When out-of-office is good for the planet

When out-of-office is good for the planet

Office - Workplace February 2020

When out-of-office is good for the planet

It’s a new decade and a relevant time to reassess how your office business operates.

There are some strong initiatives coming out of New Zealand – and globally – that suggest that change is good when it comes to office working hours.

Workers’ expectations and needs are becoming more and more important. This is not necessarily being driven by any one segment of the working population and is not because we are more self-absorbed these days.

It’s largely down to a desire to have some balance and perspective within the working world.

With staff well-being at the forefront of employment politics today and rising concerns about environmental issues, the standard 40-hour work week is coming under increasing scrutiny.

Is working fewer hours each day better for staff – and the planet – or would a long weekend or a break mid-week each week, be better?

The jury is out on this however, in Japan, Microsoft found that introducing a four-day work week for employees led to a 40 percent boost in productivity.

Microsoft’s Japan subsidiary closed every Friday in August 2019 (that’s five Fridays), resulting in higher productivity than in August 2018, the company said.

The company also implemented a 30-minute limit on meetings and encouraged remote working.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, estate planners Perpetual Guardian implemented the four-day work week to great acclaim recently, with international media keenly following with interest.

In an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, CEO Andrew Barnes said if we are to relieve the strain of a globally growing – and commuting – population, we need to rethink how and where we work.

Flexible timing and the location of our working masses could reduce transportation and electricity pressures – two of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

By adopting a four-day working week, the number of people in the office drops by 20 percent and potentially the number of cars on the road drops as well. Everyone – including the environment wins.

Barnes cited a 2017 report by the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research which addressed the benefits that a decrease in traffic volumes could mean for Auckland’s economy.

Productivity could be boosted by at least NZ$1.3bn per annum (1.4 percent of Auckland’s GDP), said the report, if use of the road network could be optimised.

Further, the human resources department of The University of California, Davis (UC Davis), said in 2018 – “not going into work could be one of the most environmentally-sustainable things you can do as an individual employee.”

UC Davis offers several options for employees: flexitime with varying start and finish times each day; a compressed week of fewer, longer days at work, and remote working for part of the week.

While the planet’s longevity will ultimately not rise and fall solely on working practices, it’s a good place to start according to some progressive corporate heads.


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