On January 14th the Regional Sustainability Initiative invited GSP Group’s Megan Gereghty and Quarry’s Tony Mohr to share their organization’s work from home experience both before and during the current pandemic with program members. Exploring both their challenges and successes in the shift to remote work, both organizations demonstrated how companies can reap the sustainability benefits from this new workplace culture. 

Want to learn how to create an efficient remote experience while recognizing sustainable aspects of working from home? Keep reading to get advice from two local sustainability-minded businesses. 

Creating a Work from Home Culture

The shift to working from home has presented various challenges to most organizations; from finding the right work-life balance to choosing the appropriate technologies to get the job done, as well as managing remote employees. Here are some ways you can foster a culture that supports employees working remotely. 

Stay in touch

Communication is the most critical tool for any remote team – it not only enables us to stay connected and informed, but helps support a strong workplace culture. 

There are many ways to keep in touch while working from home, including: 

  1. Digital coffee breaks: 

Encourage employees to take regular breaks to improve their productivity. Scheduling a virtual break with others can help the team stay connected as they would working in a traditional office setting. 

  1. Mental health programs and wellness moments

Working from home can result in a sense of isolation and burnout so supporting your staff’s wellbeing during this time is also an important part of the picture. Launching employee-led virtual wellness activities can promote work/life balance and help employees feel connected.

  1. Ask a question of the week! 

Hold short meetings and encourage conversation, asking short and sweet ice-breaker questions such as ‘What is your favorite TV show?’ This encourages connection and also helps you to learn more about your team in the process.

  1. Gamification 

Just because you’re not in an office, doesn’t mean you have to skip out on fun traditions. Continue or start a contest tradition virtually and encourage employees to participate in some friendly competition. 

Be Flexible

Telecommuting has been very successful for many organizations, and work hours that differ from the normal 9-to-5 are expected to become the norm. Tony highlighted that flexibility allows employees to focus on productivity output  vs. scheduled hours, keeping everyone’s schedule in mind helps employees feel valued.

Megan also noted the importance of providing flexible meeting times and utilizing tools that are accessible to everyone. It is essential to ensure that meetings are available to all, including anyone in a different time zone.

Flexible work arrangements offer many benefits to both employers and employees:

  • Creating a better work/life balance for employees.  
  • Furthering your organization’s sustainability goals, by reducing carbon emissions and your workplace “footprint.” 
  • Boosting productivity by enabling people to work at their own pace, even increasing performance and idea flow. 

Encourage an environment of productivity, open communication, and feedback

Ensure your team’s communication channels are clear and open by connecting your employees with others in the organization who can provide support and can assist them in completing tasks. 

  • Develop and/or utilize software applications to manage all projects and ensure that it is accessible to all. 
  • Using tools like Google Suite can support collaboration through shared file storage and in-document features that allow teammates to suggest edits that keep projects moving forward. 
  • Standardize the use of  apps aimed to help your employees stay connected and allow regular check-ins (Slack, Google Chat). 
  • Ensure that employees are equipped with the technical resources they need to be successful in a remote work environment; such as an internet connection, longer cables, or even upgrading to laptops where available.  

How can organizations reap the sustainability benefits of a Work from Home Policy? 

  1. No commute means fewer emissions.

The average office worker spends nearly an hour every day commuting to their jobs contributing to transportation-based emissions. Work from Home policies reduces the number of vehicles on the road and the amount of fuel consumed. Quarry estimates that their Work from Home policies have removed almost 100 cars off the road, saving around 4,000kms/day in emissions.

  1. Less paper usage and office waste

During a workday, employees use a considerable number of physical resources, including paper and plastic just by virtue of being in the office. Even Quarry and GSP Group who prefer digital solutions regardless, see a difference. Remote workers will generate less waste as printing is replaced by screen sharing and virtual document use. 

  1. Reduction of Energy Consumption

Remote working has allowed many organizations to adjust their power consumption (i.e., turning off electronics, adjusting thermostats while out of office, etc.). Organizations like Quarry have gone so far as powering down their building’s HVAC and Hydro on remote work days, decreasing energy consumption. 

  1. Making homes more sustainable too

Flexibility and work-life balance are tremendous benefits of remote work and the increased free time creates opportunities for employees to make more sustainable choices like composting, gardening, and cutting down your food waste and single-use packaging by cooking at home. 

It is also important to make sure we aren’t just displacing energy use, by encouraging employees to: 

  • Take advantage of natural light throughout the day. 
  • Unplug electronics when not in use. 
  • Manage the thermostat. Set the thermostat a few degrees lower and opt for a sweater while you work. 

The opportunity to integrate this flexibility into new and existing Work from Home policies allows organizations to reap the benefits of the pandemic’s cultural shift. As Megan summed up perfectly:

 “Flexibility allows for more choice, and this new choice, in some ways, can help reduce our company’s environmental impacts. This shift allows people to explore options they once thought were not possible, maybe opening people’s minds to change”