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How Can We Make the Return to the Office More Sustainable?

With employees heading back to work after over a year of remote working, there are naturally many concerns about the return to the office. Sustainability has become a buzzword for many companies with an increasing focus on how to return to the office in a sustainable way.

Post-Covid Office Environment 

As workers return to the workplace, they can expect for some key differences. The coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the need for a safe and hygienic workplace, to reduce the risk of contagion and transmission between employees. One of the top priorities for returning to the office will be ensuring safety measures are adhered to. However, there is also the priority of making sure that these measures are aligned with a company’s corporate social responsibility and commitment to the environment.

Hybrid Working

Companies have shifted their attitude towards working from home offices. Previously considered a luxury or a one-off, companies of all shapes and sizes have had to adjust in order to incorporate remote working practices as a normal part of their working life. Now that people are beginning to return to the office, employees will be expecting more flexibility in the work set-up, shifting away from the traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 structure.

Flexible working allows employees to juggle their work duties with their domestic or familial responsibilities, giving them more freedom and making them less likely to burn out. Additionally, hybrid working can be beneficial for the environment. With employees travelling to work fewer days a week, this means that subsequently there is a lower carbon footprint as it means fewer commutes, less traffic and fewer emissions. 

Clean Working Space

Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to prevent coronavirus and infection is to keep workspaces clean – both the communal areas and personal workspaces. However, when thinking about sustainability, it is important to consider what products we are using to keep the workplace clean. 

Opting for natural, non-toxic disinfectant products is a simple way to keep the return to the office more sustainable. Biodegradable antibacterial wipes can also help to keep your office space clean without having a negative impact on the wider environment.

Some offices have been refurbished to include more hygienic surfaces including wall cladding – which makes areas easier to clean and less likely to carry bacteria. This is common for hospitals and clinics, but is quickly making its way into schools and offices too.

Face Masks

In the past year, face masks have become an indispensable accessory, with face masks among the top necessities when it comes to returning to work in a communal space. Single-use masks are one of the number one enemies of the environment, encouraging plastic waste. It is estimated that there are 129 billion face masks used across the world, monthly. 

Luckily, there are many companies that specialise in reusable face masks which can be washed and reused, reducing the negative impact on the environment whilst keeping you protected. Organically grown cotton masks are recommended for the best sustainability solution. Additionally, quilting cotton has been proven to be one of the best fabrics to reduce transmission. Companies are already exploring creative solutions for the most sustainable masks.

Removal of Communal Spaces 

One of the guidelines specified by experts in safety and hygiene is to remove communal areas in the office space. It is thought that this will discourage mass gatherings and, subsequently, reduce the risk of contamination and infection. This means that many areas such as lounges may need to be removed. When removing furniture or soft furnishings, it is important to recognise the impact that this can have on the environment. Trying to rehome or recycle furniture, or donate it to a charity shop, is a way to avoid the furniture ending up in landfill.

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