Embracing the Future: Hybrid Working for the Planet

The future is here. Hybrid working. With robust wireless technologies, virtual tools and a new focus on mental health and well-being, we can work from anywhere, anytime and still connect in real-time with colleagues, clients and customers.

We can work from home part of the time and connect in person when we need to. In these scenarios, the office shifts from a high-density desk farm to a collaboration center, with spaces designed to facilitate in person and virtual convenings – i.e. hybrid working. We can reduce corporate real estate footprints, driving them down to their minimal viable footprint or keep the footprints we had pre-pandemic, but re-purpose them.

Where a non-hybrid workplace may have been 80% individual desks or workspaces and 20% meeting and collaboration space, the new hybrid workplace may be the inverse – with 80% meeting and collaboration spaces and 20% individual spaces for heads-down focus work. While this is an oversimplification, it speaks to the scope of change involved in moving to a hybrid workplace.

But hang on a minute. There is another crisis happening. Climate change. The planet is on fire. We can no longer look the other way. Buildings alone currently account for roughly 40% of carbon emissions. Add in commutes, business travel, furniture, furnishings, technology, equipment and consumables, and the workplace has a pretty significant carbon footprint.

At the most basic level, hybrid working has been shown to reduce carbon footprints by lowering emissions through reduced commutes and smaller real estate footprints. But we can also do more.

As we rethink the ways we work, we can examine our assumptions around the physical workplace, wherever that is. A key consideration in hybrid work strategies revolves around how many days people come to the office and how much of that time intersects with others coming to the office. Yet many hybrid work strategies that are not fully thought out can result in huge quantities of empty office space most of the time to accommodate that one day that everyone comes to the office.

Looking at hybrid working strategically can include concepts like dynamic capacity planning, space-as-a-service and furniture-as-a-service.

Dynamic Capacity Planning

Dynamic capacity planning uses technology tools to balance the supply of workspace with the demands of a hybrid workforce for using the office to collaborate with others. Dynamic scheduling accommodates the need within and between teams to be in the office at the same time for performance and productivity purposes.

Space-as-a-Service

Space-as-a-Service – AKA co-working – is one way to optimize use of space. By not owning the space – either literally owning or owning via a long-term lease with investments in tenant improvements, furniture, etc. – the use of the space is optimized across multiple users and groups.

Furniture-as-a-Service

When the space is owned, furniture-as-a-service can help mitigate the cost involved in rapidly changing and evolving behaviors and use patterns, without significantly impacting the planet. Companies providing furniture-as-a-service provide a service in which the appropriate furniture is delivered, installed, removed – and then re-deployed elsewhere when not in use by a specific customer. This strategy allows for maximum flexibility for all stakeholders, keeps physical assets in use for longer than a single purchaser would use them, and keeps significant volumes of assets out of landfills – reducing methane, and helping to cool the planet. Furniture-as-a-service can also be deployed by companies wishing to provide ergonomically correct furniture to employees working from home in a hybrid model.

These strategies – and others – can help bring the implementation of hybrid working to realization while minimizing and reducing the carbon footprint of the workplace.

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