Picture your home desk space – is there a neatly stacked set of notebooks in one corner, with a pen stand next to it? Your favourite ceramic mug might be on the desk, steaming with freshly made coffee. You might also have a jar of your favorite snack to enjoy when you take a break and feast your eyes on the green wall you’ve set up next to your desk.
Contrast this with your desk space at the office – a stack of printouts in one corner, a styrofoam cup of coffee in the other, a plastic box of half-finished takeaway by the laptop, and a plastic spoon and fork by the external keyboard. The bin next to the desk is overflowing with styrofoam cups. Does this second mental picture seem less mindful and also, less eco-conscious? How is it affecting the way you work?
Research from Perkbox Insights reveals that 89% of people experience green guilt. The results also suggest something concerning for organizations – 23% of employees state that their workplace doesn’t focus on sustainable behavior and 83% act more sustainably at home than they do at work. These findings further revealed that 12% have considered switching jobs due to the effect of their work on the environment. Yet another report on the sustainable workplace revealed that 65% were more likely to work for a company with robust environmental policies. Author and innovation consultant Adi Gaskell attributes this to the belief that a more sustainable employer is more likely to care for them.
Managers like you do everything you can to improve engagement, reduce stress levels, and bring down attrition rates at the workplace. How can you adopt sustainability to tackle this worrying trend? While taking care of the environment at the workplace seems like an overwhelming task, small, genuine, eco-conscious acts could assuage green guilt and motivate your team to do their best. Here are some ideas:
- Reduce plastic wastage and bond over coffee and food
One of the concerns most people feel guilty about is the unnecessary and excessive use of plastic. Even as a small team, you can address this in some ways. For instance, your team could adopt a bring-your-own-mug policy. Everyone’s mug can be kept at the team bay, if not the pantry or the coffee station, and it can help the team reduce the number of plastic cups they use. It might even encourage them to bond over coffee breaks. You could even encourage your team to order takeaway together so that it comes in fewer boxes. Or even better, you could have regular potlucks – something that the team can look forward to. Each of these ideas can help reduce plastic waste and bring the team together around a shared cause and shared meals.
- Stock up on green products at work
Office supplies are a non-negotiable item on any firm’s shopping list, but there might be ways to make this exercise more eco-friendly. For instance, buying products made of recycled materials might not be the first thing office managers think of. But if they realized how much your team might appreciate being able to use recycled paper in the copier, biodegradable waste basket liners, or plantable seed pens instead of regular ballpoint pens, then they might order just that the next time.
- Arrange green ways to commute
Another aspect where work gives people green guilt is commuting. Of course, the pandemic has made hybrid work more popular, and this gives many teams and firms the opening they need for wider implementation of green travel policies. For instance, teams can choose to do more virtual meetings to cut down on fuel costs. For employees who bike to work, shower rooms could be built so that they can get cleaned up after their commute. And of course, carpooling is a tried-and-true tactic to travel green.
Many eco-conscious decisions by firms, managers, or teams do not get noticed, recognized, or appreciated. This might mean that much of the green guilt that employees face is unwarranted, because, unknown to them, they might already be taking eco-friendly steps at work. Simply by giving all eco-initiatives the limelight they deserve, one could reduce concerns about being wasteful at work. The bottom line is that assuaging green guilt is not just a question of taking eco-conscious actions. It also involves communicating about policies and achievements effectively and genuinely listening to those employees who worry about the impact they have on the environment.