivity of the company.

Flexible working, even as recently as immediately before the Olympics, was derided by many as the ‘skivers charter’. However the quiet of London’s streets during the Olympics was proof that Londoners do not need to work solely in the office. Some London employees may have found this a revelation but many organisations had already experimented and found that flexible working was hugely beneficial, particularly for the environment. Wakefield Council, for example, introduced a flexible working policy and found that they saved more than 225,000 annual commuting miles, the equivalent to 65 tonnes of CO2. They also made considerable financial savings, to the tune of saved £1.6m, by selling or terminating leases on under-utilised buildings and reducing running costs.

However, working from home is not for everyone. Small children at home or living in shared accommodation is not conducive to productive working and there is evidence to support the view that working from home is not as effective as working in an office. Many people find that they get easily distracted without the buzz of the office and colleagues to bounce ideas off. It is also unreasonable and potentially counter-productive to force people to work from home. There is a need for an alternative; to give people the option to work away from the office, but not at home, should they want to. The compromise, with all the benefits but none of the drawbacks, is working in an office, but locally.

I would love to get back to a time where we all worked locally, at least part of the time. The London riots of 2011 proved that there is a need to support community cohesion and working locally is an excellent way to support this and encourage new links between neighbours. It would revive communities as well as making a dramatic impact on the environment and people’s happiness and well-being. I’m working to make that happen and believe that, as an entrepreneur, it will also be hugely beneficial to the bottom lines of companies who do it.

By Tom Ball, respected serial entrepreneur and founder and CEO of NearDesk

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