Issues with Creating Sustainable Workplaces

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Issues with Creating Sustainable Workplaces
Anneke Zwart, Moderator
Business are increasingly focused on creating a more sustainable workplace for their workforce. A comfortable work environment is related to happier, healthier, more creative and more productive employees. Balch mentions several keys to creating a sustainable workplace:
  1. DESIGN INTENT: the first factor points to a problem that already start before the workplace has been built. Design intent refers to the degree to which the construction of a building conforms to what the building is actually used for. Often, there is a mismatch between the two. Example: a space without windows is great for a storage place but poor as a working place for the workforce.
  2. MANAGEMENT RESPONSIVENESS: another important factor is responsiveness of management. If the management readily responds to questions and complaints of the workforce with regard to the workplace environment, most people turn out to be quite bighearted (See: Hawtorne Experiments).
  3. USE OF SMART TECHNOLOGIES: In modern building you don't even have to wait for office management, employees can adjust the equipment that regulates the workplace (airco, lights, etc.) environment themselves. However, decentralized office management systems may be less sustainable from an energy efficiency perspective. Some recent smart technologies aim to combine the personal comfort of decentralized office management with energy efficiency.
But, such smart technologies raise other questions. For example, should employees be forbidden to stay late at the office so that additional energy costs are minimized? What about things like opening a window, should employees be punished for it? And what if employees disagree with smart devices monitoring their behavior?

Indeed when talking about sustainable workforces, we can conclude that there seem to be two, sometimes contradicting, dimensions within the definition of ‘sustainable’. On the one hand, there is the dimension that focuses on the well-being of their employees. On the other hand, there is the dimension that focuses on environmental sustainability.

⇒ What are your ideas about sustainable workforces? Should employees be forced to change individual behaviors to realize more energy efficient workplaces? Is it possible to create a win-win situation in which both dimensions will be taken into account?
Source: Balch, O. (2014) “How to Create Happy and Sustainable Workplaces?” Guardian Sustainable Business


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