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Sustainability in
the workplace:
How business
can move
toward sustainable
workplace solutions

Author: Poornima Apte

Sustainability in the workplace is no longer a nice-to-have. A shift to hybrid work is an opportunity for enterprises to make offices more environmentally responsible—and cut costs in the process.

The factors driving sustainable workplace solutions

In addition to it being the right thing to do, sustainability in the workplace is gathering momentum for a number of reasons. Climate change ranked first among the top personal concerns for Gen Z (age 10–25 in 2022), according to a 2021 Deloitte report. This attitude translates to work: 65% of respondents in a 2020 survey said they were more likely to work for a company with a strong environmental policy.

Work, too, is moving toward a hybrid home-office model: Nearly 7 in 10 people who have worked remotely during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic want to continue to do so at least one to two days a week.

This reshaped landscape comes at an opportune time. Commercial buildings in the United States emit 16% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Addressing sustainable workplace solutions in these real estate portfolios, especially when not all space is used to the maximum, is key to achieving environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.

Areas of concern

Until recently, workplaces have been passive and inflexible resources, consuming large amounts of energy.

The primary challenges relate to the scale. Managing the workplace has been a top-down, one-size-fits-all model. While building management has delivered some efficiencies at the fringes, maintenance is often still a large-scale endeavor. For example, workers may replace every lightbulb on a floor and clean every restroom according to a fixed schedule, whether the service is needed or not. Every room is lit, and every resource is supported—whether it calls for it or not.

Such a heavy-handed approach has led to wasted energy and wasted infrastructure support. Fortunately, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology enables a new granularity in building life cycle management. By using IoT-enabled sensors, employers can fine-tune resource allocation based on what employees actually use. Equally important, such technology implementation is scalable, flexible, and able to adapt to changing employee behavior as and when needed.

Flexible architecture—shaping buildings that are adaptable and transformable to avoid becoming obsolete—is also key to driving energy efficiency.

Ideas for sustainability in the workplace

IoT sensors and flexible architecture deliver opportunities for energy efficiency in two basic ways:

  • Through real-time adjustments of equipment according to preset conditions
  • Through data collection and analysis of long-term patterns

Real-time use cases of IoT for energy efficiency and sustainable workplace solutions can include:

  • Room sensors that detect occupancy and footfall to automatically turn lights on and off
  • Sensors in restrooms that measure the frequency of visits to determine when to clean the facility
  • Tracking inventory of food in lunchrooms to understand replenishment schedule or to move product according to expiration dates
  • Adjusting lighting in rooms based on the amount of natural light available

Data analysis of long-term patterns can help achieve overall sustainability in the workplace. Potential solutions might include:

  • Studying the behavior of assets such as HVAC units can deliver predictive maintenance, so parts are replaced only as and when needed. The process can lead to lower downtime and waste.
  • Building management professionals can study energy consumption patterns to identify areas that might need retrofitting for improved energy efficiency.
  • Understanding occupation patterns over time can help enterprises budget support staff accordingly. They can also right-size their commercial real estate portfolio instead of letting unused spaces lie fallow and soak up energy.
  • Enterprises can study energy consumption patterns to schedule pre-cooling periods when energy prices are low.
  • By studying patterns at scale, enterprises can implement solutions on a more granular level, adjusting heat, light and ventilation based on individual preferences while still delivering overall efficiencies.

Today's technologies are capable of delivering sustainable workplace solutions in a variety of ways. In the process, enterprises not only achieve sustainability in the workplace and cut costs, but they also position themselves in the best capacity to attract and retain talent.

Learn more about how Verizon's IoT solutions can improve sustainability in the workplace.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.