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Gregg Corbett


Marketing Director

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Green Office Week: How to promote workplace change


This week sees the start of the fourth ‘Green Office Week’, which is intended to encourage workers across the country to implement simple, practical, step-by-step changes in order to help make their workplaces more environmentally-friendly.

Our aim in launching the event was to champion a ‘bottom-up’ approach to encouraging behavioural change by using it as a springboard for developing more sustainable working practices.
So what has been learned so far to assist HR professionals in encouraging their employees to embrace sustainability?
Firstly, far from being a merely philanthropic venture, to get sustainability right, it is all about keeping things relevant, simple and realistic. Over the years, we have found that employees respond most positively to introducing changes that are achievable, actionable and make a measurable contribution to their organisations.
There is little doubt that most staff members are keen to behave in greener ways at work, but what often holds them back is the complexity of workplace procedures and the difficulty in implementing ideas.
Time and again our research has shown us that people are twice as likely to consider themselves as behaving in an environmentally-friendly way at home than they are at work, despite the high-value they place on the latter.
The employee factor
So the question is why? Unfortunately, the answers aren’t as simple as you might think. Far from not wanting to take responsibility for good environmental practice at work, employees often feel that they simply don’t have the power to make a difference, an attitude that runs the risk of developing into a sense of apathy.
At home, we are masters of our own environment and can control how we act in a green fashion within it. At work, however, the priorities of the business, the attitudes of those around us and the equipment that we use are all things that are generally beyond our power, often resulting in a loss of personal control.
But giving employees the power to make change and create a working environment that encourages the exchange of idea can make a real difference.  
Ultimately, nobody will keep on fighting a losing battle, but they will respond positively to a sense of common purpose and community, in which they feel that their ideas are valued and listened to. But again, the key here is to keep things simple, realistic and actionable, to ensure that everyone is able to take part in implementing change.
So ask yourself what policies are in place in order to give individuals a voice? Ask your employees what could be improved upon on a day-to-day basis and how could you could best ensure that everyone gets and feels involved?
The sense of reward that comes from working together collaboratively is core to ensuring that change is embraced over the long-term. After all, it is one thing to have your boss tell you to do something and quite another to work with colleagues in developing and leading your own initiative.
The employer factor
Nonetheless, the reality tells quite a different story. Our research indicated that only one in five employees felt empowered enough to make pertinent suggestions that would help their workplace to become greener. Of those who did make such suggestions, however, about half said that their ideas were implemented and valued by colleagues. 
One of the problems was that one in ten workers felt their employer actively discouraged them from focusing on environmental issues at work.
In fact, many employees seemed apprehensive about addressing green working initiatives at all, with 40% saying that they would avoid proposing anything. They feared that it would be seen as ‘nagging’, which could reflect badly on their career prospects.
But such findings shouldn’t be particularly surprising as it appears that all too many employers still believe that being green comes at too high a financial cost – despite clear evidence to the contrary. For example, we found that UK office workers waste more than £160 million each year just by leaving the lights on at work.
But it is not just the bottom line that can be negatively affected. As any HR professional knows, the importance of a happy and productive workforce should never be underestimated and more than half of the employees surveyed said that they would be happier and more positive at work if it was easier for them to be environmentally-friendly.
What’s more, a quarter stated that they would feel less loyal to an employer if they believed that it wasn’t taking its environmental responsibilities seriously enough, with one in ten saying that they would go so far as to look for another job.
The fun factor
So what does this all mean for HR professionals? Clearly, it’s important that individuals are engaged at all levels of an organisation. This means that they should be encouraged to work together to effect change, but also be empowered by senior managers to make a positive contribution.
Strong and open relationships with senior management are important because long-term sustainable change is a two-way process and in order to attract and retain the best talent, it is vital to create a workplace culture that reflects both employees’ values and their contributions.
Finally, however, it is important not to lose sight of the fun factor. One of the best ways to raise awareness about environmental issues is to devise activities that really interest and engage staff.
For example, we are running a ‘Green League’ this year and will award points and prizes to individuals who take part in any of the fun daily tasks both before and during the week that we have come up with. Workers are being asked to create junk models, for instance, by upcycling things that they would usually just throw away.
It may only sound like a bit of harmless fun, but such activities really get people thinking about green issues in a new way that doesn’t simply revolve around switching computers off or turning down the heating – as valuable as such activities are.
Instead, these tasks can be used as a vehicle to launch environmentally-friendly practices in the workplace in order to ensure that every week becomes Green Office Week.

Gregg Corbett is marketing director at office equipment supplier, Avery.

One Response

  1. Are employers taking the lead?

    It would be great to see employers take the lead on this and drive a culture of change. Employees work within the culture that the employer creates. We develop training management software and are constantly talking to clients about the benefits of cloud computing – no more need for piles of paper, data can saved securely in the cloud. Think of the environmental impact this will have.

    Same goes for eLearning – no more travel to classroom-based training!

    Small changes, significent difference.


    Dave Evans

    Training Management System with accessplanit 

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Gregg Corbett

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