What does a sustainable hybrid company look like?
For a huge population, the post-pandemic world has been a push toward hybrid working patterns. Using our recent roundtable debate between Trish Lynch; Colin Seward (Cisco); Nick Reeks (Tata Steel) and Simona Gianotti (Whilpool EMEA), we’re helping to grasp what practices have forced us to be more sustainable and whether it is at the forefront of our changing workplaces.
Hybrid working – Better for the environment
Traditionally we may see sustainability as reducing our overall carbon footprint; almost overnight the pandemic pushed tens of thousands of people into remote working, drastically cutting out daily commutes to their workplaces.
We have also seen carbon footprint reductions in the buildings that were once occupied by employees. Offices, which can be seen as large, energy-hungry spaces, are no longer needed in the real estate that they currently provide. Our roundtable unanimously agrees that for certain tasks such as replying to emails, there is no need for an employee to spend their time doing eight hours a day in their workplace when it could be done from a laptop from home. This means the importance of investing in the right technologies.
Simona Gianotti suggests that the evolution of the post-pandemic office should ensure that investment is within technology that will have the suited flexibility for everyone, whether using ‘Flexdesk, booking meeting rooms and canteen seats’ employees must be behind the thought processes in keeping up productivity. ‘Digital workflows, reinforcing automation’ could also reduce tasks. From this, cloud sharing strategies could be supporting the drive to more sustainable offices and, in the future, a sustainable hybrid company.
The drive to a sustainable hybrid company
Nick Reeks argued the dangers of hybrid workplaces in that people could ‘lose an affinity with the workplace’. Sustainability is also about correct working practices, especially on health and safety, and as Nick suggests within manufacturing ‘control processes and the end products made’.
In the manufacturing industry, it is still important for personnel to be located within workplaces, not just on the work floor but in control rooms. ‘Within the same token, hybrid workplaces can cut emissions, creating a greener workplace, but it must encompass the idea that everyone knows what it is you’re working on, to make good decisions with trained personal and consistent regular touch points in onsite locations’
The erosion of company culture?
Physical workplaces provide a formal transition between work and home life. The larger challenges commonly faced by employees, who have otherwise commuted into their workplaces, have been getting to grips with newfound loneliness and isolation. It was evident across our roundtable that there was a potential for sustainability-driven workplaces, with hybrid working models, to have a negative mental impact on employees.
The important idea within the erosion of company culture has been the potential disappearance of networking and personal growth either through colleagues or higher authoritative mentors.
Colin Seward told us about the invaluable knowledge learnt from within networking, ‘unseen partnerships and new conversations can be seen as a gain’.
Whilst at the Smart Buildings 2022 technology convention, he realized that he was having multiple conversations with different industries; ‘architects and real estate managers, who weren’t just IT professionals’, which fostered excitement with the potential for innovations just across the horizon.
The potential for future collaborations across different industries is fantastic, in the context of building a sustainable hybrid company. Nick reiterated this point, ‘how much innovation can you get if you have got those chance networking encounters, with ideas thrown up from people outside of your mainstream’, he suggests the danger of hybrid working can result in too much of following the same path, with a ‘lack a diversity of views or ability to look for something different. A sustainable workplace must be a good place to have an open discussion to share innovative ideas. It will be different for different levels, for example, recent graduates, fresh into companies, may want more of that contact to learn more about the industries that they are getting into.
This roundtable was created in partnership with Cisco.